Posted in practice on February 11, 2016 5:20 pm EST

How Proficient is Your AEC Firm at Human Networking?

A look at the effect that multidirectional data connections have on people--and how we ultimately accomplish the work of connecting with one another.


 

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TAGS: business, collaboration, design, digital age, networking, sustainability,

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By Christian Doering

Networking is a mash up of the image of a net’s multidirectional connections and the concept of work, utility, and getting things done. The networks we use most often involve data, people or combinations of both. Multidirectional data connections have proven themselves to be very useful, and they’re becoming more powerful all the time.

… be generous: belonging to a network has intrinsic value even if that network doesn’t get you a job, or a promotion, or even a free lunch. So share information, share credit where credit is due, share in the pleasure of human contact.

In 1969 the original Arpanet network connected four computers: one each in California’s Stanford, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, Utah. Today, we access “The Cloud” from millions of locations. At my home office in a remote area of northern California, for instance, the Wi-Fi Local Area Network links to the Internet’s Wide Area Network via satellite. Engineers have widened the bandwidth so much that it’s now almost good enough, on a clear day, to stream HD video. I can virtually visit Small’s, a jazz club in Greenwich Village, N.Y., on the other side of the continent and three time zones away from my home online to enjoy live performances of cutting edge jazz from New York’s finest players whenever I want. The two webcams that alternate on this feed have better sightlines than any physical seat in the club. Since there aren’t very many of those seats to begin with, why does Small’s provide the main benefit of occupying one of them for free on the Internet?

Like Small’s, I can, for pennies a day, put up a website that connects me to a potential audience of millions: at least 10 times the population of San Francisco, the nearest major city, which is a three-hour drive on a good day. An Internet page of mine might be seen by 100 times the number of people who attend an Audio Engineering Society (AES) show. So why would I bother to drive all the way to Frisco when AES drops in to Moscone Center?

The answers to both of these questions have to do with two criteria for evaluating any communications medium. One is reach: how far does your network extend, how many nodes does it have? The other is intensity or involvement: how much attention are those nodes paying? How often are you getting the kind of responses you want?

Social Media in’s & out’s

Social media is supposed to use data networking to increase the reach of our human networks. That’s a good thing: if no one else had a phone, yours would be worthless. But since everyone has one (more than one, actually—according to Swedish manufacturer Ericson, the total number of mobile subscriptions is now greater than Earth’s population) yours is worth a lot more. The same is true of tablets, laptops and even those clunky desktops: connectivity, reach, is a major component of any individual device’s value.

The social media equivalent of reach is the number of “friends” (Facebook) “followers” (Twitter) or “connections” (LinkedIn). Real people sometimes compete to rack up the numbers. I do the opposite, but despite my best efforts, I have quite a few “friends” whom I’ve never met face to face. We may have lots of mutual friends. Whether they “friended” me or the reverse, I assume it was because we saw each other’s posts and found them interesting, sometimes worthy of being shared. Maybe this is a meme that could or should go viral, so let me do my infinitesimal part.

No one’s ever met a corporation, but they apparently dream day and night of going viral, and they want exponentially more “friends” than I have. Celebrities, who are themselves hybrids—there’s an actual person and a brand image that looks and acts very much like that person, at least some of the time—are likely to pursue the elusive impact of the viral post, and find it easy to acquire thousands of “friends.”

Numbers do add value—for a device. But for any kind of person, whether legal fiction, idealized concept or imperfect reality, intensity and involvement are more important. Do you read everything that your Facebook friends post? Do you respond to everything you read? Does your response consist of something more than clicking the Like button? Intense involvement drives a post to go viral by leaping across thousands or even millions of interlocking small circles.  continued >>

 

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