of wastelands — Thibault Schiemann

Project TypeSocial Space Agency

Social Space Agency

Social space – the next frontier. This is the territory of SoSA. Its mission: to explore outside our social conventions, normalcy and routines, to find new forms of living, to expand our “civilization”, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Think of our social space as roads: roads that we’ve build together to create a society. We function in this society by observing the proper behaviors for whatever situation we’re in, and choose from the roads they lay for us. There’s a proper way to use cafes, supermarkets and cocktail parties. There’s a proper way to vote, to sing karaoke. In other words, our life functions by social diligence, and everything personal happens after we’ve proven our comprehension of existing order.

But what about the social outer space? What about all the possibilities beyond these narrow paths we built? Aren’t these possibilities worth of systematic exploration, at least to know what’s out there?

We need to recognize that we’ve conquered a rather narrow range of the social space, and that there is a vast realm of possibilities outside of our current practices, waiting to be discovered. But the repetition of the “proper”, how our society currently works, will not get us to these discoveries.

This is why we need socionauts. We need people that explore the unknown territories of our social space. People that train themselves to enter the world outside of our normal conventions, establish experiments of new social forms, create and modify cultural conventions to find new opportunities for human life. People that are given the mission to go elsewhere, and find out what the hell is out there.

The Social Space Agency was founded in 2014 at the Auawirleben festival in Bern, Switzerland. The founding members were Miko Hucko, Pekko Koskinen, Micha Küchler, Thea Reifler, and Thibault Schiemann. In the following years SoSA conducted several missions all over Europe, including new astronauts in the process. Due to the fact that its members all went different directions, SoSA has been relatively inactive in the last two years. The homepage is currently unavailable, Facebook still offers a couple of impression.

Selected Projects

Social Space Agency | Ruins of Utopia

Situated infront of the old airport Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin-Neukölln was an old cemetery: Neuer St. Thomas Friedhof. The cemetery was closed in 2012, the last burial took place in 1988. Officials removed the gravestones, fenced the area and left nature uncultivated. While entering the field was offcially prohibited, residents around the area broke holes into the fence and started using the area as a recreational space. This led to an interesting mix of wilderness and occasional traces of human presence (abandoned sofas, keys, trash, shoes…). While officials were not appreaciating the unconventional usage of the place, they still tolerated the claim that residents were making on it.

The instructions were simple: We don’t know when the Utopians first came here, nor when and why they disappeard. However, we know that they lived through three episodes: During the Ludik-period, everybody was all cheerfull and open for experimental change. The shift into the Testa-period happened when they decided that they need to run certain structures for a longer period of time in order to experience their effects. In the Konflin-period a group got unsatisfied with how static everything turned out to be and were heavily voting for going back to the experimental attitude that was so prominent in Ludik, while another group wanted to keep the Testa-way going. Our participants were now asked to wander through the area and look out for traces of that community. Once they found some, they should imagine what the utopians were doing here and at what point in their chronik. All of those could be documented on a sheet of paper that we handed out. Also, they were asked to note the location of their findings on a big map as well as with a little sign in the area itself. This way, new archeologists could also see the previous work of their collegues.

We collected all of those findings, fragments as we called them, in a big folder. The folder than became the unfinished chronik of Utopia, containing over 150 entries.

The power of this mission lay in the fiction that we imposed on the place; or rather: both the fiction and the powerful environment were a perfect playground for people to fantasize about architecture, community, rituals, every-day life without feeling constraint by practical terms. The chronik of Utopia has thus become a testimonial of people’s imagination and creativity.


48-Stunden Neukölln , Berlin-Neukölln (D), 26th-28th of June 2015

contributors: Miko Hucko, Pekko Koskinen, Micha Küchler, Benjamin Kühni, Thibault Schiemann, Jan Sefzik, Iren Weber

Social Space Agency | A New Culture of Reading

In October 2014, the Social Space Agency was invited to the Frankfurt Book Fair to conduct a mission. The title of that mission was called metaTEXT. It appeared to us that reading, and our way of treating books and literature could be understood with a couple of conventions: A book is usually read from left to right, top to bottom, starting at page number one, ending on the last page. Also, we read in order to understand. Furthermore, when it comes to text the most prominent agents around it are the writer and reader.

