Parking at Free Wi-Fi Spots : Coffeehouses in a Networked Communication Environment

It is not just about coffee, it is more about the space, and in particular, about the “free” and “open” public/private space. The importance of coffeehouses as social spaces has been well documented in studies across multiple disciplines. Jurgen Habermas (1962) talked about the existence of coffeehouses as one of the crucial spaces for rational deliberation, a privately owned but at the same time a space open to the public, a precondition to the modern public sphere. Ray Oldenburg (1989) categorized coffee-shops as “third spaces” different from home and work, places that host the ordinary, voluntary and informal gatherings of city dwellers. Today, with the emergence of a communication networked environment, coffeehouses continue to embrace their ambiguous spatial nature providing a private space open to the public for gathering. They offer access to not only coffee, chairs, tables, and print media, but also to the Internet. Furthermore, most of them offer also space for parking bikes and cars. Looking at the image above (and the announcement of PARKING above FREE Wi-Fi), I wonder if they are also offering space for parking computers.

Can we apply the concept of parking to the action of connecting our laptops to the free WI-FI signal? Or even more, to the action of plugging computers to outlets inside a coffee-shop? Maybe we are, however, our parking is also paradoxical. Although we are just hanging out inside the coffeehouse, we might be also visiting online sites, chatting, or skyping with other people connected to the network. We park but we navigate at the same time.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *