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Welcome to AirSpace | The Verge
"It’s easy to see how social media shapes our interactions on the internet, through web browsers, feeds, and apps. Yet technology is also shaping the physical world, influencing the places we go and how we behave in areas of our lives that didn’t heretofore seem so digital. Think of the traffic app Waze rerouting cars in Los Angeles and disrupting otherwise quiet neighborhoods; Airbnb parachuting groups of international tourists into residential communities; Instagram spreading IRL lifestyle memes; or Foursquare sending traveling businessmen to the same cafe over and over again.

We could call this strange geography created by technology "AirSpace." It’s the realm of coffee shops, bars, startup offices, and co-live / work spaces that share the same hallmarks everywhere you go: a profusion of symbols of comfort and quality, at least to a certain connoisseurial mindset. Minimalist furniture. Craft beer and avocado toast. Reclaimed wood. Industrial lighting. Cortados. Fast internet. The homogeneity of these spaces means that traveling between them is frictionless, a value that Silicon Valley prizes and cultural influencers like Schwarzmann take advantage of. Changing places can be as painless as reloading a website. You might not even realize you’re not where you started.

It’s possible to travel all around the world and never leave AirSpace, and some people don’t. Well-off travelers like Kevin Lynch, an ad executive who lived in Hong Kong Airbnbs for three years, are abandoning permanent houses for digital nomadism. Itinerant entrepreneurs, floating on venture capital, might head to a Bali accelerator for six months as easily as going to the grocery store. AirSpace is their home.

As the geography of AirSpace spreads, so does a certain sameness. Schwarzmann’s cafe phenomenon recalls what the architect Rem Koolhaas noticed in his prophetic essay "The Generic City," from the 1995 book S,M,L,XL: "Is the contemporary city like the contemporary airport—‘all the same’?" he asks. "What if this seemingly accidental—and usually regretted—homogenization were an intentional process, a conscious movement away from difference toward similarity?"

Yet AirSpace is now less theory than reality. The interchangeability, ceaseless movement, and symbolic blankness that was once the hallmark of hotels and airports, qualities that led the French anthropologist Marc Augé to define them in 1992 as "non-places," has leaked into the rest of life.

As an affluent, self-selecting group of people move through spaces linked by technology, particular sensibilities spread, and these small pockets of geography grow to resemble one another, as Schwarzmann discovered: the coffee roaster Four Barrel in San Francisco looks like the Australian Toby’s Estate in Brooklyn looks like The Coffee Collective in Copenhagen looks like Bear Pond Espresso in Tokyo. You can get a dry cortado with perfect latte art at any of them, then Instagram it on a marble countertop and further spread the aesthetic to your followers.

This confluence of style is being accelerated by companies that foster a sense of placelessness, using technology to break down geography. Airbnb is a prominent example. Even as it markets unique places as consumable goods, it helps its users travel without actually having to change their environment, or leave the warm embrace of AirSpace."



"This year, Airbnb moved from passively shaping the spaces users inhabit, to changing the way they travel by creating in-app guidebooks that will provide Foursquare-like recommendations to guests based on host tips. Just this week, the company also announced Samara, an in-house design and engineering studio that will "pioneer services for connection, commerce, and social change within and around the expanding Airbnb community," Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia said in the press release. Samara’s first residence and community center in Nara Prefecture, Japan, Gebbia suggests, will enable a kind of voyeurism for foreign tourists: "I picture Western guests walking up, stepping inside, and you’re interacting with the community from the minute you arrive," he told Fast Company.

Yet the AirSpace aesthetic that Airbnb has contributed to, and the geography it creates, limits experiences of difference in the service of comforting a particular demographic ("the vanilla tourist") falsely defined as the norm. It is a "hallucination of the normal," as Koolhaas writes. This is the harmful illusion that so much technology, and technological culture, perpetuates: if you do not fit within its predefined structures as an effective user, you must be doing something wrong. Says Schwarzmann, "It’s a bubble, a lot of things that are reinforcing our bubble. I’m definitely part of the described problem. White, male, privileged and I travel a lot."

