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Nomadicity and the Care of Place—on the Aesthetic and Affective Organization of Space in Freelance Creative Work

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Abstract

While information and communication technology enables freelancers to work “anytime anywhere”, it has become apparent that not all places seem to be equally suitable for their work. Drawing from CSCW literature on the practical accomplishment of mobile work and theoretical literature on creativity, insights from ethnographic studies in New York, Berlin and Wiesbaden are discussed. The paper follows workers in their everyday attempts to seek out and enact work environments, which enable them to be creative and productive. In these processes, mobility features both as a problem and a resource. The search for the right place makes these workers restless, but sometimes restlessness and nomadicity can inspire creativity. Similarly, new mobile, social and collaborative technologies allow a new balancing of solitude and sociality. I call this emerging nexus of practices which entails aesthetic, affective, social and socio-political dimensions the care of place. A conjoint theoretical and empirical analysis aims to draw attention to everyday lived practices of nomadicity and the care of place in a wider discursive and socio-political context to inform CSCW design.

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Notes

  1. Cp. also http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/features/thirsty-work-the-coffee-shop-as-office-2290725.html

  2. http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2012/11/next-workplace-revolution/3904/

  3. The UK government estimates that in the UK the creative industries ‘are worth more than £36 billion a year; they generate £70,000 every minute for the UK economy; and they employ 1.5 million people in the UK.’ https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/making-it-easier-for-the-media-and-creative-industries-to-grow-while-protecting-the-interests-of-citizens.

  4. We know of at least two iconic models of creative production: On the one hand, there is the model of working in retreat or in solitude of one’s study (Thomas Mann), bed (Proust) or the cabin (Thoreau). On the other hand, there is the model of working in public, as in the Viennese or Parisian Café (Sartre, Hemingway). In recent decades, the latter definitely seems to have prevailed.

  5. My use of the term ‘dispositif’ follows Foucault’s definition of a nexus of heterogeneous elements, discursive and non-discursive, institutions, material structures, which form a power structure and help shape the social body as well as how we think, feel and act (Foucault 1980, 194 ff.).

  6. See www.share.dj/share and Author 2010.

  7. http://www.toytowngermany.com/lofi/index.php/t94379.html

  8. ibid.

  9. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/20/business/businessspecial2/20cowork.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print

  10. http://betahaus.de/about - my translation.

  11. For an alternative typology of mobility see Kristoffersen and Ljungberg (1999) who distinguish between „travelling“, „visiting“and „wandering”.

  12. Bellotti and Bly in an early paper (1996) already pointed out the practical necessity of moving about in the office, and hence the need to develop devices which offer similar portability as paper does.

  13. http://workatjelly.com

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Acknowledgments

I thank Sabrina Hofmann, Désirée Bender and David Waldecker for assistance in data collection. This paper greatly profited from comments and suggestions of my colleagues Martin Stempfhuber, Natascha Nisic, Monika Büscher, Lilian Coates and three anonymous reviewers.

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Liegl, M. Nomadicity and the Care of Place—on the Aesthetic and Affective Organization of Space in Freelance Creative Work. Comput Supported Coop Work 23, 163–183 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10606-014-9198-x

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