“Being Spaces” in Bangkok

February 19, 2007 at 12:50 pm 8 comments

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Ju writes (MindShare, Regional) writes:

Anyone monitoring consumer lifestyle trends couldn’t have missed out the concept of “Being Spaces“, put forth by trendwatching.com, described as: “commercial living-room-like settings, where catering and entertainment aren’t just the main attraction, but are there to facilitate small office/living room activities like watching a movie, reading a book, meeting friends and colleagues, or doing your admin.

Starbucks is a great example on a global scale, while many companies in Japan, China and South-Korea offer deluxe gaming and manga-reading facilities, as well as semi-private DVD booths.

BEING SPACES charge us for eating, drinking, playing, listening, surfing, working, or meeting, just as we would at home or in the office, while successfully reintegrating us into city life.”

The trend is rapidly catching on among the young and urban in Bangkok, unsuprisingly, considering these factors: a) the need to avoid the notoriously congested traffic and jam-packed public transportation by remaining in one spot for as long as possible, b) the desire for new, private experiences that set them slightly apart from the masses yet keep them wired to trendy offerings in an urban setting, and most importantly, c) the emphasis on design and beauty that came together with the explosion of the indie scene in 2005, unique among Bangkok youth. The buzz word “dek naew“, a term coined by the local media used to describe the young followers of the indie arts and culture who “wouldn’t be caught dead in Louis Vuitton or Gucci”. Two years later, the ‘dek naew’ rage has quietened, but the concept of counter-culture and the backlash against mainstream culture has already become deeply rooted in the mindsets of the creatively hip and trendy, paving the way for the birth of informal social networking activities like Pecha Kucha nights.

Leading the “BEING SPACES’ trend in Bangkok, local cable, internet, and mobile conglomerate True already has 4 such ‘lifestyle shops’, offering services that range from DVD-watching spaces to wireless iPod stations to live music sessions by indie artists. The services offered vary appropriately, according to the location and the group it caters to. My guess is it’s the chilled-out hippies and tourists in Kao Sarn, the designer-artists-creatives group in Thong Lo, the wired and flashy upscale at Siam Paragon, and the young, trendy teens at Siam Square.

Apart from established spots like The Style by Toyota, Thailand Creative and Design Center (TCDC), House Cinema, Playground, and the new Central World Plaza which brands itself as ‘the largest lifestyle shopping complex’, the most recent addition to this scene is The Third Place, which positions itself as a place to live, work, and play, with a club where members pay a fee to hang out in an informal work space complete with all the office facilities (fax, printer, scanner, photocopier), conference rooms, board games and even a garden terrace. You can check out the ambience in the video below:

Another signal alerting the re-arranging of social network structures in Asia, as people seek out open platforms to socialize both on and offline.

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Entry filed under: media general, outdoor, retail, social media, thailand, trends.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Charles Frith  |  February 19, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    I’m always wary of the word ‘trend’ in Thailand painting an unrepresentative picture. You’ve correctly pointed out that it’s a Bangkok observation, as it’s unlikely to spread out to the provinces; can you imagine Buri Ram or Phitsanulok having ‘being spaces’? No, I don’t think so too.

    But let’s be frank. It’s somewhere around 10 places max in a metropolis of over 10 million, and some must surely be vanity projects for the Bangkok elite to invite their friends round before nipping over to the Emporium (only the nouveau riche shop at Paragon). There’s no doubt at all that the Thais have got brilliant style for these sorts of projects but c’mon, this isn’t a trend in Thailand. It’s a spike, a fad if you will, the sort of activity being described here has being going on at a much more modest way in Asia for years now.. Most of the population grows rice and they don’t need a name to describe hanging out in an Internet cafe while the traffic subsides do they?

    Let’s not elevate the language to Suvarnabhumi when it’s Don Muang we’re talking about?

    Thai Internet Cafe

    Reply
  • 2. Ju  |  February 20, 2007 at 3:38 am

    You’re right, Charles. This trend that I’m referring to applies only among the 18-30 something year-old, urban, more or less globally connected Thais. It definitely does not apply to the mass Thai population. In fact, when crafting marketing campaigns, these two groups – the sophisticated urbanites (sometimes referred to as the ‘opinion leaders’ in a society) and the mass mainstream – should almost be considered as living in separate worlds and thus marketed to in completely different ways. Thanks for pointing that out.
    I still wouldn’t consider it a fad however. This is consistent to a bigger global lifestyle pattern where this particular youth group seeks to combine work and enjoyment, and looks for ways to exchange ideas and do business in less formal settings.

