THE MEETING IS THE MESSAGE: a physical and digital social platform

  • Meeting place for the city
  • Web site for organising open and public events

Great location, pity about the timing.
The point of PIAZZER is to bring back people meeting people to real places in the physical world. Its slogan, The Meeting is the Message. But the thinking is in the name. If Tinder allows individuals to select and make contact with other users, potentially for a first date and ensuing relationship in the physical world, then PIAZZER allows individuals to find and attend open events in public spaces, to make contact with other participants (offline and online) and to share their knowledge and opinions. And telephone numbers. 

Wikipedia defines the Town Square or Piazza as “an open public space commonly found in the heart of a traditional town used for community gatherings”. It does not however define “community gathering”, and these days the events that take place in most public spaces are neither community nor gatherings. Public spaces may be owned and managed by public bodies, but that doesn’t mean that the public can easily use them for meetings. The bureaucracy makes it difficult to organise events, and local politics (and politicians) can modify just how obstructive that bureaucracy can be. In fact, when we think of public meetings we picture rallies and demonstrations, rather than meetings of the minds or community gatherings. The Romans considered public meeting as a question of physical infrastructure and, to quote Wikipedia, a forum was a gathering place of great social significance, and often the scene of diverse activities, including political discussions and debates, rendezvous, meetings, et cetera. Now that’s what I call PIAZZER. 

PIAZZERs are small areas of clearly identified, highly visible, easily accessible, centrally located public spaces. What makes them special is that the authorities have granted a blanket permit for a wide range of “community gatherings”. Whoever wants to attend or organise a meeting has to do little more than turn up and/or spread the word. The permit holder receives proposals for new meetings, checks whether they abide by stated criteria and (if they fit the bill) puts them in an online calendar. The criteria should only relate to technical matters, e.g. amplification, use of copyrighted material, time of day, number of participants, admission fee, & etc. The nature of the contents of an event or that of its organiser should not be taken into consideration, beyond that required by the law or the terms of the permit. So the fundamental role of the permit holder is to ensure that the permit does not limit free speech and public participation.

 The timing was probably not the best. On its launch day, in Grosseto, Italy on Sunday 1st March 2020 it rained heavily and the week later the Italian government banned public meetings. So PIAZZER will have to wait. Its mission is to encourage and facilitate close encounters of the public kind, in a moment when face-to-face contact is currently being kept to a minimum. Still, typical meetings will be small and local, so they will always be a healthy alternative to full-on sports and entertainment events.