We started taking those bits apart, finding alternatives to them, putting things back together, and developing a palette of new techniques on how to read. See pictures below.

We created most of those techniques without testing them. Some seemed reasonable enough, others appeared a bit like a wild card. We printed them numerously and headed towards the fair area where we were expected to be in the Finish pavillon.

It is there that we on one hand put a couple of techniques into the showcase books, and on the other hand distributed them amongst the visitors — asking them to test the techniques and share their expierences with us. Also, we invited the visitors to share their personal reading habits with us to enlarge our palette of reading techniques.

During the five days of the fair, we dawningly realized that we might have stumbeled upon something bigger than just a small experiment on the convention of reading. Looking into a horizon where people would not perceive themselves as passive consumers of books, but where they would see books and text as a starting material of their own creativity, we could see in the distant fogs a new culture of reading.

It took us almost a year to process the whole mission. We ended up writing an introductory guide that one can use to enter this New Culture of Reading. The whole document is available here.


Frankfurter Buchmesse, Frankfurt (D), 11th-15th of October 2014

contributors: Miko Hucko, Pekko Koskinen, Micha Küchler, Thea Reifler, Thibault Schiemann

read more: “Wer sagt, dass man ein Buch mit dem ersten Satz beginnen soll?” (WOZ/41/2014)

Social Space Agency | Area Permutation Engine

In 2014 the Social Space Agency published a proposal to the city of Berne, Switzerland (The Bernese Proposal). The proposal included the introduction of an experimental day, a multi-layered city perception, a greater tolerance for non-official, non-commercial communication channels in public space, prototype places for public and semi-public spaces, and a laboratory for new developments for the city. Although none of those proposals were put into practice, we still got invited to join the Stadtlabor Schützenmatte — a participatory lab to collect ideas for the reuse of a parking lot in the centre of Switzerland’s capital.

City officials asked us to collect ideas of the public. We expected — if people were merely invited to share an idea of what this place could turn into — that we would hear a lot of “park”, “playground”, “sports facilities” and the like. What we wanted is a) to push people’s imagination into new frontiers — visioning the unconventional, and b) to create supporting inferences between people’s ideas. Our response was the Area Permutation Engine.

The Engine consisted of a set of modules to document ideas, and another set of supporting modules to lead the imagination beyond the conventional. The whole engine can be looked up here. Modules included plain text, maps of the area, voice-recordings and queries amongst other. As supporting modules we used spheric soundtracks on mp3-players, fictional roles such as the “childlike underground gardener” or the “paranoid street art philosopher”, filters for your perception such as “mysterious and hidden things” or “contradictions”.

We were setup in a pavillon in the middle of the square. The pavillon served both as an information desk and as a billboard to exhibit the documented ideas. During opening times, a couple of socionauts were always present, informing, helping, and collecting ideas. After the first two days, we started to introduce people to other people’s ideas that pointed into similiar directions.

In total, we collected 276 ideas in four days. Ideas ranged from urban gardens, to bike-circuits, to a public water-park including showers, to a modern amphiteatre out of concrete, to a mobile kitchen-wagon. The word spread throughout the days, gathering more and more people towards the end of the four days. Nevertheless, a lot of people showed their concern that the whole participartory project might only be an alibi.

After the Stadtlabor Schützenmatte we scanned all material and wrote an analysis (that can be found here: Schützenmatte Report, German only). Although we insisted on getting the opportunity to explain our work and people’s ideas in front of the committee, we were not invited to the meeting. On further request from our side, we were cut out of the continuing process as a result.


Schützenmatte, Bern (CH), 04th-07th of September 2014

contributors: Pekko Koskinen, Micha Küchler, Payal Parekh, Thibault Schiemann, Iren Weber

read more: “Die Bevölkerung soll die Stadt mitgestalten” (Der Bund/04.09.2014)

Schützenmatte soll zum «multifunktionalen Raum» werden (Der Bund/12.12.2014)