The TriBall Case: "Okupación Creativa ¡Ya!" vs. Okupa Hacktivismo
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The TriBall Case:
"Okupación Creativa ¡Ya!" vs. Okupa Hacktivismo1

Two seemingly unrelated battles presently raging worldwide, the battle for public space in the city and the battle over rights to cultural products on the Internet, are in reality interconnected. Both debates revolve around the question of accessibility. To what degree should the city be regulated, and to what extent should culture be controlled? In each case, the polarizing factor is capital. Those who stand to gain substantial monopoly rents from property rights and copyrights either argue for the maintenance of the status quo or for more regulation. Those who will not profit tend to be more interested in issues of equity and the creation of freer access to city and culture. Antonio Méndez Rubio, Professor of Audiovisual Communication and Journalism at the University of Valencia, emphasized in a 2009 interview with journalist Alberto García-Teresa that this polemic (more regulation vs. freer access) is exacerbated by a cultural-political environment not unlike that of the liberal modernizing project of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries:

la cultura masiva . . . responde a una especie de nuevo despotismo ilustrado: todo para el pueblo pero sin el pueblo; es decir, cualquier cosa al alcance de cualquiera en cualquier lugar y en cualquier momento, pero con la condición tácita de mantener cuidadosamente separados los roles de emisor y receptor.

The logic of everything for the people but without the people continues to dominate the political and cultural fabric of Spain today. In Madrid, neighborhood associations complain that the local governments do not include them in city [End Page 11] planning, and Internet users object to the fact that they are not allowed representation on the current Anti-Piracy Commission even though the culture industry, in fact, enjoys this very privilege.2 Users of both Madrid's physical space and its digital space thus question the existing top-down decision-making process.

Traditionally, debates over the link between physical space and digital space have focused on the relationship between urban planning and information technology from the point of view of policy makers and entrepreneurs.3 My contribution to the discussion about the relationship between physical space and digital space is to look at the connection between urban planning and information technology from the other side of the coin; that is, from the point of view of users, walkers, and dwellers. I make two points. First, digital architecture in the form of peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing technology4 is encouraging a notion of culture as co-production between artist and public, a "doing with" or a commoning. Second, open source code is inspiring a view of the city as alterable, not by the urban planner, but by the citizen. In this paper, I compare two urban spaces: the privately funded renovation of a centric zone of Madrid known as the Ballesta Triangle and the second generation squatted social center Patio Maravillas located in the adjacent neighborhood of Malasaña. As will be seen, these two spaces represent two distinct approaches to the city, one that promotes the city as normalized code and one that performs the city as open code. Through this comparison, I hope to show how the reimagining of contemporary Madrid in terms of digital architecture in the form of p2p connections and open source code is redefining certain citizens' relationships to the built environment, specifically affecting the lived urban experiences of activists, artists, social movements, and neighborhood associations.

Okupación Creativa ¡Ya!

With both the collaboration of the Municipality of Madrid and advice from real estate consultant Grove Consultores, a private initiative known as the TriBall project was born on October 14, 2007. The goal of the collaborators, real estate developer Rehabitar Gestión and the Asociación de Comerciantes TriBall (ActriBall), was (and is) to transform the Ballesta Triangle, a centric neighborhood of Madrid known for the trafficking of drugs and prostitution, into a hip urban space in which to consume the latest trends in art and fashion. This triangular zone, located in the lower southeastern corner of the Barrio Universidad, is bordered by three streets: the Gran Vía, Fuencarral...