Notes on “What is Coworking?” (Part 6): Research Methods

Coworking Notes Part 6 of 6. Research Methods

The previous notes have considered some of the ideas gained by exploring the public information on the web about coworking spaces. (The sample is all in the United States, though that could be explanded.)

The public materials have proved fruitful for generating research questions. We can clearly see that self-proclaimed “coworking spaces” are quite diverse, and appear to vary on a number of dimensions.

How can we develop a better understanding of these questions?

Clearly, some more organized content analysis would be valuable to solidify the informal observations presented here this week. This would be a good next step, and could serve to identify additional research questions.

Some questions might be addressed by surveys or interviews. For example, it would be quite feasible to collect the application materials and standard contracts, and to interview operators and “curators” about their recruitment process. These same people might also have historical materials documenting how a particular has evolved.

Yet other research questions appear to require ethnographic or at least field observations. What are the actual social and behavioral phenomena associated with self-described “badass”-ness, or “grown up”-ness? For that matter, how much interaction is there, and what spatial and temporal patterns actually occur?

It would be interesting to examine the social networks within cowork spaces, and how they link to the social networks in the area and in relevant distributed communities. To what extent does the cowork space provide a setting for broader collaborations? Does the cowork space generate new collaborations and connections? What are the links between cowork spaces: individual coworkers (perhaps nomadic), distributed collaborations, formal alliances, or other possibilities?

We might also consider evaluative and comparative studies, to examine the populations served and the results achieved. For spaces with specific goals or target populations, what are appropriate success metrics, and how well do they fare? How do they compare to non-coworking

Together, these approaches may give us an understanding of not only “what is coworking”, but how to do it well.

This is the last installment of this series for now.


This is a working note describes ideas I’m developing that will need further research. It is based on preliminary examination of we sources, though I have not given citations here. The dataset will be explained and published at a later date.

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