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Open Public Trade Forum - A mixed metals market for 21st century mining

Part 2 Project 2013
Jacques du Plessis
University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg South Africa
Society is moving through the 'Information Age', a period summarised by advancing information technologies, a world economy and global culture, where an ephemeral network has expanded to stir and order our everyday lives. While the seemingly unimaginable nature and spatial qualities associated with this digital age continue to captivate our imaginations, one cannot ignore that electronic space has grounding in physical place; a logic that sees technologies, energy, minerals and people combining in physical space only to reprocess information created by today’s information networks.

In this instantaneous era one need not stretch their imagination to see that people and cities are increasingly pushed to find new ways to compete within the circuits of globalising space. Those cities located within developing contexts, which live so precariously along a cusp, become frontiers for unimagined resourcefulness and experimentation, where people as infrastructure assemble to oscillate between the universal and particular. Opposing trajectories shift our perception from city to borderland, where the 'urban imaginary' touches on themes of exclusion and incorporation, marginality and experimentation. Our incessant lifestyles and fixations with technology, consumption, and obsolesce have reproduced volatile circumstances, where mountains of discarded electronic waste are dumped near marginal communities. These wastelands are far removed from the promises once held by this machinery – instead offering opportunity only to those willing to work in smouldering metal pits.

By providing an interface that operates to alleviate the collision between these phenomena; the 'Open Public Trade Forum', a hybrid market place where a liberalised trade in metal weaves between actual and virtual space, informal and formal activities, local and global networks, could be the first to explore the intersection between these traditionally exclusive sectors. The OPTF is to be used as much for commerce and industry as social collectives, where a myriad of citizens are brought together under the auspices of exchange: to trade in mixed metals, to visualise, debate, and shift their dreams of urban futures, to experience chance encounters and excite unique social interactions. And in so doing distinguish a new public architecture– a pioneering metal market embedded between Johannesburg’s informal, informational and industrial landscapes.

Jacques du Plessis


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