‘Slutty Urbanism’ tackles the openings and enclosures in the digital urban arena. It addresses issues of social responsibility, activism and hybrid social practices. Slutty Urbanism (SU) is a provocative concept.
We make use of the metaphor of ‘slut’ in two ways. Symbolically, it expresses the harsh forms of extraction and extreme commodification of urban space through global digital platforms. It goes beyond the cultural-symbolic façade of sharing economy and technological determinism of smart city. Semantically, ‘sluttiness’ has been associated with major four epithets: pathology, sin, amorality and promiscuity. We look at each of them to talk about particular powerful actors reshaping urban space and access to cities in Amsterdam and other global cities.
We do think these four epithets can be powerful in exploring the digital practices of such actors as Airbnb, city makers, city governments, and delivery platforms. These are dispossessive forces in terms of resource (re)-distribution nowadays. Current urban political economy debate does not fully take into account the explorative potential of new concepts and metaphors. Invoking the concept of slutty, we want to address the ambivalence of platform capitalism at urban scale.
SU opens up careless academia that is utterly incapable to deal with the current acceleration. This platform is a response to the primitive digital urban revolution under way. The aim is to address entrepreneurial enclosures, legalistic bureaucracies and cleansed heritage ghettos, our answer should be no longer a constructive one: our counter strategies might be offensive and promiscuous.
SU maps the messy nexus of urban space abuse. We open up digital networks, splicing in subversive politics. We sully the sanitized literature of digital platforms and urbanism. And we cast doubt on the salvationary belief system of openness. Indeed, what is ‘open’? On a platform, openness requires a timetable arranging the lifestyles and temporalities of accessibility, a task manager, a gatekeeper. Openness always welcomes some and barricades out others. To be open, some doors need to be closed. ‘Openness’ is thus an exclusionary privilege promoted by commercial digital platforms, exploitation and enclosure by a different name.
Urban platforms. Networks. Politics. These terms can no longer be tidily compartmentalized, but are interrelated, folding and slicing through one another. Our manifesto argues for a (re)turn in geography to the political, placing it front and centre in the urban debate. Key to this politics is the digital. Increasingly urban space is digitally mediated, initiating a ‘digital turn’ that forces urban scholars to reconfigure their existing understandings of the city and question the ways in which digital urbanism is produced by and through social, political and technological processes.
It is a blog project. It is the result of the collaborative identity of three women in academia, under which we write criticism about the future of our cities and different forms of urbanism. We started this project in Amsterdam, which is a city that works perfectly as a ‘smoke-screen’ to obscure, confuse and mislead the idea of an equal and inclusive urbanism. What we observe in Amsterdam is a dreadful form of exclusion and enclosures of urban space both perpetrated by the local government and the global corporative digital platforms.
We shall speak to power, we shall promote ethical production and consumption, and we shall speculate promiscuously about more emancipatory alternatives. After all, our digital urbanism is still under construction. Space wants to try out new things…