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Architecture for the Commons

Throughout this book, the potential threats to democratic and participatory societies from the perspective of design have been discussed. Trends have been identified that have augmented and accelerated the growth of economic inequality in the pursuit of technological progress. It has become imperative to question the metrics of value that deserve acknowledgement, as the continuation of a inward-looking or autopoietic tradition of disciplinary practice of architecture outlines a future with further power asymmetries.

It is no longer an option not to question and reflect on the ethos of our production. The production of value and meaning begs the identification of who is the recipient of such value and challenges us to consider forms of practice that align with progressive ideologies. This book has identified a recipient of value in the form of the Commons: not only in the disembodied collective knowledge that we share but also in the social systems of commoners that contribute to local and global knowledge scaffolds for rendering others with opportunities.

We have determined that the concentration of capital has found in vertical integration a mechanism to drive efficiency, but its implementation further exacerbates an asymmetric distribution of wealth. Discrete Architecture has been offered as an alternative, where a design framework can give rise to cooperation and coordination between different parties. Understanding parts in design establishes value for distributed systems, resisting the rise of monopolies, both economic and ideological.

This volume has put forward the idea that geometry can encapsulate knowledge and that repeatable solutions under a discrete framework can lead toward value production in the form of combinatorial surplus. The design of encapsulated knowledge into discrete tectonics is an act of commoning seeking to develop positive externalities through a process of social appropriation.

The role of parts and discrete tectonics allows designers to design down the threshold of access, enabling a dialogue between expert users that can embed knowledge and cooperative coordination into objects that share some degree of compatibility. The proposition of a discrete paradigm offers a non-unified framework for local coordination and self-provision. It does not attempt to establish totalistic guidelines but rather encourages local dialogues between autonomous units.

We have discussed how digital platforms can offer opportunities for education and self-provision but are in urgent need of redesign and regulation, as contemporary examples have become mechanisms for extractivism and behavior manipulation, able to erode democracy. Digital platforms and information sharing should seek not only openness but also clear objectives aligned with social progress. Without this, we will continue seeing Open Source projects in the hands of corporations accentuating the social struggles of our time. Knowledge propagation has been discussed not only through technical mechanisms like Open Source but also through the construction of infrastructure that could populate a literacy ladder, designing down the barrier of entry and supporting social mobility.

Platforms play an important role in the global adoption of digital networks for the generation and reproduction of culture. This comes with increasing issues and ethical imperatives as commercial enterprises have exploited underregulated digital networks for the collection of capital and market advantage. Still, the democratization of platform production has allowed for new voices to design alternative forms of interactions, considering and respecting the value of social production and effectively developing mechanisms for local value to remain in the hands of those to produce it.

Finally, the role of Commons as social systems has been identified in their capacity to populate a literacy ladder. This ladder breaks the behavioral modification and predictability established by surveillance capitalism and allows for the proliferation of new cultural production that is not predetermined by a market logic. The diversification of value systems enabled by the Commons puts forward a reexamination of canonical and disciplinary conventions that are powerful in the discipline of architecture. It also suggests that a sense of value needs to be grown from within as a form of self-provision rather than being validated by an external body. Its existence is in itself an act of legitimization.

Architecture for the Commons is in this sense an infrastructural framework that allows for design to remain as a question mark, a blank space, an undetermined space of potential without domain or predictable actual. Only in its production and in resonance with its coproduction is it able to define its meaning.

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