Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Anthropology

First Advisor

Greg Urban

Abstract

As the workforce shifts towards more contingent labor and freelancing and entrepreneurship are on the rise, where will knowledge workers find productive spaces to work and opportunities to build community? This dissertation is an ethnographic study of coworking: defined as the formalized sharing of workspace through membership-based community building and networking. Technological advancements and the Internet Revolution have sparked a transformation of where and how work is done. Within a coworking space, individuals do not all work for the same company, the same industry, or for employers in the same city or even country. And yet, they are coworkers: they are working alone 'together.' In order to understand why and how people are engaged in coworking, I conducted 10 months of formalized fieldwork within one such coworking space, IndyHall in Old City, Philadelphia. During that time, I conducted 23 formal hour-long interviews in addition to participation in the various day-to-day events and activities of the community. Beyond my fieldwork in the physical space, I conducted three years of online ethnography of the broader coworking movement, including: reading and participating in different global and local coworking blogs, online interviews with people from coworking spaces in other parts of the United States and Europe, following Twitter and other social media activity, and tracking and archiving online media coverage—including national, global and local news sources—of coworking. Following my three years of intensive fieldwork, I have maintained relationships with the IndyHall community which has continued to inform my insights. My research produced an ethnographic narrative and quantitative data that support my conclusions. I conclude that the rise of coworking is a result of globalization and corporate neoliberal policies that have left knowledge workers seeking out community for both social and professional needs. Further, I posit that coworking spaces act as nodes within broader cultural flows, citing Urban’s (2017) analogous assessment of ‘the corporation,’ by providing an environment wherein various commodified and noncommodified cultural inputs that individuals and small companies bring with them into coworking spaces can be transformed into new commodified and noncommodified outputs.

Embargoed

Available to all on Friday, September 10, 2021

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