Vantage Point: October

Oct. 14, 2013, by Eleanor Ford


Vantage Point is a place for us, as the Point People, to comment on trends that we have seen, as we go about our Point People lives. It is most likely because I am just re-entering the world of work after maternity leave that the trend that I am particularly interested in the invisible work. That stuff that goes unnoticed, but without which, quite frankly, the world stops spinning.

Talking about the invisible takes me onto networks, which I also think a lot about. Maybe its because I have a deep desire to see the world more connected. Maybe its because I hate wasted potential. Maybe because I am surprised, as social beings, how little we reach out to those who are around us. Or really look at them, to see what we might do together. What that joining up of potential might bring. It surprises me how quickly people are labelled with just one 'instant use', or singular interest, without seeing the palette of options and possibilities which stem from them, their uniqueness and the richness of their lives.  Networks at their best offer all that and more.. and their real magic is in the fact that we have no idea what those future possibilities are.

I think it is these values of possibility, lack of judgement, openness, and ultimate 'magic' which unites the Point People. Certainly there is too much variance in subject knowledge, contacts, qualifications, interest, to unite us in anything more substantive, as is clear here.

However, on reflecting on networks, I am also interested in why it is that so often networks don't work. Just look around us at network attempts and you see another group of people that dissipates. Another flashy online platform that remains unused. Another evening that is mired with a flood of cancellations. In recent conversation with two close, highly networked and highly motivated friends, we were reflecting on why a recent network attempt hadn't really worked - it hadn't exactly failed, but it hadn't ignited the various people involved in the ways that we had hoped when we first imagined the possibility. To us it seemed obvious. Simple. Exciting. But still it was good, but a bit, erm, flat.

What struck us when we had the conversation, was an image of the sea, with its ceaseless movements and tides. That rising and falling in sea level that seems so charged and so powerful - yet which is only possible due to the invisible and undeniable power of the gravitational attraction of the moon and the sun. For me networks are similar. It seems that the movement and activity is independent, natural, that it stems from itself. But it is not that. Instead, it is directly powered and motivated by the force of something slightly separated from itself, slightly at a distance, yet uniquely tied to and interested in the activity it inspires. There is always some person, or some purpose, which is silently powering the activity. Making it possible. There is always something of gravity.

Indeed, every network has it's own gravitational force. But what interests me is how implicit, hidden, invisible that very often is. Good networks seem effortless. And, like the homemaker, it's work is only really noticed when it is absent, when something stops, is missing, forgotten or lost.

And, as well as recognising that is the axis on which networks sit, it also leads us to thank those that do it. Those people that silently, efficiently, naturally power the networks that work.

Image: Immaterials light painting wifi by Timo Arnall