You can look up the wiki entry for this phrase, but I’ll just tell you it’s the title of a science fiction story by William Gibson.
Gibson features hackers, so much of his language is tough for a hillbilly; but the title corresponds to an idea that runs through the whole tale, summarized from the story as “…the street has its own use for things…”
In the story, the things for which the street had use were technologies and programs, adapted from their original intent to new purposes.
In his book on strategy and tactics, The Practice of Everyday Life, the heterodox Jesuit Michel de Certeau expands the concept to all of our built environment; and he calls these appropriations bricolage.
We had an earlier round of remarks on strategy and tactics here not long ago, where I cited de Certeau, and long-quoted him fairly shamelessly.
His and Gibson’s theses pay attention to the microverse of our practices. The premise is that this microverse is far more formative of the outcomes in our lives and in society than we give it credit for. First of all, it’s hard to observe or quantify because these practices are irrevocably local and peculiar.
In the act of appropriation one regains some semblance of agency; whether that’s converting a weed-lot into a garden or using your television for something different than its controllers imagine.
All day long, we accomplish victories of a sort, all of us, against the systems that would swallow us into an abyss.
These practices are highly determinative, but poorly understood for what they are; while the macroverse of our practice has captured a great deal of our attention, even though it has proven again and again incapable of controlling the future it influences.
This microverse of practice is actually a reasonable foundation for optimism; while the marcoanalyses of our practice seem bereft of any hope at all.
Just some rainy afternoon pensamientos.
Make a red bumper sticker that says “RAPE” in big white letters. We’ve seen that. You stick in on a stop sign, so it makes a big sign that says “STOP RAPE.” The stop sign is there for its purpose; but you just appropriated it for another purpose.