The rise of co-working spaces in the UK: new mediated creative communities?

November 19th, 2012 by Caroline Chapain in Creative Networks | no comments

The number of co-working spaces has been increasing in the UK in the last few years[i]. There are co-working spaces in at least 20 cities in the UK today[ii]. This UK trend matches a global phenomenon with over 1,300 co-working space operating worldwide at the beginning of 2012 according to the 2nd global annual co-working survey undertaken by DeskMag, the online magazine about coworking, its people and spaces.

But what is a coworking space?

The co-working space concept emerged in the mid-2000s in the United States with the increase in telecommuting supported by the information technology revolution. Some describe co-working space as part of ‘a physical manifestation of the “techno-space”[iii]. Overall, ‘co-working consists in renting a desktop in an open space for a very flexible period of time’[iv] The emergence of these types of spaces offers an alternative to coffee shops to respond to the challenges of working at home such as social isolation, distraction, lack of space to meet clients… for independent contractors, freelancers and professionals. In addition to offering basic services such as a desk, free Wi-fi and other IT and office facilities…, these spaces tend to offer formally or informally some forms of support to entrepreneurial activities notably through informal discussions with other co-workers or specific events and activities run by the space proprietors…

What are the advantages of co-working spaces for independent workers?

The most recent survey from DeskMag shows that the principal reasons for independent workers to use their current coworking space are[v]:  a social or enjoyable atmosphere (66%), a community (62%), interaction with others (57%), good office infrastructure (54%), knowledge sharing (42%), good value for money (42%), a close distance to my home (41%) and random discoveries and opportunities (36%).

New mediated creative communities?

There are interesting debates about the positive impacts of co-working spaces in terms of innovation, support to star-ups, social networking… Are co-working spaces new models of business incubation or new forms of creative clusters? Interestingly, the latest survey by DeskMag highlights that more than 70% of coworking spaces users felt that using the space has increased their creativity and the generation of ideas for their business[vi]. How is this increased creativity mediated? Despite the central role played by internet and online media such as blogging, twitter, wiki… in the running of co-working spaces[vii], little research has explored the way these online activities match informal and formal physical activities taking place in co-working spaces or how they contribute to the development of creative professional identities, creative processes and citizenship.

Researching Moseley Exchange in Birmingham

By working with one of our partners, the Moseley Exchange, an established co-working location in the heart of Moseley Village in Birmingham where members can meet, work, learn and exchange ideas, we aim to better understand how creativity is mediated within co-working spaces but also between co-working spaces and their wider community both physically but also through online media.


[i] Snowdon G. (2011) ‘A co-workers’ revolution?’ The Guardian 21st May 2011, Available online at http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2011/may/21/co-workers-shared-offices [accessed 2nd July 2012]

[iii] Fabbri J. and Charrue-Duboc F. (2012) Vers un nouveau modèle d’accompagnement entrepreneurial : le cas de la Ruche. Presentation at the ‘2eme rencontres entre acteurs des réseaux d’accompagnement et chercheurs.’ 19th January, Montpellier, France.

[iv] Leforestier A., (2009, p.3) The co-working space concept. CINE Term project. Supervised by A. Gupta. Available online at: http://www.iimahd.ernet.in/users/anilg/files/Articles/Co-working%20space.pdf

[v] See DeskMag’s first results for the 3rd Global Coworking Space survey at:  http://www.deskmag.com/en/1st-results-of-the-3rd-global-coworking-survey-2012

[vi] See note v.

[vii] See Aguiton C. and Cardon D. (2007) ‘The strength of weak cooperation: an attempt to understand the meaning of Web 2.0.’ Communications and Strategies, 65: 51-65 and Leforestier A., (2009, p.3) The co-working space concept. CINE Term project. Supervised by A. Gupta. Available online at: http://www.iimahd.ernet.in/users/anilg/files/Articles/Co-working%20space.pdf

 

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