Posts tagged ‘Habermas’


The Blog-entry: “How Starbucks might kill freelancing – or the other way around” inspired me to set coffeeshops in a larger frame and constitute a coffeeshopcentric-worldimage, just as some other guys did in a different way (whose names I forgot).

Anyway: Let’ start with that well-known Globalization-everywhere thesis: Just as people are travelling more, national and cultural borders erode, goods are shipped from any place to your house, so is a working place not a local place anymore. And it doesn’t need to be: communication is possible via phone, blackberry, skype, mail, (corporate-) wikis, video-conferences. Information isn’t even anymore local on your notebook’s harddrive: Data is stored and edited on servers around the world — cloud computing, driven by Google-Documents, for example.

Skimming several centuries: Agriculture, Industry, Service, and now the Information age. And information is not bound to any place, they are in, with and between people, not in shabby offices.

And now you have the decision to work where?

Yes, in a coffeeshop.

Coffeeshops are cosy, nicely decorated, and if not so, they draw at least interesting people. The TAZ-Café in Berlin with the proximity of the editorial office is a good example for that: Cool, self-considered-“somehow”-left-wing people are just sitting around. With or without notebook. People, definitely with notebook, are what you meet in St. Oberholz, also in Berlin (picture says everything). The most important thing is, that there is a current influx of people. And W-Lan.

Starbucks is out! It is extremely expensive. But they probably were the first with reliable W-Lan-connection, years ago. I think that Starbucks today draws rather established businessmen- and women. And tourists.

But working in a café is nothing new, although the hippy trendy terms “coffeeshop” and “freelancing” suggest so. Also, this is not a new phenomenon of the information age.

Philosopher Jürgen Habermas wrote in” The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere” that coffee-houses are a sign of a new openess, bringing forth enlightnment. This characterizes the 18th century — No W-LAN and Starbucks around, can you imagine that?

Around the same time (18th cent.) the Tatler-Magazine (still existing today in a modern form) even had categories such as White’s chocolate-house (for gallantry, pleasure, entertainment) and Will’s coffee-house (poetry). Of course, the 18th century allowed only elitist groups to be in the coffee-houses that often.

Coffehouses, not yet coffeeshops were basically places for an exchange of ideas. A social place, that constantly remind us of the world outside, and isn’t this important for a constant flow of ideas? On the other hand, you are observed and need to look at least a bit busy. Seeing and to be seen! I guess this was extremely important for intellectuals and writers: Influence — giving and taking — and self-positioning among elitist circles. Networking and Self-marketing, as we call it today.

Let’s jump to newer times: Harry Potter was written in The Elephant House I once visited in Edinburgh. As I remember from a JK Rowling documentation, she just flet from her massive problems at home. This is the escapist-notion of coffee-houses: fleeing from problems, being among coffee-drinking, chatting people with the illusion that live goes on in a coffee-drinking-way.

So, would we have great literature such as Harry Potter or older books, whithout Coffee-houses? Or the other way around, are there coffee-houses because of creatives like JK Rowling? The Blog asks, what was first, the person or the institution:

“I’m wondering how it actually happened that freelancing is now so closely associated with coffee shops? Was it coffee shops first and suddenly everyone thought, “Oh, brilliant… let me freelance, now that I can hang out at this coffee shop all day and night”. Or was it freelancers first until one morning over a cup of coffee some business school graduate thought “Oh, brilliant… all those freelancers want to hang out at a coffee shop all day and night”. Hen and egg thingy, I guess.”

My answer: If we translate freelancers with free-thinkers and coffeeshops with coffee-houses there is a clear answer: Free-thinking within the enlightnment period allowed for coffee-houses. People just wanted to have an exchange with other people and not to read alone in their bedroom. Thoughts kindle things, not reverse. Coffee-houses then promoted free-thinking further and further. A transformation of the public sphere, speaking in the terms of Habermas ,was taking place.

In the W-LAN-coffeeshop-era there is no barrier anymore to communicate worldwide. Interestingly people seem to feel isolated in their rooms, even though facebook, skype and twitter allow for a communication overdose. No, people still want to got to coffeehouses or special Webmeetings (I blogged about Webmonday Hannover or SocialBar for example.) Being physically at a communicative place and being simultaneously virtual around the world; this needs training, otherwise it is extremely exhausting, as I myself figured out when doing everything but fulfilling nothing.

“Wir nennen es Arbeit” (We are calling it work) describes how the digital Bohème challenges a new formulation of what work actually is. The French term “Bohème” also stresses the fact, that this “class” of people was and is still a minority that live excentrically and financially insecure.

Working with the absolute need of W-LAN in coffeeshops is just the consequence of the extremely flexible We-are-calling-it-work in connection with the instant possibility of real-life as well as virtual communication. This new Bohème also hopes to find new projects to work on and to connect worldwide. Or to rephrase an old slogan “Bohèmians unite!”

To come to a point: Freelancing and coffeshops with W-LAN are a great supplementation. Coffeeshops will search for the audience of the creative class, this is just a free-market mechanism. Otherwise competitors will attract the creative class.

Dear, there is no reason to think that freelancing will die without coffee-shops with W-LAN (As this WallStreetJournal story suggests). And yes, I think the consequences of a — however improbable — dying of coffeehouses with W-LAN would be extremely severe in a creative and cultural sense.

August 14, 2009 at 1:53 am 1 comment

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