The Collaborative City: sharing and saving practices in times of austerity

Session #2 Presentation  |  Tuesday, June 25 | 10:00
Auditorium Maximum JU (Aula Mała)

Sub-Theme: Change and the City: Urban Spaces as Catalysts for Change

Paula Bialski
Heike Derwanz (unable to attend)

Low-Budget Urbanity Research
HafenCity University, Hamburg

photo by Juan M Sarabia | Pink Plastic Bag

As public budgets are slashed, cities are becoming increasingly burdened with near-paralysing debt. Now, various everyday practices of saving are enacting new forms of urbanity through the interplay with or under the impression of austerity policies that we can observe all over Europe. This seminar draws from themes addressed at HafenCity University (University of the built environment and metropolitan development in Hamburg), and their research project titled “Low Budget Urbanity. On the Transformation of the Urban In Times of Austerity.”

Low Budget practices can include contemporary urban phenomena such as ridesharing and online hospitality networks, water-saving infrastructures and DIY-practices of house owners, and second-hand consumer cooperatives. While one can argue that these saving practices are transforming the urban setting, the motivations as to why people and communities save are not so clear-cut. Such practices are not just an expression of a lack of material means and imposed abstinence (Oswalt 2005, Bude/Medicus/Willisch 2011), but rather also manifestations of conscious decisions to save money (and resources) by diverse practices of sharing and self-help.

In this seminar, we will trace today’s urban collaborative practices and especially the way people network and share their resources in a city, as well as the role of the Internet in creating networks and communities of alternative, collaborative urbanity. As empirical examples, this seminar draws from Bialski’s research on collaborative consumption practices like ride-sharing, house-sharing and hospitality networks, as well as examples from other researchers in our research program. We will attempt to address the socio-economic dimension of “low budget,” and contextualize it within the grander theme of old and (seemingly) new formats of sharing and saving.


Dr. Paula Bialski

Paula Bialski is a Polish-Canadian sociologist who received her doctoral degree from the Department of Sociology at Lancaster University. She is author of the book "Becoming Intimately Mobile" (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2012), an ethnographic study about Couchsurfing and ridesharing websites, investigating mobile, social interactions. Her main interests include mobility, new travel practices, and social interaction between strangers in public spaces. She previously worked as lecturer at the department of Cultural Studies at the Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities, at the Interdisciplinary centre for Mathematical and Computational Modeling, University of Warsaw, and at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher on the Low Budget Urbanity research group at HafenCity University, taking on the task of hitchhiking, couchsurfing, and stalking strangers down at train stations in order to uncover the low-cost transport issues inherent in inter-city travel.
Heike Derwanz_127

Dr. Heike Derwanz

Heike Derwanz is a cultural anthropologist and art historian who wrote her PhD about street artists and their careers on the art and design market. After studying in Bremen/Germany and Siena/Italy she
conducted fieldwork about Street Art in the cities of London, Stockholm, New York, Barcelona and Leipzig. She taught about contemporary art, theories of the art market at Paderborn University as well as about metropolitan culture at the HafenCity University in Hamburg. Since April 2012 she researches urban low-budget practices and coordinates the Low-Budget-Urbanity research group at HafenCity University.