Call for Abstracts: The future of Collaborative Workspaces: a multi-scalar and interdisciplinary approach

European Conference, 23-24 January 2023, Romantso, Athens-Greece

Introduction to Collaborative Workspaces

This conference is oriented towards understanding collaborative workspaces (CWS) and exploring their current and future relationship with global trends, regional development, communities and individuals from the perspective of various disciplines. The purpose is to focus on the phenomenon of CWS (i.e. coworking spaces, makerspaces, fablabs, creative and innovation hubs etc.) located either in urban centres or in peripheral and remote areas. Research on this topic has received increased attention in recent years from numerous disciplines such as urban and regional planning, geography, business and management, sociology, architecture, design and economics, and we believe this trend will further proliferate in the coming years.

Target audience

So far research regarding CWS is mainly contained to descriptive approaches that hold back a critical exploration of the phenomenon. Moreover, there is a lack of discussion between the various disciplines that scrutinise CWS, rendering the literature highly fragmented. Therefore, we welcome all papers that build on interdisciplinary and multi-scalar approaches that try to overcome theoretical, conceptual and methodological boundaries and build on a holistic view of the research field. Additionally, we are particularly interested in critical contributions which bring together the development of CWS and broader societal shifts and scientific discussions (e.g., remote work, digitalisation, platformization of labour, environmental change, social impact, rurbanity). Contributions from the perspectives of gender issues and social inequalities are also welcome. The contributions may be based on empirical and/ or novel theoretical approaches.

Sessions

  1. Global Trends and CWSs

CWS today are heavily affected by, and at the same time contribute, to the promotion of global trends such as remote work: the possibility to have spaces and services almost everywhere. The rise of location-independent jobs, together with the challenge of the pandemic and a search for flexibility in the working environment, is pushing many people to find new ways of living and working. Remote working in its full and partial versions, is used by knowledge workers or the creative class and seems to incarnate the future of work (and its geography) that emerged particularly after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic (Althoff L. et al., 2022).

Work and society are now undergoing significant transformations. Over the past 20 years, our work environment has changed significantly and new places for working have emerged due to the steady introduction of new technologies and new processes for information sharing, collaboration and communication, as well as the processes of digitalization and globalisation. Collaborative workspaces in their various forms have been primarily proliferated in central urban districts of metropolitan cities; however, a further major trend of shared workspaces is their emergence in small and medium-sized cities and remote, rural areas across Europe (Avdikos & Merkel, 2020).

This session welcomes contributions regarding how CWS relate to societal transformations driven by global trends at both urban and rural level, for example, the rise of concepts such as the 15 minute city (Moreno et al., 2021), digital nomads, or the “Rurban” and the restyled attention to rural places and dwellers. These trends may support the creation of more sustainable environments and strongly relate with the major change affecting labour and work.

  1. Regional Development, Policies and CWS

CWS are considered as an effective tool for the regeneration of peripheral and remote areas, whereby structurally weak regions could retain young and skilled workers, as well as attract newcomers from more densely populated areas. The development of CWS can be deemed as socially, economically and environmentally desirable, stimulating the development of local communities as they function as a socio-material infrastructure for local places (Friederici 2016, Avdikos and Merkel 2020) and provide spaces for creative processes (Schmidt 2019).

However, such spaces are often not economically viable in the short-run. In concert with a greater emphasis on place-based approach from the policy side (Avdikos & Papageorgiou, 2022), the interest in unpacking the effects and potentialities of CWS towards a more sustainable regional development approach is growing. Nevertheless, current policy approaches seem to approach CWS inadequately (Manzini Ceinar 2019), whereas a place-based approach has also been considered as a contested activity as its actual operationalization and implementation depends on diverse factors from different scales.

Therefore we welcome papers that focus on CWS as a tool for sustainable regeneration of diverse regions, those which examine the gaps among urban, metropolitan, peripheral and rural contexts, as well as papers which critically address existing regional development strategies and policies and their impacts on CWS.

