Digital Experiments with Landed Property: Robots, Race, and Rent by Associate Professor Desiree Fields

May 11, 2024

Desiree Fields

"The yoking of property to modernity and civilization makes technological progress a fundamental part of how relationships to land are constituted and reconstituted, and in whose interests, throughout global capitalism."

A wide range of digital innovations has changed property relations globally over the past fifteen years, encompassing such diverse manifestations as the sale of tokenized fractional interests in rental properties, the brokering of land sales via Facebook livestream (Faxon & Wittekind 2023), and metaverse environments that can defy the laws of physics yet remain wedded to market rule (Rosen & Leon forthcoming). What are we to make of these digital experiments with landed property?

In a new, open-access article titled "Digital Experiments with Landed Property: Robots, Race, and Rent," published in the Journal of Economic and Human Geography, Associate Professor Desiree Fields argues we should not mistake digital experiments with landed property's technological novelty for a break with the geographic and historical specificities of property relations. In this article, Fields situates 21st century housing market technologies within sedimented relations of landed property in the United States, showing the history of property innovation in the United States is also one of racialized wealth accumulation and dispossession. Fields interpret current anxieties about ‘robot landlords’ as anxieties about how the shifting landscape of property ownership appears to threaten the economic benefits associated with racial dominance.

Read the entire article hereThe piece also includes two commentaries by Julien Migozzi and Sara Safransky, with a rejoinder from Desiree FieldsAll pieces are open access.