public drying behaviors: Amsterdam & Shenzhen

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Reflecting upon the book about drying behaviors across China that I just completed, here are some Amsterdam drying behaviors. I’ll never stop being fascinated by the many different ways a familiar-feeling behavior can evolve and change across different places and cultures.

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Think about what makes a space “public”, and makes people (un)comfortable with doing something in that space. Amsterdam’s sidewalks are narrow, but their public parks are spacious. There, drying laundry tends to hang out in and around people’s windows.

I’d have been surprised to see any Amsterdammers doing what the inhabitants of this block of apartments in Shenzhen, China have done for their own drying behaviors. On the sidewalk next to their building, residents have repurposed different lengths of pipe  into temporary drying racks, claiming some space on the sidewalk in front of their building to set them up.

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The contrasts between Amsterdam and Shenzhen run beyond drying behaviors, though – as implied by the newspapers placed on display for the apartment building’s inhabitants to browse. What about where you live? What space and information is considered public, in what ways is it actually made public, and decides whether something can even be defined as “public”?

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