Now we are talking…talking coworking

Day 2, Coworking Europe Conference and Copass Camp Dublin.

I am still here, day 2 of a conference, WTF. So yesterday was mixed, the morning was painful for me, too much jargon, serviced offices, real estate and slides, with exception of Hector’s amazing and very funny slides in his ‘best of the day’ talk.

The evening was great, we had a small group connecting over dinner and sharing and chatting. The human element that keeps bringing me back to Copass camps.

I knew today would be good. It is, sorry to break into jargon, unconferencing day, open sessions put together by the participants and this is the real practical, knowledge sharing stuff, that has huge value. Listening to people who are doing it.

The other thing that signified a good day was ahead, we started off learning 5 different handshakes and practicing them on each other. Great physical human connection, this is what is often missing from conferences and life.

One of the first sessions, which was a session suggested by Bernie, Jeanine and me, was an open group discussion simply based on the struggles/problems that small independent coworking spaces face. The dirty end of coworking as opposed to the 5 million-member super shiny desk factories, filled to the brim with their happy shiny people sitting in leather sofas, perfectly chilled, and sipping their low fat chipa-mocha-latte-cinos polishing their investor-ready slide decks on their Macs(OK so that’s sounding a little bitter Philip).

The discussion was passionate, and I felt it could have gone for another hour with topics ranging from noise, commisions, optimum size for a coworking space to work, cleaning, loneliness, and a few more. Talking about the everyday lives of a struggling space owner.

I then moved onto a session discussing systems, software, invoicing, platforms and so on. Not an area I know much about, admitting again in public that I don’t know everything. Again, an open discussions, with some very short pitches from software providers. I realise from this session that I’ve been a complete idiot running a coworking space for 5 years without software to manage it. Wow, I love this listening and learning stuff.

OK, so I am going to spare you the complete blow-by-blow of each session. The point is, this is what makes me want to come to conferences, shared real human stories.

Real human connections, not a person talking at me or worse still reading a slide that I can read myself.

Day 2 has been fab, it has been great learning, thanks to all the people who shared their knowledge and stories.

Unpleasant design and how spikes have removed negotiation

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‘Unpleasant Design’ is the title of a book by Gordan Savicic & Selena Savic, it was also the title of the latest episode on one of my favourite podcasts, 99 Percent Invisible by Roman Mars.

The book and podcast talk all about how design has been used in an unpleasant way to kerb supposed anti-social behaviour.

So for example spikes on benches to prevent people sleeping on them, or uncomfortable seating in bus stops or airports, pink lighting in public spaces to prevent young people from congregating. Spikes in alcoves outside buildings to stop homeless people and so on.

One of the most famous is the Camden bench that apparently tackles 29 anti-social behaviours that can be done on a bench. Wow, I never imagined a bench to be such a hotbed of bad behaviour.

Selena Savic, speaking on the podcast gave an interesting insight, she says that if a policeman comes along and you are sleeping on a bench, there can be a negotiation, and it is this ongoing negotiation process that keeps ongoing change in society. However, spikes on a bench are immutable and change can’t happen until they rust away or are removed.

This is exactly what has happened to the world, the establishment, the industrialised elite, that we all live under, has increasingly replaced the human negotiation process with immutable processes.

Where we could have had a discussion, there is now a black or white rule or system, where there are only ‘rigid spikes’ or ‘concrete barriers’.

We need to stand up to the ‘spikes’ that have removed negotiation and remain human.