    Reply
  • 3. Charles Frith  |  February 20, 2007 at 5:43 am

    Hi Ju,

    It’s the middle classes that shape society most strongly and this is practically a central Buddhist tenet if you think about it. My point is that I don’t see what I call opinion forming taking place in the lifestyle areas you talk about except for perhaps luxury brand spotting. This is of course a valid segment of the opinion forming society but not necessarily as large or influential as you may like to think.. It might help to take a look at the definition of opinion leadership in Wikipedia and it’s reference to a theory of two step flow of communication propounded by Lazarsfeld and Katz.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_leader

    This is my point; the elite classes are so far removed from what I call the reality classes that they fail to recognise that the mobile and connected opinion forming classes were long ago at the vanguard of social networking ideals. I know this from having sent a hundred emails from a hundred different lousy Internet cafes around the country AS WELL as Wi Fi roaming in the nation’s elite spots. I don’t think there is much trickle down opinion forming for which Prada dress is most hip – the numbers are limited. I do think there is more trickle down influence from something like street protest. Trickle up is rarely seen with the ennui or disdain that the haves, have for the have nots.

    If you look at the demographic between agrarian economic reliance and metropolitan elite there is a powerful and vocal group of opinion formers using qq, camfrog, IM, SMS, mobile phone and indeed just talking to each other, in much more modest environments such as the internet shop I linked to on flickr or at home..

    It’s these people who formed the backbone of the Sondhi campaign to bring Taksin to heel. These are what I call opinion formers not the Gucci set, My assertion is that their influence is more crucial to Thai culture than the creme de la creme who can pop over to a ‘being space’ in a parental purchased Benz and surf it with the digital cognoscenti on a parental allowance?

    Of course I’m having a dig at the rich, that’s why I deconstructed the video clip. In my opinion they deserve it but they don’t deserve the title of opinion formers, unless it’s Western luxury goods (not including Jimmy Choo from Malaysia) that is the real opinion of Thailand…. or is it ideology, education, sufficiency economics and health policy that matters more than the latest must have accessory or lifestyle badge?

    Reply
  • 4. tdadigital  |  February 21, 2007 at 6:43 am

    I have resided here in Thailand for the past 16 years with the last 12 being here in Chiang Mai. Maybe some of my feelings are changing because I’m getting older, more conservative and a bit more vocal, but hunger for the days (just a few years ago) when a group of my friends would sit at our favorite restaurant and be happy when someone brought up the subject of seeing a new foreign face in town, talked with them and informed us that he felt “He would stay!”.

    Now, when I sit at the same restaurant, with a much smaller group of friends, the opposite is true. We are happy and surprised when we learn of one of us seeing one of the old former ‘Cowboys” and he’s back in town visiting. What’s the difference? Well we all are in agreement that Chiang Mai has changed so fast that many of us old boys preferred the way it was, sleepy and laid-back.

    We agree that progress for all is good, but progress should aid society, and not change the residents of this good city of Chiang Mai into bad virtuals of the countries we left.

    I taught part time at CMU for a number of years and gave it up in frustration over the changing attitudes of the students. Overnight, my students changed from respectful young men and ladies to Yuppies, with an attitude.

    Reply
  • 5. Charles Frith  |  February 21, 2007 at 8:54 am

    Aaah. Well I for one would like to see nothing but anarchy in the classroom. It’s no secret that the IQ level in Thailand is below average.

    http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/07/19/headlines/headlines_30009114.php

    While this is not the only metric for intelligence, it’s fair to say that generations of sub standard teaching, relying upon a socially enforced monologue that leverages the pernicious ‘gren jai’ (No. 1 evil in Thailand) is responsible for an unquestioning and disenchanted student population. It’s opening up dialogue that improves intelligence. That’s why I’m wading into every well written Thai Blog I can such as this.

    Actually if there is one part of Thai society that gives me genuine hope for the future, it’s the kids. They are less bigoted, open to new ideas, don’t have antiquated ideas about black skin meaning a lower social caste. They are positive about internationalism and nationalism at the same time (no easy trick if you look at old ginger ways) and are generally more refreshing than the generation that has been polluted by a Westward wash of pointless consumerism. Care for a big Gulp at 7?

    CMU is one of the better institutions but really it’s only a handful of University’s that really qualify to teach degree courses. The vast majority of Thai Universities pump out graduates armed with little more than a piece of paper and a delusional belief they have a degree. Not that the U.S is any better with foreign student schemes. I’ve interviewed Thai Masters graduates from San Francisco who couldn’t solve a problem creatively even if the answer was on the Internet.

    The really great shame of Thailand is how the elite classes suppress the talents of all others. I’ve met disenfranchised women who could easily manage advertising accounts up to group director level and who speak better English better than some Agency CEO’s but the system of placing people based on who you know and not what you know wins out in the end and like the Thai parliament keeps the ‘riff raff’ out by insisting on a degree before entering the world of commerce.. Well look at Thaksin and his Masters Degree in Criminology. Then look at the assets concealment, then the billions he spirited out of the country. Then look at what he studied again. Ironic isn’t it. John Major never even went to University.

    Agreed that Thailand is losing it’s more charming qualities but everything changes and Buddhism teaches us that lesson very well. What however does need urgent change is the laissez faire attitude towards the wealth gap and the elites. How can you change a society which thinks a Benz/BMW/Ostentatious displays of wealth means you did good in your last life? I always thought it was this life that Buddha did his best to provide counsel on!

    Any thoughts readers?

    Reply
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