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Increased use of mobile media devices in public spaces has disrupted social 'flow' by dramatically revising behaviours, rituals and communications patterns. As these 'techno-spaces' evolve, the line also blurs between mobile media use for work and recreation, leading to an increase of ‘digital nomads’ claiming public spaces for mobile media-based work purposes. This jeopardises society's 'third place', the sacred space separate from home and work, and the evolution of the café is used to illustrate this – from social space, to Internet café, to Wifi café, to work space.
By analysing new forms of identity and work in relation to mobile media and public space, a gap is revealed in our social structure for acceptable public consumption of work-based mobile media. This essay argues that the co-working space fills this gap by offering a physical manifestation of the ‘techno space’ that facilitates greater public engagement and social interaction, while also allowing reclamation of the sacred 'third space' by decreasing the need for laptop use in public spaces like cafés. Using my experiences in a Berlin co-working space as a case study, I present them as productive spheres of work, informal interaction, community, social support, collaboration, inspiration and innovation, all based around work-based mobile media consumption.
Does co-working represent a wider trend in the acceptance of new work and personal identity structures and the re-negotiation of mobile media use in public spaces? Do co-working spaces offer a new home for the ‘digital nomad’? Will the rise in co-working lead to a decline of work-related mobile media use in 'the third space'? This essay explores these key questions.
Definition of key terms
‘ICT’ stands for information and communications technology, referring to the integration of telecommunications, computers, broadcast media processing and transmission (Foldoc, 2012). ‘Mobile media’ are portable media (including laptops, tablet computers, mobile telephones) connectable to movements of data, either pre- downloaded to devices or accessed instantaneously by the Internet (Mackenzie 2005). ‘Smart devices’ are forms of mobile media with built-in Wifi connections. ‘Wifi’ is a wireless technology permitting the transfer of information between separated points without physical connection (Mackenzie, 2005), the most common being high-
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