The New Shape of Office Space

A tour examining 'the future of work' looks at several 'coworking communities' around Manhattan, where freelancers and small businesses have pooled resources into one location.

"Coworking is rapidly emerging as a meme for the reorganization of knowledge work among entrepreneurs, programmers, writers and even, as we learned during our visits, sustainable furniture designers. The majority of discussions of the social implications of the Internet on the evolution of work and cities revolve around concepts such as the virtual office, online collaboration, and telecommuting. But, coworking communities (and related phenomenon that have grown out of the culture of the open source movement such as MeetUps and BarCamps) illustrate the ways in which these emergent forms of organizing are deeply embedded in physical places and, at the same time, enabled by new technologies such as laptops and wireless networks.

As the material artifacts of offices – messages, documents, photos and plans - are digitized and stored on servers, physical spaces have the potential to become increasingly open, flexible and sharable. Data security concerns aside, one can imagine a future scenario when most of the tools that we need to work effectively will be accessed and stored in "the cloud". This allows the dynamic reorganization and co-location of people, firms and activities that have been separated since the early days of industrialization, the advent of the hierarchical firm and the rise of cities themselves. For example, an office building might house a conference room that doubles as an entertainment room for the co-located apartments. Such arrangements will require new ways of thinking about private and semi-private spaces, trust and security, and ownership and property."

Full Story: Work and the Open Source City

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