Contributory Economies, Design Activism and the DIY Urbanism of Renew Newcastle

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Cathy D Smith
Michael Chapman


This paper will deploy French philosopher Bernard Stiegler’s neo-Marxist notion of the contributory economy to explore conceptions and practices of ‘DIY (Do It Yourself) urbanism’, with a specific focus on disused interior spaces. Reference will be made to contemporary design and architectural discourses on DIY urbanism and design activism, particularly in relation to the Renew Newcastle scheme in Newcastle, Australia. Although Renew is now a recognised model for urban regeneration, it began in 2008 as a socially-orientated experiment within the unoccupied shopfronts and tenancies of this rapidly transforming post-industrial city. Its DIY urbanism occurs alongside established institutional and commercial entities and as such, it could be superficially understood as an extension of, rather than an alternative to, mainstream project procurement models. Here, Stiegler’s invocations of contributory economies, driven by an ethic of care or cura, suggest a way of understanding Renew Newcastle’s urbanism as a participatory economy coexistent with the same capitalistic economy that prompted the urban decline it addresses.

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How to Cite
Smith, Cathy D, and Michael Chapman. 2018. “Contributory Economies,: Design Activism and the DIY Urbanism of Renew Newcastle”. Idea Journal 14 (1):66-79.
text-based research essay