The Leisure Commons
A Spatial History of Web 2.0
By Payal Arora
Routledge – 2014 – 190 pages
Routledge – 2014 – 190 pages
There is much excitement about Web 2.0 as an unprecedented, novel, community-building space for experiencing, producing, and consuming leisure, particularly through social network sites. What is needed is a perspective that is invested in neither a utopian or dystopian posture but sees historical continuity to this cyberleisure geography. This book investigates the digital public sphere by drawing parallels to another leisure space that shares its rhetoric of being open, democratic, and free for all: the urban park. It makes the case that the history and politics of public parks as an urban commons provides fresh insight into contemporary debates on corporatization, democratization and privatization of the digital commons. This book takes the reader on a metaphorical journey through multiple forms of public parks such as Protest Parks, Walled Gardens, Corporate Parks, Fantasy Parks, and Global Parks, addressing issues such as virtual activism, online privacy/surveillance, digital labor, branding, and globalization of digital networks. Ranging from the 19th century British factory garden to Tokyo Disneyland, this book offers numerous spatial metaphors to bring to life aspects of new media spaces. Readers looking for an interdisciplinary, historical and spatial approach to staid Web 2.0 discourses will undoubtedly benefit from this text.
"Arora offers us another invitation, which is a refreshing departure from the breathlessness of many studies of the new technologies, and that is the chance to slow down, to pause, to contemplate our surroundings, to smell a possibly political rose. That she finds this potential in the very heart of digitality is one of the many surprises of this thoughtful and wide-ranging book."
- From the Foreword by Arjun Appadurai, Paulette Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University
"This is a brilliant navigation of worlds that are not usually brought in conversation: digital space and thick situated struggles engaged in claim-making in the urban sphere. Payal Arora has deep knowledge and experience of both these worlds. Out of this encounter comes a concept the author deploys in diverse ways to mark digital space: the leisure commons."
- Saskia Sassen, Columbia University and author of Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy
"In this engaging volume, Arora applies the rich metaphor of the public park to explicate the many ways in which net-based technologies facilitate, but also converge activities of a social, political, cultural and economic nature. Technology as architecture invites, amplifies, but also conceals or discourages. It disrupts and it sustains our daily endeavors into sociality, work, play and fantasy. Arora uses the metaphor of public parks to tell the story of how digital media support us through our daily lives. Through lively writing and layers of intriguing analogies, she compels the reader to think with her, as she explores what technology does to space. Arora lays out an intriguing vision of online environments as technology supported meta-parks that facilitate not just limitless connection, but, better living."
- Zizi Papacharissi, Professor and Head of Communications, University of Illinois at Chicago
"Payal Arora offers the insight that social media are the latest chapter in a long history of spaces including city parks, walled gardens, office parks, fantasy theme parks and other semi-public, leisure-oriented environments. By framing new technological trends in terms of a 'leisure commons,' her work fills a gap that remained between the spatial metaphors that have proven helpful to make sense of new technologies, and a nuanced realization of how thoroughly leisure practices have permeated daily life."
- Paul C. Adams, Associate Professor of Geography and Director of Urban Studies, University of Texas at Austin
1. Introduction 2. Metaphor as Method: Conceptualizing the Internet Through Spatial Metaphors 3. Protest Parks: Digital Activism and the Public Leisure Sphere 4. Walled Gardens: Online Privacy, Leisure Architectures, and Public Values 5. Corporate Parks: Usurping Leisure Terrains for Digital Labor 6. Fantasy Parks: Consumption of Virtual Worlds of Amusement 7. Global Cities, Global Parks: Globalizing of Virtual Leisure Networks 8. Conclusion: From Parks to Green Infrastructures
Payal Arora is Assistant Professor in the Department of Media and Communication and Media at Erasmus University Rotterdam. She is author of Dot Com Mantra: Social Computing in the Central Himalayas (Ashgate, 2010) and winner of the 2010 Social Informatics Best Paper Award in 2010 from ASIS&T.