Affirmatively Reading Post Consumerism


“The (social media) interaction in a (quasi-)public place which is completely locked increases, it indicates the resilience of new place-based social networks.”

With large development and low density being the common form of urbanism in New Zealand, Manfredo looked at how we should rethink the role of public space when there are so many transformative changes taking place, specifically at “distributed participatory creativity and creative destruction of the malled metropolitan centres of Auckland”. Manfredo pointed out how worrying for the sustainable development of cities (New Urban Agenda) is that cities like Auckland have designated as major urban metropolitan centres some areas entirely occupied by shopping malls. His findings confirm the acceleration of the creative destruction of public space led by the shopping mall sector. The analysis of crowdsourced social media data has shown the emergence of an antagonist new type of shopping malls that supplants the traditional ones. This is a ‘post-consumerist’ (S. Miles) mall, where ‘consumption and production are intertwined and often impossible to differentiate’ (G. Ritzer). Data showed visually-based Instagram–a prime relational platform for young (18-39 years old) New Zealanders–increasing its usage during the lockdown. Being a place- and experience-based service, Instagram’s prime nodes have moved away from the public space and, particularly quasi-public space, such malls that were completely shut during the lockdown period. For example, St Lukes–epitome of the traditional consumerist mall–saw a sharp usage decline. Unexpectedly, Sylvia Park–epitome of the post-consumerist mall–saw an increase of interaction. The performance of Sylvia park indicates the resilience of its socio-spatial centrality, its capacity to continue constituting a main reference for its existing social networks notwithstanding its inaccessibility: a place where the distributed participatory creativity “creatively” reshapes the instituted civic system.

Manfredo Manfredini,  The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Expert in comparative urbanism and architecture, and urban informatics