Increasingly user-generated, today’s “data publics” bring with them a profound blurring of the capacities, roles and motiva- tions of different actors. Traditional power apparatuses of national governments are being confronted with the global reach of digital providers. Citizens are becoming enlisted in the self-servicing of the social, cultural and infrastructural fabric of societies. And affective capital such as desire, identification, praise and rejection is emerging as the most powerful force determining the fate of new technologies and their associated urban environments. In this paper we will start with a couple of observations on social media-driven environmental operations as a neoliberal market strategy that constantly strives for new forms for expression. We will then discuss how the provisional and infrastructural quality of novel eco-themed environments employed in these processes constitutes a mode of capital that not only enables the provision of new material habitats but an entire system of “extensive” and “intensive” expansion through strategic spatial experimentation and risk taking.

In the years since the 2007/08 financial crisis, there has been growing interest in the development of urban space through novel, social media-based, bottom-up investment structures, such as real estate crowdfunding platforms. Experiments with these new spatio-economic arenas are redirecting investment by connecting novel financial instruments with innovations in communication (social media) and changing cultural understandings (“right to the city”). Crowdfunded urban developments claim to offer “ordinary” citizen investors an opportunity to participate in building the kind of urban habitats they desire. At the same time, by permitting individual investments that are often as low as one hundred euros, crowdfunded real estate accesses a hitherto untapped pool of small-scale investment capital.

Ecotech-themed urban developments have become a growing matter of concern in this context, as they tend to implement new civic and aesthetic values right in
the heart of our cities: Prominent examples include the Lowline, a crowdfunded underground park on the Lower East Side of New York City, and +POOL, a public swimming pool on New York’s East River that combines innovative engineering with civic aspirations and ecological imperatives. Focusing on New York-based real estate crowdfunding platforms, the paper will examine this formative phase, in which corporate investors have set their sights on crowdfunded real estate, hoping to turn small-scale urban investment by ordinary people into a completely new business domain and to emulate the success story of other online service providers in the sharing economy, such as Airbnb and Uber.

21 April 2017, 12:40
Estonian Writers’ House
Harju street 1
Tallinn, Estonia
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The conference is organized by the Faculty of Architecture, Estonian Academy of Arts, Estonia in cooperation with the Department of Geography, Cambridge University, UK (the research project Rethinking Urban Nature).