October 3, 2022 Kyle Chayka Rem Kolhaas Technology AirBnB Algorithm

A giant AirBnB billboard in Berlin, advertising a stay under the Northern Lights.A giant AirBnB billboard in Berlin, advertising a stay under the Northern Lights.

Kyle Chayka, in a 2016 The Verge article on the same-ification of physical spaces courtesy of algorithmic recommendations that send the same types of people to all the same places, mainstreaming a certain aesthetic no matter where you go.

We could call this strange geography created by technology AirSpace.” It’s the realm of coffee shops, bars, startup offices, and co-live / work spaces that share the same hallmarks everywhere you go: a profusion of symbols of comfort and quality, at least to a certain connoisseurial mindset. Minimalist furniture. Craft beer and avocado toast. Reclaimed wood. Industrial lighting. Cortados. Fast internet. The homogeneity of these spaces means that traveling between them is frictionless, a value that Silicon Valley prizes and cultural influencers like Schwarzmann take advantage of. Changing places can be as painless as reloading a website. You might not even realize you’re not where you started.

Six years may have passed and some of the aesthetic has evolved, but the great leveling Chayka describes has only intensified. The term itself reminds me of Rem Koolhaas’ famous Junkspace essay:

Junkspace is the total sum of our current achievements; we have built more than did all previous generations put together, but somehow we do not register on the same scales. We do not leave pyramids.

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