The changing role of coffee shops

laptops in a cafe

There have been a few stories in the news recently observing the fact that coffee shops seem to be providing another function in the life of the modern worker.

When coffee shops were first introduced to England, they were dubbed ‘penny universities’ and it seems that there is still a link between mental activity and the atmosphere of a coffee shop in modern times too.

Have you noticed that there are laptops aplenty in many of the decent coffee shops?

It has been observed by many that the ambiance in a coffee shops is more conducive to some than working in libraries.

As mentioned in the Toronto Star recently, some argue that the quietness of a library, the traditional home for the public to think in peace, is actually off-putting, as it accentuates the other noises (the chewing, coughing, typing etc).

By contrast, the general quiet background noise in a coffee shop seems more helpful.

A study has been carried out in the University of Illinois, to try and work out whether or not coffee shops are indeed a creative environment.

This study suggests that those who work with moderate background noise (by which they mean about 70 decibels), have a higher likelihood of thinking in a creative way.

Why should moderate noise levels make any difference to creativity?

Apparently, the reason is that this amount of noise distracts you.

People begin to think in a different way, perhaps in an abstract way.

And as they do so, their focus becomes broader.

There are various success stories of those who have been creative in this sort of environment.

Famously, JK Rowling penned the early Harry Potter books in a Scottish café.

Bob Dylan is rumoured to have written Blowin’ in the Wind at the Fat Black Pussycat in the Big Apple and Graham Green was often seen at Café Richmond in Buenos Aires.

Photo: Jo Guldi

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