The proliferation of coworking spaces in Vietnam’s transitional urban economy – moving towards adaptation or resistance?
Abstract: Situated in Vietnam’s transitional vacuum in its urban cores Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, this study is rooted in the aim to understand the emerging variants of coworking spaces currently proliferating across the country. This aim is realized by conducting a multiple case study and semi-structured interviews with nine founders, community managers and users of coworking spaces from heterogeneous backgrounds. Situated in interdisciplinary coworking research and place-based theory, the concepts Sense of Place (SOP) and Placelessness are operationalized to develop three hypotheses to explore the expected variants of coworking spaces. Analyzing the interviews through thematic analysis (TA) and assessing findings considering the hypotheses and earlier research, this study finds that coworking spaces as ‘places of urban resistance’, that allow to challenge and break free from cultural and work-related constraints, are niche occurrences. Most spaces are ‘places of business development’, serving workers’ needs to conduct work productively and to accommodate work challenges. Simultaneously, many spaces co-exist that do not live up to workers’ needs and are considered ‘inauthentic’ as they build on minimum services. According to the studied sample, the drivers responsible for the proliferation of identified coworking space variants feed back into real estate speculations, cultural preferences, economic dependencies and governmental agency.
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