  1. The impact of CWSs on Communities

Within the CWS literature, CWS are often viewed as being related towards functions related to entrepreneurship and innovation (e.g. incubators), or towards facilitating different social processes related to community development and social innovation (e.g. Local Hubs). Within this dichotomy of economic and social outlooks, CWS have been described as sites of ambivalence through both emancipatory and counter hegemonic narratives, while also being symbols of reinforcing neo-liberal hegemony (for ex. DePeuter et al., 2017; Vidaillet & Bousalham, 2018).

In this regard, CWS have been said to offer ‘transformative potential’ for communities, with potential to address inequalities and act as levers for social change (e.g. Smith, 2020; Vidaillet & Bousalham, 2018), however more critical perspectives are lacking in relation to the transformative power a CWS may have on its local environment, and beyond.Given that within the CWS literature ‘community’ is an equally ambivalent term, contributions tackling community and how the notion of community may change in relation to CWS are relevant for this session.

In addition, we also welcome critical contributions viewing the various socio-economic-environmental impacts of CWS in communities that not only exist inside the CWS, but also the external effects of CWS on local communities. CWS in both urban and rural areas have potential to act as catalysts for local socio-economic impact in areas such as entrepreneurial ecosystems, social innovation and the social economy, however there exists a lack of contributions regarding their potential environmental impact in both urban and rural areas. We also welcome critical contributions related to the emancipatory potential of CWS, for example, economies of care and cooperative forms of organising in relation to CWS.

  1. The impact of CWSs on Individuals

Work in the digital era has undergone many changes that are not less connected to the Covid-19 pandemic. These changes have resulted in (new) needs that should be addressed for workers to develop and/ or sustain a balance between a living and working life that meets their needs and aspirations. CWS are said to provide workers with an open, inclusive and safe space for collaboration and trial-and-error procedures (Avdikos & Merkel, 2020). Urban and metropolitan areas with agglomeration economies usually offer access to entrepreneurial milieus while, especially for people residing in rural and peripheral areas, CWS allegedly foster networks and provide a platform for exchange with more socio-economically developed milieus.

CWS often house knowledge workers and creatives who work as freelancers, often under precarious labour conditions (Merkel 2019, Brown 2017, Gandini 2015). CWS are described as providing their users the opportunity to socialise, network and collaborate, therefore enabling them to advance their careers and even act as shelters against precarity (Avdikos & Kalogeresis 2016, Merkel 2019, Morisset 2014). However, critical scholars contest that this is only true to some degree (de Peuter et al. 2017, Morgan 2020). They describe specific mechanisms (re)producing inequalities in collaborative workspaces, such as for example membership curation and access, membership fees and space layout. CWS in world metropoles are also often subject to gentrification processes and rapid increases in rents (Morgan 2020). Cooperative models or worker-based ownership of hubs and collaborative workspaces have been proposed as a potential alleviator of precarious working lives and exclusionary practices (Merkel 2019, Sandoval 2018, Sandoval & Littler 2019). Moreover, the occurrence of feminist hackerspaces (Toupin 2014) and more recently, women-centred or women-only CWS can be seen as a response to gender inequalities and sexism at the workplace.

In this session we welcome papers that critically shed light on whether inequalities (educational, income, gender, age, etc.) affect workers’ access to CWS and/ or how they are addressed by the latter. Moreover, we invite papers that tackle the ways in which CWS enhance wellbeing, employment opportunities and skill acquisition, especially for young people and for those not in employment, education or training (NEETs).

Important dates and guidelines

  • Deadline for abstract submission: 16 October 2022
  • Notification of accepted abstracts: 4 November 2022
  • The conference has not got registration fees
  • Length of abstracts: Maximum 300 words

Completed abstracts and queries to be sent to futureCWSathens@gmail.com

Organising committee

Helyaneh Aboutalebi, POLIMI

Federica Ammaturo, IRS- Humboldt University

Vasilis Avdikos, Panteion University

Vera Fabinyi, Panteion University

Nikos Gatsinos, Otelo-University of Graz

Lorenzo Marmo, ECHN-Panteion University

Janet Merkel, Technical University of Berlin

Martha Michailidou, Panteion University

Antigoni Papageorgiou, Panteion University

Colm Stockdale, ECHN-Panteion University

Naya Tselepi, Panteion University

Alexandra Wrbka, Panteion University

The conference is organized by the UrbanCoWork project which is funded by the HFRI.

