[FoRK] Co-working spaces (was Re: LA Traffic - solution?)

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at jarbox.org
Sat Sep 1 23:47:38 PDT 2012

On Sep 1, 2012, at 11:00 PM, "Stephen D. Williams" <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
> On 9/1/12 10:41 PM, J. Andrew Rogers wrote:
>> This produces a co-working space that is mediocre for everyone. Much better to have a completely decentralized network of specialized co-working spaces that cater to the needs of their respective clientele.
> Sure, but what we have now is no coworking spaces at all in the vast majority of the country and world.
> I wasn't suggesting that there would be no specialization.  I was suggesting taking the best of a number of different strategies to address a certain broad range, then replicate that widely.

What I was taking issue with is that the strategy being proffered was largely ignoring the reason we don't already have co-working spaces in those areas: suburban sprawl, prohibitive zoning, and wide-spread city planning that makes efficient and effective co-working non-viable. It *has* spontaneously started to show up in some places that are naturally amenable to it in that the above issues are minimized so there is probably some economy to the idea.

Overlaying a co-working initiative on top of that toxic foundation has "boondoggle" written all over it. Kind of like all of those cities that tried to turn themselves into Silicon Valley -- cargo cult policy. And that is why it will never work for the vast majority of suburbs; it is politically implausible for the necessary changes to be made on the scale required. Without those changes, co-working initiatives will be like carpool lanes -- feel-good initiatives that produce little net value.

> There's no reason that every instance would have special facilities to support every possible specialization.

The nice thing about decentralized markets is that you do not have to centrally plan the specialized services everyone will provide. They will (hopefully) adapt to the market demand. Effective co-working does not require central planning to emerge, that much is evident in real-world cases. 

> IT basics among different specialties have a lot of overlap, although Wacom pen monitors, 3D mice, large dual monitors, etc. are only intrinsic to certain groups.

Co-working is a social change masquerading as a logistical change. It becomes successful when it is allowed to reorganize the networks of people involved in a business. Co-working is not about office space, IT, or some other commodity you can buy. 

Co-working as logistics is a well-trod path with a mediocre history.  Co-working as a reorganization of the people network is a new phenomenon and showing much more potential. There is no reason to be sanguine when treating it like the former.

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