A city, some claim, is made up of public spaces and private spaces. I do not know which city such claims refer to, but I have never lived in it. Londres does have private spaces – this room in which I type, looking into the alcove where my desk sits, closed door next to me – and it does have public spaces, if less than it used to. But there are also thousands of spaces that are neither public nor private; spaces in which people meet together. These spaces are interesting because, like all spaces, they are created by the people who inhabit them, but the range of possibilities in these cracks is much greater.
I think of the meeting I had last night, in an organising space in central London. Some people there felt we had created a stressful meeting together. I felt no more stressed than in many a meeting. I would like to feel stressed in none, but the imperatives of achieving certain goals so often overrides.
I think of a meeting a few days ago, where forty people took democratic decisions together. We created a high together by taking each other seriously, by listening to each other.
I think of a meeting with some Catalan officials a month ago. It started out stilted, faltering. Only slowly did we feel more sure of our common interests. The power imbalance was felt by me, and inside, a secret desire for influence. The tensions in the room became inner tensions.
We create these common spaces together. We don’t often wonder what it is we are creating. Nobody I know genuinely knows how to make productive meetings fun. When it happens it feels like an accident. Is the future fun and productive meetings, or are we doomed forever to productivity+fun?