The research project was supported by the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (H.F.R.I.) under the “1st Call for H.F.R.I. Research Projects to support Faculty Members & Researchers and the Procurement of High-and the procurement of high-cost research equipment grant” (Project Number: 1932).

The conference is supported by MSCA CORAL-ITN



Bibliography

Althoff, L., Eckert, F., Ganapati, S., & Walsh, C. (2022). The Geography of Remote Work. Regional Science and Urban Economics, 93, 103770. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.regsciurbeco.2022.103770

Avdikos, V., & Papageorgiou, A. (2021). Public support for collaborative workspaces: Dispersed help to a place-based phenomenon? Local Economy, 36(7–8), 669–682. https://doi.org/10.1177/02690942221074941

Avdikos, V., & Kalogeresis, A. (2016). Socio-economic profile and working conditions of freelancers in co-working spaces and work collectives: Evidence from the design sector in Greece. Area. https://doi.org/10.1111/area.12279

Avdikos, & Merkel, J. (2020). Supporting open, shared and collaborative workspaces and hubs: recent transformations and policy implications. Urban Research & Practice, 13(3), 348–357. https://doi.org/10.1080/17535069.2019.1674501

Brown, J. (2017). Curating the “Third Place”? Coworking and the mediation of creativity. Geoforum, 82, 112–126.

de Peuter, G., Cohen, N. S., & Saraco, F. (2017). The ambivalence of coworking: On the politics of an emerging work practice. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 20(6), 687–706. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367549417732997

Friederici, N (2016). “Innovation Hubs in Africa: Assemblers of Technology.” Doctoral Thesis, University of Oxford.

Gandini, A. (2015). The rise of coworking spaces: A literature review. Ephemera, 15(1), 193–205.

Manzini Ceinar, I. (2019): Co‐working Space as New Urban Chance. Urban Design 149. 14‐15.

Merkel, J. (2019). ‘Freelance isn’t free.’ Co-working as a critical urban practice to cope with informality in creative labour markets. Urban Studies, 56(3), 526–547. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042098018782374

Moreno, C., Allam, Z., Chabaud, D., Gall, C., & Pratlong, F. (2021). Introducing the “15-Minute City”: Sustainability, Resilience and Place Identity in Future Post-Pandemic Cities. Smart Cities, 4(1), 93–111. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/smartcities4010006

Morgan G. (2020) ‘Meaning and Soul’: Co-working, Creative Career and Independent Co-work Spaces. 139-158. In: Taylor S., Luckman S. (eds) Pathways into Creative Working Lives. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-38246-9_8

Moriset, B. (2014) Building new places of the creative economy. The rise of coworking spaces. Paper presented at the 2nd Geography of Innovation International Conference, January 2014, Utrecht, Netherlands. 23-25.

Sandoval, M. (2018). From passionate labour to compassionate work: Cultural co-ops, do what you love and social change. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 21(2), 113–129. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367549417719011

Sandoval, M. and Littler, J. (2019). Creative hubs: a co-operative space? In: Gill, R., Pratt, A.C. and Virani, T. (Eds.), Creative Hubs in Question: Place, Space and Work in the Creative Economy. (pp. 155-168). London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-3-030- 10652-2

Schmidt, S (2019). “In the Making: Open Creative Labs as an Emerging Topic in Economic Geography?” Geography Compass 13 (9). https://doi.org/10.1111/gec3.12463.

Smith, T.S.J. (2020) “Stand back and watch us”: Post-capitalist practices in the maker movement’, Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 52(3), pp. 593–610. doi:10.1177/0308518X19882731.

Toupin, S. (2014). Feminist Hackerspaces: The Synthesis of Feminist and Hacker Cultures. 9.

Vidaillet, B., & Bousalham, Y. (2018). Coworking spaces as places where economic diversity can be articulated: Towards a theory of syntopia. Organization, 27(1), 60–87. https://doi.org/10.1177/1350508418794003

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This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 955907.