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From Workplace to Workspace: Mobile Media and Transitions of Working Life

Sun, May 27, 9:30 to 10:45, Hilton Old Town, Floor: M, Mozart II


This paper reflects on the spatial emancipation of work that has taken place due to the development of mobile media. It starts off in the phenomenological understanding of mediation, a tradition which previously has enriched the spatial understanding of place and home (Spigel 1992; Scannell 1996; Morley 2000; Moores 2006). Applying this perspective to work is a way to reflect current transition of work not from a structural perspective, but from below. Hence the paper will illuminate the transition from workplaces to all-embracing workspaces in relation to emerging mobile socialities. Two different developments with relation to white-collar work will be unfolded in the presentation.

First, for many people working life has become more flexible thanks to laptops and smart phones. When work is communication and everyone has a mobile phone, work is always accessible. It means that all places are potential work places: the home, cafes, trains, etc (cf. Hartmann 2009). The flipside of that coin is that working life expands; the blurred boundaries of work become the stretched boundaries work (cf Gregg 2011). Due to the mobile phone work is always present, a constant remainder of undone work tasks. Phenomenologically speaking, work is no longer associated to a particular place; a place defined by the practices of work. Instead, work becomes ubiquitous [not unlike the narrative worlds Annette is discussing]. Workplaces become workspaces.

The second development is the rise of coworking spaces in urban environments that accommodates start ups, independent contractors and other knowledge workers, sometimes working under precarious conditions. As a reaction to rigid office environments coworking spaces offer a mix of casual atmosphere and functional workplaces. Most importantly, they offer sociality and mutual inspiration to a group who is not used to a stable workplace (Gregg & Lodato 2017). The specific professional sociality on offer (many are working within the same branches), in combination with the comfy environments, blurs the boundary between work and private life. Coffee breaks, after-work drinks - everything becomes work (Gill 2010). Thus, workplace becomes workspace also here.