Architecture of participation. It’s one of the money phrases of Web 2.0 — the idea that online spaces should be designed in a deep way to accept contributions from anyone. And the web is at its most interesting when those contributions enter the real world, bringing people together in new and positive ways (a la DonorsChoose, HeyLetsGo, Meetup, etc.).
But what happens when the web brings people together in new and, well, destructive ways? Witness the Craigslist ad that put anything and everything in a Tacoma, WA house up for grabs. Only problem was they didn’t own it. The house was stripped to the studs and the lawyers are still trying to figure out what to do. Suddenly we’ve got architecture of annihilation.
Of course, this kind of thing isn’t particularly common on Craigslist and we can take some comfort from the fact that it wasn’t a random act of malice (turns out the ad was placed as the latest chapter of a family feud). Still, it speaks volumes on the penetration of these technologies into our lives, psyches, and confidence. Fear the not-so-smart mobs.
It reminds me of the Detroit Demolition Disneyland project, where a band of artists painted dangerous, dilapidated houses “Tiggeriffic Orange” and achieved the unexpected (or was it?) outcome of silently convincing the city to knock them down. The beauty of it all being that city hall all but refused to do anything about the houses until they were made so prominent that even people outside the underserved neighborhoods where they stood could no longer ignore them.
Both the Tacoma mob and DDD are examples of remote controlled demolition, with one party throwing signals in the air and unknown others doing the dirty work. I find the comparison fascinating because it makes clear that this phenomena isn’t isolated to the web. After all, had the Tacoma house been in Detroit and painted orange by a team of miscreants, it might well have been knocked down, too. But, then, painting a house is a bit more involved than entering an online ad, isn’t it? It seems the web at its most beautiful when physical and online spaces intersect. And also at its ugliest.