April 20, 2017

Have Latte, Will Talk in the "Third Place".


In 1989, Ray Oldenburg coined the phrase “third place” in his book The Great Good Place.  The “third place” was the importance of “cafés (not to mention pubs, piazzas, beer gardens and teahouses) as gathering places essential to our individual mental health and that of society as a whole.”

How many times have you gone into a coffee shop only to find every available table taken by a human hunched over a laptop, often with a set of headphones plugged in? The BBC News reports on a new trend-a cafe where “ people stand and chat, sipping wine and beer while children sit and play board games. The café, called Kibbitznest, is a wi-fi-free zone. It’s the latest in a string of cafés shunning internet usage in an effort to encourage face-to-face conversation.”  In a society where the average person spends ten hours with media a day according to a  2016 Nielsen report,  a  “third place” is urgently needed. “Cafés like Kibbitznest harken back to the original purpose of coffee shops — to act as places for lively debate and intellectual discussion and, above all else, social interaction. Cafés were initially a “third place” after home and work, where people could talk and spend time with friends.”
In one American coffee shop, getting rid of wifi and banning laptops increased sales by 20 per cent. Hiring baristas that were conversationalists, lowering counter heights, and taking off food label information encouraged customers to ask questions. These cafes are spirited places for public debate and conversation-perhaps proving that everything old can indeed be new again.

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  1. You can’t force people to be social. Perhaps we are more social online than we can tolerate and places where we can be anonymous and enjoy solitude, while being in an environment active with merely the presence of people provides necessary comforting and nurturing respite.

    1. Not force… encourage. I boycott any place that has TVs. If most people are hunkered over their laptops it’s not a place I go. I like the idea of cafes/restaurants and bars without wifi.
      Long shared tables and bars are also great. I doesn’t force you to talk to your neighbours but the odds are higher than on separate tables. We don’t have enough places where standing is encouraged which also is more social. Part of that is ingrained through archaic liquor laws.
      People complain about being lonely in this city. Through our laws, culture and actions we’re not very social.

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