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Construction as a ‘building event’: exploring the role of project architects and their practices of intermediation during the construction of global architecture

ABSTRACT The main aim of the following paper is to unpack the construction processes behind global architecture that have remained conceptually under-theorized and empirically unexplored. This is achieved by shifting the focus away from the brand-name global architects to the invisible, less prominent project architects employed in their celebrity offices. Based on the analysis of qualitative interviews, the paper conceptualizes project architects as key intermediaries and systematizes their embodied practices of intermediation enacted between design and execution. Project architects are revealed as key actors who negotiate between design ideas and the local contingencies, bridging between different sites of materialization. By introducing the conceptual lens of practices of intermediation, the paper explores how architecture takes its physical form, elucidating the micro-geographies behind construction processes. The construction of global architecture is hereby conceptualized as a ‘building event’, as a situated ‘performance’, during which professionals can transgress cognitive boundaries between design knowledge and execution expertise, and formal boundaries, defined by contracts, regulatory framework, and organizational hierarchies.

‘When this thing hit’: examining the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the blues-based cultural economy of Clarksdale, Mississippi

ABSTRACT Often considered the ‘birthplace of the blues’, the Mississippi Delta hosts a vibrant cultural economy based on blues music and culture. As this economy relies on embodied social experiences in place, health and safety regulations issued to combat the SARS-CoV-2 virus had dramatic effects on musicians, business owners, and other cultural workers. In this paper, we examine the impacts of the pandemic on the cultural economy of the Delta, focusing on the city of Clarksdale, a primary destination for blues tourism. Situating the Delta’s cultural economy and the blues music at its foundations within a broader historical arc of racialized struggle, we explore disparities in impacts of the pandemic on differently positioned individuals and groups. We argue that, while racial inequities continue to structure the Delta’s cultural economy, local communities’ responses to the challenges of the pandemic also demonstrate intergroup solidarities. Approaching these solidarities through Monica White’s conception of collective agency and community resilience, we conclude that collective responses to the challenges of the pandemic in the Delta illuminate the potential for people from relatively privileged and marginalized groups in the region to come together to resist oppression and potentially drive social and political economic transformations.

Automating passenger work: airport labour at the transductive interface

ABSTRACT Contemporary airport automation often takes the form of self-service interfaces which transform the work tasks of check-in and boarding. In effect, such interfaces redistribute substantive and complex service labour to passengers. This article rethinks contemporary automation through the lens of the interface and examines how such automation constitutes a spatially-extended and more-than-technological assemblage that reconfigures labour across the consumer-worker divide. Rather than drawing clear lines between agential humans and technical things, we examine human elements of the interface as also having technicity within the spatialities of automation. Drawing on interviews with passenger services personnel at the two largest airports in Beijing, China, we find that at self-service interfaces airport workers step out of the way to allow passengers to step up, interfacing directly with ‘back-end’ airport digital infrastructure previously limited to paid personnel. In place of routine transduction, the work of check-in and boarding agents becomes regulatory, i.e. assisting, trouble-shooting and understanding: the work that cannot be automated. This work includes handling those passengers that self-service interfaces exclude: passengers who stray from – or cannot adhere to – the form of the generic, skilled and legible PAX. In closing, we consider this paper’s implications for future research on automation, spatiality and labour.

Bubbles, fortresses and rings of steel: risk and socio-spatialities in Australians’ accounts of border controls during the COVID-19 pandemic

ABSTRACT During the COVID-19 pandemic, several jurisdictions have exerted controls over people’s mobilities as a way of containing viral spread. In Australia, international borders were closed for almost two years and internal borders were periodically shut and policed as part of strong public health measures implemented by federal and state governments. In this article, we discuss how Australians conceptualized risk in relation to border controls, drawing on a set of interviews conducted in 2021 in which participants were asked to recount their experiences of the pandemic. Our analysis builds on social and cultural scholarship to understand the symbolic meanings and socio-spatialities of our participants’ accounts of living in COVID times, in which they were confined within both national and internal borders. Our findings suggest three main socio-spatial imaginaries at work in participants’ accounts of life behind closed borders during COVID-19. The first imaginary is an idea of immunity as a spatial property, supporting the concept of geographic immunity. The second is an ambivalent distinction between Self and Other produced through borders hastily thrown up along state lines. The third is the experience behind closed borders of living in a state of ‘suspension’, whereby risk is provisionally held off spatially, yet projected into the future.

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