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May 02, 2007

« Bloggiest Places | Main | By the Numbers: 10% Rule »

Bedouin_worker1 Piers Fawkes writes:

Starbucks vision behind the Third Place was to create a space between the home and the office which offered the sort of environment that had always been cherished in the best coffee houses through the years - a place to meet, to read, to debate and discuss, to be on your own. As Starbucks built their chain, independent cafes popped up to offer alternative takes on basically the same principles. . Around the world we all started hanging more in cafes. But maybe that's not going to last. Have you tried to sit in a cafe recently? You can't there are hardly any seats and, certainly, no table space left!

The rise of the Bedouin Worker fueled by easy WiFi could be changing our view on the Third Place. In fact, they could be killing what we see as the Third Place and turning the cafe back to the Second Place. Go to a Starbucks or another cafe and its full of the creative class tapping away on their laptops. The only discussion being made seems to be on the phone with people in other cafes. Maybe it's time that Starbucks saves its Third Place. Instead of developing different brands offering basically the same thing (which will be inundated by the laptopers), maybe they should offer a modern version of the Second Place to keep the Bedouin Workers and the cafe dwellers happy and apart.

My sense is as work becomes less tied to a physical off while become more concentrated in specific cities and regions, the demand for new third-place work environments is rising. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of working in coffee shops. I seldom do actually; I tend to use them for meetings. But I also sense the need for new kinds of third-place like environments for people to are more well suited to this kind of work.  The best analogue that comes to mind is a great hotel lobby.  There is clearly market need: How long and what will it take to fill it.

So how do you think kind of work environment would look and feel?


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There's a team in Charlotte, NC working to develop these new third place workplaces. They're morphing the computer lab, coffee shop and neighborhood center into one cool place for local freelancers and telecommuters.

This team comes out of our Knight Creative Communities Initiative. Watch for more updates!


Sounds really cool. Please keep us posted about Charlotte KCCI as this one gets up and running. Could become a crucial economic development tool as cities/regions focus on human talent and talent clusters rather than just corporations and tax incentives for them to relocate 200 odd jobs.

Garry Golden

I like this exploration of the evolving third place. I wonder about the future of coffee shop third places... Who knows what will drive changes...?! Services will surely be a factor. But physical design elements must adapt. My gut says that in certain areas - the electric(H2) vehicle (which will have more interior space and a constant flow of electrons - could turn into a personal mobile office. (no more bulky engines!) Mobile offices are an old idea but one that might be realized- especially if retail businesses realize the $ value of parking lots or street spaces for mobile workers. The other driver might be in the decentralization of energy. Simply unplugging everything. Ending the 'stream' of electrons in favor of 'packets'. In this world we unplug everything and no longer need to be connected to wires. Micro packets of electrons (possibly via H2 fuel cells/batteries) could someday provide enough energy to power any appliance. Making us rethink 'place'... So my eyes are on evolving third places - around services and portable energy.

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