Independent Together: Community among Independent Workers in Coworking Spaces
Arch, Sandra Carol
This dissertation focuses on the classic Durkheimian theme of community within the context of emerging forms of work and shifting employment relations. The data derive from seventeen months of ethnographic fieldwork, including participant observation at the Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC), four coworking spaces in the U.S., and meetings of the local coworking alliance; 43 semi-structured interviews with coworking space founders, members, and staff from 13 coworking spaces around the world; and 78 questionnaires of interviewees and GCUC attendees. I examine why individuals create and join coworking spaces, how coworking spaces vary, and the consequences of that variability for members, as well as how coworking communities differ from other work communities. My findings present a typology of coworking members' intentionality and a three-fold typology of coworking space founders' intentionality. Contrasting coworking with traditional work environments and extant definitions of work communities, such as occupational community, I argue that coworking communities represent a contemporary form of Genossenschaft and demonstrate how these communities vary. I introduce three conceptualizations of community variation - nature, quality, and strength - and propose a sociological theory of coworking communities that illustrates the relationships between these concepts and coworking space founders' intentionality, coworking members' intentionality, the physical and organizational layout of a coworking space, and events and activities.