Hello from Share Hub! On November 15th, we attended the 2nd seminar of the “Sharing economy, sharing stories” series held in the New Honghap Lounge in the Hongdae area. With the theme of “Space sharing,” this event was organized as part of the “Sharing economy, sharing stories” seminar series held every Tuesday from November 8th to December 13th for experts of sharing economy as well as any Seoul citizen.
CHOI, Si-jun, who runs “Social Factory,” a complex cultural space and shared space, led the day’s program.
Before going deeper into the concept and phenomenon of sharing economy, an idea that might be unfamiliar to the public, he started his talk by looking back on phenomena happening in our society and around the world recently. Thanks to the development of IT and as it becomes possible to work remotely at any time, we are now living in an environment where an individual can bring one’s laptop and work alone anywhere. In other words, you don’t necessarily need a particular space or equipment to work any more. But as time has passed, there are different needs emerging again, for space with an atmosphere more appropriate for work and for some expensive work equipment. As a result, people began to see other types of work spaces where individuals still do their work while they share work equipment or facilities such as meeting room, kitchen, copier, printer, etc. that would otherwise be too much to buy or maintain alone. This is the birth of co-working spaces.
Meanwhile, we have seen changes not only in work spaces but also in living spaces, especially in terms of our way of life. In the past extended families where three or more generations live together are norm. But after years of the decrease in the number of family members and the dominance of nuclear families, now we are seeing a steep increase in the number of one-person households. And as people have realized there were things that were too much for a one-person household, the idea of “shared house” started to get popular – a living space where a group of people live together and share high-cost furniture, space, or tools. Contrary to the traditional idea of space where you stay for 20 to 30 years, the new concept of co-working space and shared house puts emphasis on the value of space as a base “to experience a lifestyle.”
With these changes in the society and alternative solutions, a new and different type of companies started to enter the market, such as airbnb, wework, and woozoo. But such changes also mean that there were different types of problems such as tax issue and the issue that “super” owners who occupied opportunities in advance or had financial strength would monopolize profit in the end. It was not surprising to see the rise of the negative view that sharing economy was actually making the society regress.
Back to the topic of space sharing – the whole point of a shared space is not just sharing a space as a group and bringing down fixed costs, but the atmosphere of the local community the space belongs to and the specialized content only the particular space can provide. For example, “With Piano” a service for teaching piano to adults as a hobby, has expanded its scope to become a service offering practice rooms and shared spaces, as its users started to engage more closely with each other and develop a vibrant community through concerts, parties, and trips. This example shows that a space alone cannot make an impact; Rather, when space, culture and networking keep a balance with each other, they become major elements that enable a successful shared space. And as many SCNs scattered in the region got connected with each other, they started to generate new values to the community, creating an ecosystem in the neighborhood, and thereby infusing new life and energy into the community in a more advanced way.
However, since the positive change has led to the increase of floating population, which resulted in increased rents in the region overall. As a result, those who had raised the value of the community were forced to leave – a phenomenon called gentrification.
Following Choi’s lecture, participants were invited to ask questions and share their opinions on related topics: how space sharing should be in the future?; and through what should we do space sharing?; and how can we maintain shared spaces in a sustainable manner without generating problems such as super owners, capital disequilibrium, and gentrification.
Choi said that still outcomes of activities generated in co-working spaces, shared offices, shared houses, or any other types of shared spaces were mainly invisible and easily consumable content. He pointed out that although invisible content were important resources their status was weak yet in terms of diversity. Considering this, he expected there would be more active participation by “maker spaces” equipped with larger and more professional equipment that would help materialize and strengthen the values and activities generated in the shared spaces. In other words, in his model, activities happening in a shared space will lead to more active and productive activities rather than disappearing as one-off activities, and outcomes of the activities can bring more values and resources to all members equally.
Lastly, when he was asked how general citizens could participate in sharing, sharing economy and activities of shared spaces, he answered that anyone could start their own sharing economy project if he or she thought about where they would be able to share fixed costs among individuals and come up with an idea – like in the cases of shared items or spaces in co-working spaces and shared houses.
Hope this series on “space sharing” was a valuable opportunity for those of you who had not been familiar with the idea of space sharing to get interested in this issue. Also I think Choi’s suggestion about sharing fixed costs was useful to bring us a step closer to sharing economy.
Honghap Valley’s “Sharing economy, sharing stories” seminar series is held until December 17th and open to anyone. If you are interested, don’t hesitate to sign up and participate!