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Is coliving defined by the space or by the action of living together?

By Gui Perdrix (@guiperdrix)

· News

Here is my question for today:

Would it make sense to differentiate between coliving as a verb and coliving as a noun?

The idea originated in a discussion with the Cutwork team on what coliving means. In this chat, we were facing the question of whether coliving should be defined by the space, or by the use of it.

The Example of Short Retreats

Let’s take the example of very short retreats or gatherings:

If you go on a 4-day retreat, in which 10 people take a big villa, rent it out and host a few workshops, I would not define the space as a “coliving space” because it does not allow residents to choose that option of living for a longer period of time (see my definition) and hence doesn’t offer coliving to become part of a freely chosen long-term way of living.

Yet, while the space might not have been created for the purpose of coliving, those 10 people practice the act of coliving - meaning living together while sharing a roof, amenities, time, and resources.

Hence, it might be worth discussing whether “coliving” is defined by the space, or by the collective action of living together.

Coliving as a Verb

In order to remain inclusive, let’s define coliving as a verb foremost and purely. If coliving is the verb, we can have several definitions - depending on whether we chose the fundamental one, or whether we opt for coliving as a lifestyle:

Coliving (verb)

  1. [action] The act of three or more unrelated biological people living under one roof

  2. [lifestyle] A freely chosen primary residency form of living that encompasses three of more biologically unrelated people sharing a roof and basic amenities

Applying those definitions to a noun, then a coliving space is the transformation of these values into a new form of living.

Coliving Space (noun)

  1. [space] A residential building purposed to enable coliving

This leaves room for many forms of coliving yet narrows down what a coliving space can be referred to as.

In this case, a retreat center (noun) would not be labeled as a “coliving space”, because its purpose is not to enable communal living as a lifestyle option (rather, it is to host transformational short-term experiences). At the same time, people would still “colive” (verb) during their stay at the retreat center.

In the case of hostels, the same would apply: hostels would remain hostels (noun), but technically speaking, people practice a form of coliving (verb).

Comparing this with Coworking

I believe the same differentiation applies to coworking. Imagine I invite 5 friends into my bedroom, put my sister’s table in there and we all work together, then we technically speaking cowork from my room.

Is my room a coworking space though? No, because it’s not its main purpose.

Coworking (verb)

  1. [Action] The act of two or more independent businesses or freelancers working in the same space

Coworking Space (noun)

  1. [Space] A commercial building purposed to enable coworking

In this case, coworking can be done anywhere, but a coworking space is a dedicated space to this activity.

As another example, the San Francisco startup Cobo allows remote workers to rent out kitchens and living rooms from individuals to use for coworking purposes. Yet those are not coworking spaces per se - they just are temporarily used for coworking purposes and remain to be living rooms.

What about temporary coliving spaces?

That’s the tricky part. In the past, I hosted myself coliving experiences in several cities (Barcelona, Tulum, Bali) that each lasted 3 months at a time.

The idea was to enable colivers to travel in quarterly intervals around the world and continue the coliving practice, just in different locations.

In this case, was the space a coliving space? On one side, I ensured the possibility for people to continue living with us, upon condition that they travel to the next destination. On the other side, there was no possibility for people to stay for longer than 3 months, and if you arrived at the space a few weeks before moving to the next one, your stay was rather short.

Were we a coliving company that didn’t offer a coliving space? Or should we rather create an additional term such as “temporary coliving space”?

Coliving Space (noun): A residential building purposed to enable coliving as a lifestyle

Temporary Coliving Space (noun): A building repurposed to enable short-term coliving

Jacob Jay mentioned for those cases a differentiation between different types of coliving activities. In his perspective, we could call spaces upon different terms:

Coliving home — a regular shared house/apartment

Coliving residence — at scale (there’s probably a better word)

Coliving camp — ephemeral space (intention is there)

Coliving hub — workspace is the common purpose

Whatever we use, there can be different types of nouns for the verb “coliving”, and those will be defined by the community.

What do you think?

These are the thoughts of the day. To conclude, here are the main points:

  1. Coliving (as a verb) can take many different forms

  2. A coliving space has the major intent to serve coliving

  3. Coliving doesn’t have to be done in a coliving space

  4. We therefore should come up with different nouns for the coliving formats

What do you think? 👇Time to discuss!

Final Note: while I believe that terminology is important, I am not claiming to be “right” or to impose coliving to a certain definition. Yet I believe that by bringing up argumentation and constructive criticism, we will be able to collectively define what the term means.

PS: Thank you Jacob Jay, Bryce Willem and the Cutwork team for stimulating discussions!

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