There seems to be a debate about who invented coworking office space, both the term and the working concept. Wikipedia credits Bernie De Koven with collaborative office space coworking movemenet in San Fransisco in 2005, while other sources credit him with inventing the term only in 1999. Meanwhile, a self-published article detailing the history of coworking space benefits credits the San Fransisco based writer, Brad Neuberg, with developing the process in 2005.
It's hard to decipher the difference between the concepts put forth by Brad Neuberg and Bernie De Koven, and it's interesting that both men live and work in San Fransisco and seem to have developed—independently— very similar concepts with the same name. In Wikipedia, it states that De Koven started the coworking movement in 2005, "with the idea to combine the independence of freelancing with the structure and community of an office space." In an article on the website www.codingparadise.com, Neuberg states that he came up with the concept of coworking after wanting to combine "the freedom and independence of working for myself along with the structure and community of working with others." Neuberg states in the article that he "decided to create a new kind of space to support the community and structure that (he) hungered for and give it a new name: coworking." Very similar concepts, so what's the debate?
In Neuberg's article, he states that he and De Koven had a telephone conversation after Neuberg discovered De Koven's website, www.coworking.com. The article seems to say that Neuberg was unaware that De Koven first used the term in 1999. Also, according to Neuberg, De Koven had no knowledge of the "collaborative spaces" that he, Neuberg, was involved in. Apparently, De Koven had started the Coworking Institute, which "looked like it was trying to increase awareness of collaborative work techniques and technologies," but did not have actual work spaces in place. Could these two people have independently coined the same term and very similar concept?
Neuberg asserts in his article that De Koven is "unconnected with the rise of the coworking space movement." Perhaps the operative word here is "space." With the opening of the supposed first coworking space, the "San Fransisco Coworking Space at Spiral Muse," Neuberg seems to have the edge in having developed the first actual SPACE for coworking. De Koven, to his credit, seems to have focused on the CONCEPT of coworking community, and the technologies involved, and to have codified the term by forming an institute devoted to its development.
It seems that the debate about coworking is really a story about both sides of the same coin. But maybe it's a story about the collective unconscious at work: where two people independently conceive of the same concept, manifest it differently, and give it the same name. Or maybe it's a story about how naming something formally and giving it credence on the internet assures where the credit will go. Perhaps it's ALL these stories, and in any case, both people should be praised for bringing us this wonderful new evolution in creative coworking, collaborative work space.
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