Why am I here, not there, for a bit

Submitted by Pat Keenan on Wed, 09/03/2008 - 11:34.

I decided to go to Vancouver. Since I knew I would not be able to part from work, due to both external and internal pressures, I decided on a workation. How long this goes on depends on how well it works out. I'll try to explain the potential benefit of nomadic work.

This is cross-posted from prototype

Working from a new place

Some people find meaning in religion, others in children, I tend to find meaning in meeting people. I find it so wonderful to, even for just a couple hours, talk to a new person and see how similar our concerns and passions are. I feel in this instance that I am not so alone, possibly not so much myself either. Better than just meeting is working. Working with new people is probably the most meaningful thing I could do. To build a working relationship and have a tangible outcome is a thrill. Working cuts small talk to the cracks of conversation and focuses my mind, and other people on a shared concern or task.
In my mind, this type of working with new people will be required in future if we are truly to have a connected society. Its foreseeable that the collective church building initiatives of the past will become collective meaning building initiatives. We will need each other, importantly diverse others, to understand complex problems. If I can make headway with this working in new places with new people, it might help us all.

In the past decade we've seen the power of decentralization to build knowledge; the internet. In the past century we've seen its power to build wealth; markets. In the next decade we'll see decentralization affect our very relationships with work. When we decentralize, we open up work. We allow autonomous groups of people to determine their focus, and they create what we couldn't imagine. Decentralized work allows for more people to work on the same project. It also allows for shared ownership, longevity of development, and continued improvement. Though we might have a decentralized attitude to work we do in close proximity to others, we are still able to fall into relying on space to organize our work. Space is a wonderful medium for performing work, but the place of organization should be available to all. Once this work infrastructure is available there is no limit to the amount of workers there can be. In a setting where shared space is not available physically, people are forced to create alternative widely accessible methods of organization.

Working from a new place

In addition to gaining insight into work, a new place is novel. It allows for a refreshing change of perspective. Without new perspectives we'd be forced to look at life in one way, reliving the same day via routine. This place of work needs to be new in order to bring that new perspective. This helps very much when in a discipline such as design; perspective changes everything, everything has a perspective. When designing experiences, one must place a high value on such experiences. To understand the new, is to understand a valuable experience. A situation, or process which has allowed a new perspective.

Novelty is necessary, but innovation is the intention. These new places wear off. As humans we have a remarkable ability to adapt, both to horrid conditions and to wonderful blessings. After adaptation if we are left with nothing but nostalgia, then the experience was in vain. Valuable experiences leave us with inspiration, and ultimately innovation. We are able to take that which we experienced, twist it, and reapply the perspective. Inspiration can come from anywhere, but in my experience, it comes from the new ones. Even when working, we constantly invent new methods to tackle new problems. Just this new way of approaching a problem can present a plethora of approaches. These methods are simply experiences we design for our minds with an intended outcome; an idea.

Finally, the new encourages sharing. I'm moving to a place in Vancouver which is furnished. This means I don't own the furnishings, and I don't need to. Much like zipcar, I only use what I need when I need it. When I leave I don't need to worry about taking the dresser with me. This frees me up, I only need what I can't share, and hopefully, with some work, those items decrease. Since I don't need to buy furnishings, or a car, I feel my spending can go elsewhere. I see the value of the shared and wish to reciprocate. So the benefit of the new is that it forces us to question what we need to own, show us that we can depend on others, then asks us to improve the place. In opposition to vacation shopping, through workation we might be able to leave more than we take.

Working from a new place

The most important part is at the end. Place has a new importance. We see a local food movement, local crafts, revitalizing downtown cores, and a general interest in the places we are, as apart from the things we have. Place offers us an important combination: people in context. Both of these items must be in sync, we must have a strong social optimism, within a context that facilitates communication. We must imagine a better future than past, and be able to share that vision with people.

Certainly you can't be friends with everyone. See magazine broke down to the effect of: crew, colleagues, community. New places offer us an opportunity to expand each of these groups. Through events we can find people with similar interests. Through chats we can get to know others and gain that valuable perspective. Through a prolonged stay(more than 3 months) we can make good friends. Place gives us a reason to talk. It brings people together simply because they are.

If we can adapt our methods of organization, and dematerialize those processes, we might be able to see place as a creative medium rather than a place to store paper. We might be able to see people as continuous collaborators, and find them within the new places we inhabit. We might expand our capacity through each other, and amplify the work we can do through methods of decentralized work. We might find that the things we own are similar enough to share, and that the things we keep have unique, non-economic, value to us. We might make all this happen, it may simply happen to us. Either way, we will gain a new perspective, new inspiration, and move that to some form of innovation. We might fail, but just enough to succeed a bit.