From private to public: redeveloping private space as the way to reframe publicness of everyday life. Investigating Seeding Plan in Shanghai

Future uncertainties are inherent in public space and serve as one of the guiding principles for its production. However, Covid-19 has spread rapidly around the world, exacerbating uncertainties while posing serious threats to public health, trusting relationships, and the interpretation of public space. Contemporary governance on public space tends to embrace a strict form of control to eliminate uncertainties, while consciously and unconsciously challenging publicness and undermining trusting relationships. This study will take another direction, investigating how individual engagement in reshaping private and semi-private space can be interpreted as a way of reframing the publicness of everyday life, so as to rebuild social trust and confront future uncertainties.

During the pandemic, Seeding Plan was launched by a professional initiative in Shanghai, with active participants from many cities. It encourages people to redevelop private and semi-private realms as mini-gardens, and to share seeds and vegetations, so as to reconnect the community and rebuild trust. Participating Seeding Plan is an individual behaviour, which avoids the strict form of top-down control while not engaging the wide public. But the shaping process of these mini-gardens has stimulated various forms of community common life.

Therefore, using the Seeding projects happening in Shanghai as an example, this study will first investigate the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations of individuals in taking the first step toward contributing to the community common life. It will then interrogate how shaping the mini-gardens challenges the traditional boundary between the private and public realms, as a way to redefine the publicness of everyday life. Finally, it will conceptualise the shaping process of mini-gardens to examine their impacts on trusting relationships, and their reactions to various uncertainties.