Among the phenomenon’s consequences is depersonalization, in the psychiatric sense: "a state in which one loses all sense of identity." I personally like the AirSpace style. I can’t say no to a tasteful, clean, modern life space. But thinking through its roots and negative implications makes me reconsider my attachment. It’s hard to identify with something so empty at its core.

In the advent of AirSpace, our options are limited. The first is finding "the advantages of blankness," as Koolhaas writes, becoming connoisseurs of "the color variations in the fluorescent lighting of an office building just before sunset, the subtleties of the slightly different whites of an illuminated sign at night." Kanyi Maqubela, the Roam investor, sees meaning in the generic from an unexpected source. "If you go to Catholic church in most parts of the world, the mass is going to feel like the mass. There is still a sense of unity," he says. "We’re starting to enter the world where these private companies have some of that magic to them, the notion of feeling at home across time zones in any country."

Suggesting that Airbnb could become the next Vatican is a stretch, however. While it would be impossible to stop the spread of the generic style—like trying to stop all hotels from looking the same—there are still steps to consider against the imperfect frictionlessness of the territory it occupies. This could come in the form of legislation that resists the spread of services like Airbnb (as Berlin, Paris, New York and San Francisco are considering), or a simple personal choice to become more invested in the local than the mobile — to opt for the flawed community bed & breakfast rather than the temporary, immaculate apartment. Seeking out difference is important, particularly when technology makes it so easy to avoid doing so.

Left unchecked, there is a kind of nightmare version of AirSpace that could spread room by room, cafe by cafe across the world. It’s already there, if you look for it. There are blank white lofts with subway-tile bathrooms, modular furniture, wall-mounted TVs, high-speed internet, and wide, viewless windows in every city, whether it’s downtown Madrid; Nørrebro, Copenhagen; or Gulou, Beijing. Once you take the place of the people who live there, you can head out to their favorite coffee shops, bars, or workspaces, which will be instantly recognizable because they look just like the apartment that you’re living in. You will probably enjoy it. You might think, ‘This is nice, I am comfortable.’ And then you can move on to the next one, only a click away."
2016  airbnb  culture  sameness  internationalization  homogenization  design  architecture  interiors  kylechayka  socialmedia  airspace  depersonalization  generic 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Popular versus Brilliant | Designers + Geeks
"Jim Bull is worried about the future of design and thinks you should be too. Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Moving Brands, Jim dissects an industry where design is judged by the number of its likes and shares, where the focus is on efficiency rather than brilliance, and where one or two companies set the design standard for the globe."

[Direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/155640569 ]

[Tagged “web rococo” because this is the opposite.]

[Not sure why there is no mention of Tibor Kalman and Oliviero Toscani in the Benetton discussion. And there seems to be some tunnel vision here. Sure, the big SV VC backed companies are all looking the same, but they're not the only ones making things on the web. You know, there are many other countries and languages to look to for something other than California Design. Uh, maybe that's more the issue: SV only sees itself and it's not diverse.]

[via: https://twitter.com/soopa/status/700559147247357952 ]
jimbbull  californiadesign  siliconvalley  2016  branding  reverence  generic  popularity  brilliance  apple  uber  medium  california  graphicdesign  webdesign  movingbrands  productdesign  sameness  webrococo  benetton  olivierotoscani  tiborkalman  design  business  california-zation  homogenization  designeducation  art  differentiation  ui  ux  screens  magicleap  ar  augmentedreality  virtualreality  packaging  vr  webdev 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Save lots with truly generic pills
"Matt Thompson has some advice for you: stop buying cheap-ish pseudo-generic drugs from Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and Duane Reade and start buying really cheap true generics. [found on Amazon]"
drugs  health  medication  medicine  generic 
july 2008 by robertogreco

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