It's difficult to even consider a "third place" in the time of COVID. Since March 2020, there has been only one place. The resulting context collapse feels less like "working from home" and more like "living from work."

As everyone speculates on the future of the office, few question an eventual return to shared physical spaces, including (if not especially) to third spaces. Coffee shops and bars will eventually reopen for indoor dining. Libraries will return as public spaces.

But something has always been missing from this picture, at least in our lifetimes. Where is the space filled with people you know? The one where you can speak and act freely in the company of trusted others? The one—using a litmus test here, not a definition—you can redecorate?

I read something on the Wikpedia article on British "clubs" that I found some inspiration from:

[Clubs] allowed upper- and upper-middle-class men with modest incomes to spend their time in grand surroundings.

Obviously, we're seeking a 2021 vision of "grand surroundings." The grandeur we seek is in the spirit of equity, inclusion, sustainability and the common good. We are not nostalgic.

We are also seeking a 2021 analogue to "upper- and upper-middle-class men." At various historical times, that particular gender-plus-class identity was a prerequisite for being an member of a "good society," or any society at all. Again, we are not nostalgic.

Scraping away these details, the role of the club was, at least in part, to decide what "good society" looks like. The club was a community that performs this particular kind of cultural production—the deciding of what societies count as good—organically, through their interactions, in a cooperatively-maintained physical space.

A club is not a coworking space. It is not a space to pull a profit. You can do that there, but it is not the club's purpose.

The club is not a cafe. You can eat and drink there, but its goal is not to provide a customer experience.

In fact, the club has no predefined aim or purpose. But it does have a meaning: the ongoing construction and maintenance of a good society, one that has not yet existed and would not exist without the club's physical space as a convenining.

Photoelectric is a club, situated in the social and cultural context of the East Bay in 2021.

Date: 2021-01-03 Sun 00:00

Author: ffff

Created: 2021-01-10 Sun 11:30