We are writing from strange times. The luckiest among us have spent months in digitally mediated isolation. For others, the closing year has been a time of hunger, illness, and intensifying hopelessness. All of our lives are increasingly managed by algorithms that target and personalize. Then again, we have all been compelled to think with new keenness about our points of proximity. How intimate, to worry about breathing in air that a stranger in the supermarket has breathed.

In Latin, the phrase locus communis literally means “common place.” Figuratively, it means a familiar topic of conversation. The “commonplace,” in this sense, is not pejorative, like a cliché. It is a set of shared assumptions, a ground on which a diverse set of actors can meet. We hope this issue contributes to the making of that ground, to the construction of a space for us to think together about how, in whatever comes next, connected machines might help us create new collectivities and possibilities.

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