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All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women are learning to hit their marks on it, guided by bits of colored tape. Tape has become a low-tech weapon in COVID-19-induced urbanism, measuring out spots for customers to stand in line for groceries, X-ing out park benches that are too close together, defining safety zones spaces in elevators and subways. We know where to stand and why, grateful for these scraps of guidance and, at the same time, resentful at the necessary regimentation. Bit by bit, cities are rolling out informal instruction manuals for a new standard of social behavior, and the messages can feel infantilizing: Stand here, don’t sit there, keep out. But tape is also a liberating force, breathing new flexibility into urban infrastructure that is built to resist change. The challenge of the next chapter will be to make that flexibility permanent.

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