Workshop on Co-working dynamics and the city Wednesday 1 March 2017
With precedents in hackspaces from the 1990s, the first officially designated ‘coworking spaces’ opened up in 2005, with people opening their homes in San Francisco to fellow freelancers looking for a working space and collegiality. In the same year the first ‘Hub’ opened in London, and St.Oberholz opened in Berlin, offering a combined café/workspace for freelancers. In the 11 years since then the growth of co-working has been phenomenal, with Deskmag estimating that 10,000 new co-working spaces would open in 2016, with membership reaching an average of 76. Whilst much of this growth has been facilitated by technological change, co-working also carries elements of a social-movement, working towards cultural and institutional changes in working practice, and is part of wider, longer-term, political-economic changes related to immaterial, creative and intellectual forms of labour.
For participants, co-working promises a solution to the isolation that freelance workers can experience. It provides a space for community, as well as collaboration, offering informal learning through a ready-made community of practice, as well as colleagues to work with on larger scale projects than independents could otherwise take on. Co-working spaces can function as informal labour exchanges and favoured destinations for other local businesses looking for established and reliable freelancers. In the UK context, where the high-street is under some pressure, but commercial rents remain historically high, co-working can also offer a means of revitalising city centres, bringing freelancers out of their suburban homes and into culturally and commercially vibrant, urban centres. As an ‘anchor’ for precarious and fluid forms of work and organization, co-working spaces might even offer a basis for city-centre regeneration, adding cultural production to the already recognised and significant role of cultural consumption in processes of urban and economic regeneration.
This workshop will bring co-working researchers, and those with a practical or policy interest, together to discuss a range of issues around co-working, including, but not restricted to:
- The relationship between co-working and place: where are co-working spaces located and how do they emerge from, and contribute to, wider changes in the use of urban space and the emergence of specific zones as culturally distinct places.
- What role do co-working spaces play in wider networks of economic activity? How do they relate to other businesses in a city or area?
- What are the working practices of co-workers? How do they connect technology, space, and co-workers in their activities?
- What is the nature of ‘community’ in a co-working space? What is the role of the host in facilitating community and collaboration? And how do virtual and face-to-face communities intersect?
- How does the identity of ‘co-worker’ relate to other identities? Are there distinct connections between co-working as specific professional identities? How are other identities – gender, ethnicity, class, ability, sexuality etc. – included, excluded and performed in co-working?
If you would like to participate in the workshop please contact Chris.Land@Leicester.ac.uk, with a short abstract if you want to present a paper, or a brief outline of your interest in co-working if you want to participate without a formal paper presentation.
The keynote for the workshop will be presented by Dr Melissa Gregg, Principal Engineer in Business Client Strategy at Intel Corporation. Drawing on her ongoing investigation of workplace culture, in books such as The Affect Theory Reader (Duke UP, 2010), Work’s Intimacy (Polity Press, 2011) and the forthcoming Counterproductive (Duke UP), this talk will elaborate coworking’s broader socio-technical context, which includes user-led innovation in work design, and the pivotal role of technology in building atmospheres for personal productivity.