Spatial practices, commoning and the peer production of culture: Struggles and asprirations of grassroots groups in Eastern Milan

Nadia Bertolino, Ioanni Delsante

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This paper reports on a case study of the Milan-based collective Macao to examine whether its commoning practices and governance model allow for processes of cultural peer production and their degree of engagement and inclusiveness on various scales. In 2012, Macao occupied iconic spaces in Milan and became rapidly a significant urban movement that gathered a large number of members and supporters. The activists eventually settled in the former Slaughterhouse Exchange Building in the Molise-Calvairate-Ponti neighbourhood, an area characterised by a large number of abandoned and underused sites, inadequate provision of affordable housing and issues around the social integration of immigrants and ethnic minorities (Milan City Council, 2010; Caffa, 2016, 2017). Drawing on foundational studies on urban movements and the role of the creative sector in urban struggles, the paper first contextualises Macao within the broader framework of grass-roots initiatives in Italy since the 1970s before investigating the controversial relationship between the collective and the local community. The gaps we note between them provide a better understanding of the complexity of the actual social, economic and political struggles in Milan, and how ‘right-to-the-city’ aspirations are differently interpreted. By analysing Macao’s experience through the lens of the commons, the paper provides insights into whether its key features and governance aim at activating inclusive practices of cultural peer production. During two field work periods in February 2016 and April 2017, data were collected through mixed methods that included visual mapping, semi-structured interviews with representatives of Macao and local stakeholders and a multi-activity participatory session with a group of Molise-Calvairate-Ponti social housing tenants.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Peer Production
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


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