Toward a digital urban exodus

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From functional space to space as an ecosystem

“People who says that localized work is dead are actually working in an industry defined by a localisation: Silicon Valley. That means that space still matters. It is one of the most  important factors for change,” said Jim Keane, Vice-CEO of Steelcase.

Our lifestyles are inevitably related to our means of subsistence, and this means evolving over time with technological developments. Historically, populations started settling in one place  ever since the neolithic revolution. The change from a hunter-gatherer, to a settled way of life, has considerably changed social relations and lifestyles.

Because sedentary life needs space, it calls for an extensive settlement allocated over large territories, which means an important rural population. Industrial revolution does not tie individuals to the land anymore, but rather to factories and mines, which started building new cities based on an intensive development model. These new industrial cities are no longer considered to be frictions or commercial exchange areas, but rather theinfrastructureneeded for production.

The functional city model developed by Le Corbusier, which became the predominant model during post-War reconstruction, impacted cities by dividing them into functions: life, work, leisure and transportation infrastructures. Housing estates, business centers, and shopping centers have been created according to this functionalist mindset. 

By thinning urban functions and dividing cities, these models were unable to keep all positive aspects, while it was formerly the role of cities. It will probably also be the role of the cities within the digital revolution, because their productivity highly relies on positive externalities, captation and dissemination. The predominant cities of the digital revolution will be able to to generate meetings in a authentic and friendly exchange, creating serendipity, social links, and a sense of trust and belonging. If you are interested in digital cities, I wrote another article entitled: “Digital City, Ideal City”.

The digital revolution does not abort the role of space, but instead it transforms the space. It makes a new meaning and a new use. This new use of space exists in an ecosystem rather than in an infrastructure. It’s a framework favoring some distinct activities, since an ecosystem is structured by a spectrum of parameters found in permanent interaction.  

Thus the urban exodus will be sustained by multifunctional spaces. A concrete example found in rural areas is the multifunctionality of some shops, like when a bakery can also provide money withdrawal or tourist information. This is an example of ecosystemic approaches that have been successful.

Xavier de Mazenod from Zevillage underlines the importance of multi-service locations in rural areas. “The idea that one place is equal to one function does not work in rural area.” The telecenter of Boitron welcomes various activities, such informatic coaching, parties or even elections. With the digital revolution, the environment replaces the infrastructure and the project replaces the profession. Each activity may correspond to different environments, and with this objective, one city offers an ecosystem favorable to many activities. Soon it becomes easier to find clients, partners, to promote its activity, and to access information...

The countryside allows for better concentration and productivity. As an example, Emmanuelle really appreciates working alternately in rural and urban areas. Today is it a better economical choice for digital workers to take advantage of this diverse ecosystem according to its needs? It will probably be a major issue for the future of digital workers, typing in the different environments that they move through, which is necessary to carry out their activities.

Will coworking follow and promote these trends?

Coworking is born from digital culture. It considers mobile or nomadic self-employees and favors a systemic approach. From this point of view, it looks like a cutting edge leader is needed to promote urban exodus, but actually coworking in rural areas looks promising, since many initiatives already exist in France, such as Arrêt Minute in Aquitaine.

The Mutinerie team now started exploring coworking in rural areas. Our target: Le Perche. Our mission: to develop a favorable ecosystem for freelancers in this area, and create a “Perche Valley” in this unique National Park. We are leaving this friday for a weekend in Perche. To follow our adventures on Facebook, click here.

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