Common Shares

In February, 2014, the League’s Urban Omnibus announced its third annual writing competition, Common Shares. The call for essays asked entrants to respond — through narrative, theory, history, or humor — to the overlapping themes of common ownership, private property, and the sharing economy. The theme plays on both the historical connotations of the commons and the realities and technologies of collaborative consumption at a time when pretty much everything can be bought, sold, or rented. The winner was selected by a jury that included Lucy Ives, author of the poetry collections Anamnesis (2009) and Orange Roses (2013) and Deputy Editor of Triple Canopy; Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found (2004) and Associate Professor of Journalism at New York University; and Caitlin Zaloom, author of Out of the Pits: Traders and Technology from Chicago to London (2006) and Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and Director of Metropolitan Studies at NYU.

One winner and two runners-up were selected by the jury. In the winning essay, “A Commons of Unwanted Things,” Frederica Hill sifts through what her neighbors discard to find her own place in the city. In one of two runners-up, “311 Complainer,” Keith Engel gives voice to a man who takes it upon himself to enforce the rules governing the gray area between personal and collective responsibility. In another runner-up, “A Shared Life,” Yen Ha brings us the story of a pair of strangers navigating the extremes of the sharing economy.

In addition to being published on Urban Omnibus, the selections are also, for the first time, collected in a booklet printed by McNally Jackson Books. Click here for more information on purchasing the volume.

Published: September 22, 2014