11 Mar-2015

The Co-working Connection

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This article was posted on Deep Fun by Bernard DeKoven

I was interviewed recently by a group of people from the Gracia Work Center in Barcelona. They were working on a film to be titled “From San Francisco to Barcelona: Searching for the Origin of Co-working.” And I, mostly because of the integrity of the founders, and partly by sheer luck, am one of the aforementioned origins.

When I coined the term “co-working,” I was describing a phenomenon I called “working together as equals.” I was exploring how the insights I gained in designing games and facilitating play could apply to the facilitation of work.

I arrived at a method for facilitating business meetings using a computer (I called this method “technography,” and managed to secure for myself a position as “a groupware pioneer”).
I learned, somewhat reluctantly, that the whole idea of “working together as equals” was a lot more revolutionary than I had naively assumed. For the most part, people don’t work together as equals, especially not in the business world where they are graded and isolated, categorized and shuffled into a hierarchy that separates them by rank and salary level; creating, for the majority of employees, an indelibly competitive relationship which, even when they find themselves members of the same team, is rife with distrust, duplicity and often downright sabotage.

The genius of what became the Co-working Movement was to create an entirely different approach to “working together as equals.” Like my version of co-working, the people in the Co-working Movement also used technology to support collaborative work. The environment they created was also designed to allow coworkers to work together, as equals. But separately – each working on their own projects, pursuing their own, separate business interests. In this way, people were free to help each other without worrying about competitive pressures. And the result was productivity, community, and, surprisingly often, deeply shared fun.

The Co-working Movement was launched in San Francisco by Brad Neuberg (the San Francisco connection) and Chris Messina in 2005 a and carried forward by a growing and remarkable group of passionate, socially aware people who converted office spaces (Alex Hillman in Philadelphia) and even their homes (Lori Kane in Seattle).

The interview afforded me the first opportunity I’ve had to make that connection clear – to you, and to myself. The San Francisco connection, for me, was, of course, my work with New Games. And, ultimately, the Barcelona connection was not just because I had coined a term, but, deeper than that, because we had shared a deep appreciation of the joy of participating in a creative, playful community.

The Co-working Institute is an undertaking of Bernard DeKoven, and of newsmaster and archivist Gerrit Visser. DeKoven developed one of the first effective uses of computer technology to facilitate collaborative work in the mid 1980s
The Co-working Insitute is dedicated to the exploration of technologies, tools, techniques, social processes, best practices, and whatever it is that brings people together to work effectively and productively as equals.

Based on his experience in the design of environments that were conducive to the development of collaborative play (through his work with groups and individuals at the Games Preserve, a retreat center he established for the study of adult play, his publication of The Well-Played Game, and his affiliation with The New Games Foundation) DeKoven, in 1985, began to explore the use of a projected computer with outline software as a tool to facilitate brainstorming, planning, and collaborative writing. He described this process in his publications: Power Meetings, and Connected Executives.


DeKoven, B. (2013, Aug 5). The Co-working Connection. Deep Fun
Retrieved from: http://www.deepfun.com/fun/2013/08/the-coworking-connection/

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