The WERF5 community as a Third (or fourth) place

The third place is the social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home (“first place”) and the workplace (“second place”). Examples of third places would be environments such as cafes, clubs, public libraries, or parks. In his influential book The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg (1989, 1991) argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place. According to Oldenburg there’s nothing better than meeting face to face and a physical place is essential to facilitate these meetings.

what do third places do?

They unify the neighbourhood . People meet each other in a low-demanding setting. It’s fun to be there.
It’s a place to make new friends and enhance existing friendships – research shows that the more friends you have the longer you live and more successful you are
It gets you away from the roles you play at work or at home. You can be yourself there.
It functions as an intellectual forum. Discussions about philosophy, science and politics often take place there.
– It’s a place for collaboration. Together you’re more powerful in achieving a common goal.
It’s a port of entry – new people can meet new people here. As an expat/ digital nomad it can be hard to meet people in a new city. But for locals it can be hard too once you’re older.
It generates social capital: if people get to know and trust each other the better the area will do economically.
It creates mutual aid societies. The mix of occupations and educational levels makes that you accumulate extra abilities.
It’s not a closed circle. Diversity and new people are welcomed. People come here to meet others and be inspired by people who are different from themselves.

The eight characteristics of a third place

Neutral ground:

Occupants of third places have little to no obligation to be there. People are free to come and go as they please.

A leveling place:

Third places put no importance on an individual’s status in a society. Someone’s economic or social status do not matter in a third place, allowing for a sense of commonality among its occupants. There are no prerequisites or requirements that would prevent acceptance or participation in the third place.

Conversation is main activity: 

Playful and happy conversation is the main focus of activity in third places, although it is not required to be the only activity. The tone of conversation is usually light hearted and humorous; wit and good natured playfulness are highly valued.

Accessibility and accommodation: 

Third places must be open and readily accessible to those who occupy them. They must also be accommodating, meaning they provide the wants of their inhabitants, and all occupants feel their needs have been fulfilled.

The regulars: 

Third places harbor a number of regulars that help give the space its tone, and help set the mood and characteristics of the area. Regulars to third places also attract newcomers, and are there to help someone new to the space feel welcome and accommodated.

A low profile: 

Third places are characteristically wholesome. The inside of a third place is without extravagance or grandiosity, and has a homely feel. Third places are never snobby or pretentious, and are accepting of all types of individuals, from several different walks of life.

The mood is playful: 

The tone of conversation in third places are never marked with tension or hostility. Instead, they have a playful nature, where witty conversation and frivolous banter are not only common, but highly valued.

A home away from home: 

Occupants of third places will often have the same feelings of warmth, possession, and belonging as they would in their own homes. They feel a piece of themselves is rooted in the space, and gain spiritual regeneration by spending time there.

So is WERF5 a third place?

We certainly tick a lot of the boxes. And we strive to do more! But It’s a bit complicated considering that for freelancers the borders between the first, second and third space are not that clear. We work at home and we transform our workplace into a playground after work and sometimes people actually take a nap or sleep over if they “pulled an all nighter”. Ray Oldenburg didn’t consider the emergence of the freelancers / digital nomads and the new need for a place to meet our friends AND work at the same time. Morisson (2018) argues that places in the knowledge economy are evolving. He argues the existence of a Fourth Place. New social environments in the knowledge city can combine elements of the first and second place (coliving); of the second and third place (coworking); and of the first and third place (comingling).

So actually we seem to be a Fourth place, but whatever we are, we’re happy in it and would never go back to an “office job” or working primarily from home. WERF5 is our ever evolving and expanding community.

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