Coworking, maps and learning

Throughout history, man has been interested in mapping everything that surrounds him, whether the lands are well known, recently discovered or imaginary. As a tool, maps have always been essential to help us locate ourselves in the world, but they also influence how we perceive it. For example, to represent earth, which is a geoid, cartographers use a projection system to move the geometry of a sphere to a two-dimensional plane. But, as well as representing the contours, surfaces and angles, they have to decide what other information is relevant and should appear on the map. In one way or another, this conditions the way that we perceive things and learn. 


And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!"
 

"Have you used it much?" I enquired.

"It has never been spread out, yet," said Mein Herr: "the farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight! So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.  (Lewis Carroll, Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893))

 

 

In a recent video posted on TED, John Green uses maps and the story of Agloe (New York) as a metaphor to illustrate his path to learning. When he comments that "what we map changes the life we lead", Greens is talking about "communities of learners" that share this curiosity and motivation for mapping the world. As a teenager, he found this type of community at Indian Spring school, a small boarding school, and now as an adult he still has the urge to immerse himself into learning via virtual communities, such as those found on YouTube, as they allow him to learn about subjects that interest him, no matter his age or location.

 

Now there's no need to answer the question "where to go?", but "where are you?" Because we could be in the library, the laboratory, even at school, reading books and examining world maps, bound to science sources through a virtual space; the feeling of being sat there may even predominate that of sitting in a chair at home. Will these channels be enough? Will they substitute a live presence of the master, the beloved incarnation of knowing?  (Michel Serres, Atlas)

 

The digital revolution that took place during the last quarter of the 20th century and the start of the 21st century dramatically increased our access to knowledge. As Serres's text states, it is even more important for us to create our own maps in the ocean of information that is the Internet. This helps us keep discovering and mapping "new worlds" rather than trying to understand the destination we are going towards. Virtual platforms such as Coursera or edX offer access to university courses and specialisms from all over the world, right from your armchair. You can find active "communities of learners" in these courses, as Green mentioned. 

 

Alexandria Library. Image Source: Wikipedia

 

This type of "communities of learners" can also be found in coworking spaces, which host specialist events for groups of professionals, like developers, web designers, graphic designers, bloggers, entrepreneurs, etc. Coworking spaces also tend to offer workshops on different subject matters too. What's more, knowledge is shared and collaborations are forged between members on a daily basis, meaning that coworking spaces really are potential learning hubs, where "communities of learners" can grow. 

In recent years, hybrid models have been evolving, which combine educational programmes with the coworking model. On one hand, they offer complete immersive and specialised programmes, sometimes creating partnerships with universities. On the other hand, they provide an ecosystem of companies within the community that offer graduates from those courses the opportunity to work. This model allows students to have a more hands-on approach to the subjects that they are learning. An example of such is the network of spaces, Galvanize, which has six campuses in the United States. 

 

 
Accelerators, another hybrid model where we see training, entrepreneurialism and coworking come together, are also found in coworking spaces. In this case, acceleration participants do not only receive mentoring, they are immersed in an environment where they are exposed to "collisions" with other professionals, which could help enrich their experience. They may also find that funding is more readily accessible once they finish the programme. This type of model is used in spaces such as Warner Yard, and acceleration programmes such as Alfacamp in Spain, which has taken place in three different coworking spaces to date.
 
The coworking model is sure to progress in coming years. Spaces and their communities are ecosystems that promote learning and collaboration. These "communities of learners" will keep growing as spaces do too and interactions multiply.
 

What do you think? Will coworking spaces play an important role in training future professionals? 

 
Main image source: Sylwia Bartyzel
 

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