We used to go to the kind of space where we could sample, think about, consume and purchase media. That space might have been a bookstore, a record store, a library, a news stand, the video rental store or the public library.
But as our media has gone digital, physical browsing spaces have been disappearing. Video rentals are a thing of the past. Bookstores and record stores are declining rapidly. News stands shrink as magazines fail. Libraries are under financial pressure and have cut back hours.
And yet that urge to discuss, review and connect persists; what shall replace the space to do that in?
As goes the record store, so goes the office
There is another trend that may relate to this: the disaggregation of the office. With more people working from home, or working for themselves, there is a need for a place to plug in and drink an uplifting beverage. The sight of people tapping at their laptop, sucking on the wifi, while sipping at a latte is a familiar one.
Coffee shops have dabbled in media, and media stores have dabbled in coffee. Perhaps there could be a new kind of space that encourages and combines these activities and more. Larger than a simple coffee shop, with different pods for different activities: games, music, video, books, working, meeting and beverages.
Maybe it’s like a mall, after all
True, having a space large enough for so many uses would require more overhead than a single business would want to cover. So let’s say that there are lots of businesses, smallish ones, that are embedded in the space. The digital ones might be consumed through screens; there might be clever algorithms based on aggregate user preferences derived from the libraries in visitors’ devices. Come on in and meet with fellow fans, learn new stuff from other people in a comfortable digitally enhanced environment, with the beverage or snack of your choice.
There might be small/local food and drinks kiosks. Immersive game playing rooms. Business meeting rooms. Quiet reading rooms. Quiet working rooms. Assemblies of crafts people, or game rooms. Small businesses might come and go on an hourly basis. Make an appointment and set up your storefront, or showroom or flash gallery. And then take it down.
To me this sounds like a mall, or it might be retrofitted to a declining mall. It sounds flexible and fun. Someplace you can go for an hour or two, sample some music, sit in on a flash book club, play a video game, purchase something, make a call, get a little work done. It’s a fluid community enabled by the technologies that are working against community.
It might even be profitable.