Image from dry-erase company ideapaint
When architects look at the built environment today, it can't help but be with profound misgivings. They're still working on projects, but the most ambitious designers are concentrating on building out, rather than building up, on moving people through interfaces rather than cities. Foundations and blueprints are replaced by schematics and entity relationship maps: architectures not of form, but of information. The fundamental unit of design isn't so much a site as it is a platform. And today, engineering a new society involves relentless ideation, a messianic vision, and— most crucially— a whiteboard.
"Whiteboarding," used as a verb, is a sort of lingua franca of the technologist— a new international style that reconstitutes the very assumptions of digital design, from interfaces and software diagrams to database structures. Though not new, this apparatus has recently become associated with a new kind of creative, a new type of thinker/tinkerer, and thus the whiteboard takes on new meaning vis-a-vis the economy, privilege, and power. Used and abused, it is a significant artifact of the present age of networked capital. If we were to construct a museum-like period room to represent the tech start-up of the new millennium, its walls would be whiteboards.
Enormous amounts of capital have been amassed of late under the banner of the so-called "sharing" economy, characterized by companies such as Uber and Airbnb that have garnered multi-billion dollar valuations for creating platforms in which individuals offer their services and property for rent.
Such platforms have advanced a narrative in the media that their services are emancipatory and disruptive of old-fashioned, inefficient industries, going so far as to promise "revolution" amid broken systems. But what, exactly, is being brought into existence by this revolution? And who is it for?
Neoliberalism is not merely destructive of rules, institutions and rights. It is also productive of certain kinds of social relations, certain ways of living, certain subjectivities….at stake in neo-liberalism is nothing more, nor less, than the form of our existence—the way in which we are led to conduct ourselves, to relate to others and to ourselves.
—Dardot & Laval, The New Way of the World: On Neoliberal Society