Situational Domestication and the Origin of the Cafe Worker Species
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionSociology. 2018, 52 (2), 351-366. 10.1177/0038038516674663
Given the pervasiveness of free Wi-Fi zones in cafes, use of laptops, tablets and smart phones supports the transformation of cafes from social spaces to work spaces for many customers. In this article we analyse, on the basis of an ethnographic study of individuals’ laptop work in urban cafes in Norway and the UK, (1) what it is about cafes that makes people visit them for working purposes, and (2) how individual laptop work changes the social life of such venues. By linking our analysis to theories of communal processes and the domestication of technologies, we put forward the concept of ‘situational domestication’, encompassing the aspects of socially embedded individual working. Consequently, the close study of how cafe spaces are being used for work offers insights into how progressively technologised work and work habits influence not only work itself, but also public space at a broader level.