Relevance is the new reputation

I recently had the pleasure of attending the 2017 MCM Reunion and Professional Development Day in Manhattan. It was held at Lubin House, which is the New York City Campus of Syracuse University.

What a wonderful few days it was. Thoughtful, interactive lectures and the chance to connect and reconnect with great colleagues and friends. All of this in the heart of NYC, one of the world’s most dynamic and exciting cities.

I heard many great lectures that I will comment on over the next few blog posts, but was most struck by a sentence uttered by Gary Grates, an MCM alum from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.

He said, “Relevance is the new reputation.”

It’s a profound insight. We live in a world of instant access, dialogical relationships and media that has infiltrated every single corner of our lives. We exist, as Marshall McLuhan predicted, in the flow of information and pattern matching is our greatest asset and skill.

In a literate print-driven world, reputation is based on what has been written about you, what exists about you. Reputation is an inventory of assets and action catalogued as assets.

In a dialogue, media and information-driven world, reputation is the result of fit, of insertion, of a feeling of relevance.

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Sweet moment on the train

I took the early morning train from Ottawa to Toronto today. It was dark when I started and I watched the quiet misty winterlight rise up as though from the forest floor. It was magical and made me feel like meditating but instead I read some of Kerouac’s Dharma Bums which I have been working through in stolen moments of free time.

I was struck that during breakfast in the train, one of the attendants picked up a baby girl of one of the passenger and walked her around the train whilst the young mom had her breakfast. It was natural and friendly and cheerful. No guile or pretence.

Life should be more like that, shouldn’t it? Trusting and helping each other in a brotherly or sisterly way should be a commonplace.

That would make for a better world, in my mind anyhow.

The Outdoor Pool

On sunny summer days, the water calls
Transparent between blue walls, reflecting the sky
We gather in the change room, often silent
Stripping down with no pretence
There are ladders in the pool
No hierarchy though
Just grace and speed and will
The coolness of the water
Distant splashes around you
Brief bursts of music through your cap
Rhythmic breathing bringing calm and peace
Perpetual movement going nowhere but far
Repetition becoming contemplation
It’s a quiet place
Where you’re together but apart
And it’s ok

A key to productivity without anxiety: get one thing done

I am generally very productive. I get things done, I forge forward, and I pursue goals until they are achieved. I recently found a link between my “productivity” and a constant, low-level hum of worry, disquiet or even some anxiety.

Taking a mindful approach to life has made me discover that my approach to productivity has these negative side effects. It is often productivity driven by worry and anxiety. So I have been thinking about how to reverse this, and trying some experiments.

Try to make peace with the goals and tasks in front of me, plan reasonably and then enjoy the process appears to work. I am finding that this allows productivity driven by desire and enjoyment, rather than by panic or guilt!

So, what are some observations from my mindful productivity experience thus far:

  • Be more aware of the impact of my pattern of goal setting and tasks on my life and the life of those around me.
  • Set timelines that don’t include “working on a total project”, but rather a realistic timeline for achieving small parts of a big task.
  • Try to get a few small things done every day, working toward your larger goals.

This way you are aware of the small tasks can micro-plan your day better. You are also aware of the impact on others (deadlines’ impact on other’s work or lives, your availability or lack thereof impact on others, etc.), so you feel better about what you’re doing – less guilt, more getting things done.

It sounds simple, but I am finding a mindful approach to life is really a series of simple changes that lead to more overall well-being.

Sunlight in the morning

I am normally an early riser, but focusing on trying to calm to myself and sleep more has led to a couple of later days. Today I woke up at 6:30, much later than normal for me.

I did have a chance to make myself a sprouted grain toast (Ezekiel 4:9 Raisin), one with organic coconut oil (nutiva) and the other with organic peanut butter (President’s Choice). I also made myself an americano, which I drink black.

Then I did my favourite thing in the warm (and warmish) early mornings. I took the steaming coffee and toasts onto the deck and read a little (from a book today, but sometimes my kindle). It is such a lovely feeling to see the light change from the rich oranges, pinks and golds of early sunrise to the pastels of early morning.

Feeling the morning light on my skin just makes me feel alive.

Ok. Now time to get to work. Have a great day. 🙂

Computers I have used and video games I have played

I have been a computer enthusiast since I was a young boy. My first computer was a Texas Instruments Ti99/4A on which I first learned the joys of video games and computer programming.

After that we had a Macintosh SE, with a whopping 10MB hard drive. It felt like a supercomputer! My first laptop was a Macintosh Powerbook 145, with a trackball. After that I switched to a Dell Latitude wintel laptop and then came back to Macintosh with a Macbook 13″ (black), a Mac Book Air and a desktop iMac with windows double boot. My current computers are a MacBook Pro 15″, a retina iMac and an older iPad (first retina edition from 2012). I have never had an iPhone, staying loyal to BlackBerries.

The video games side of computing never really stuck, except for strategy/puzzle games like Myst, Riven, King’s Quest, Fool’s Errand, Starcraft or my favourite… the Civilization franchise (I have actually purchased Civilization: Beyond Earth from the Apple App Store but have not yet had a chance to play).

What computers have always been for me is a window to the world of information and communication technology. The internet is an infrastructure that was build on the technology that little kids like me played and learned with 30 years ago. Having an understanding of computers opens new vistas of understanding and experience for you, particularly as a professional communicator.

Knowledge of computers and the cyber culture they have enabled is key to facilitating relationships for clients. As a communicator, you should try and become as tech savvy as you can!

 

“Smart houses” as an opportunity for PR

The Internet of Things (IoT) is there: machines are starting to speak intelligently to other machines and automate small parts of our lives. Soon a greater portion of our lives will affected by the machines we use everyday, as they track our actions and adapt their functions to our habits and preferences.

We are only beginning to see the massive transformative effect that digital tech will have on our society, economy and selves. We’ve seen email make distance and time irrelevant for the transfer of large documents that used to have to be couriered. Then social media made connecting and keeping up with a disparate collection of acquaintances possible. The next wave will be the advent of machines speaking to machines and automating different parts of our lives.

Marshall McLuhan said that, from a communications perspective, technology extends the body and retrieves something from the past. The IoT extends our ability to be in sync with nature, I think and it retrieves the concept of the staffed household. In the past, only aristocrats or the very wealthy could afford to have staff who would help run a house, intelligently adapting to the owners’ lifestyles and habits. The IoT will network our appliances and link them together intelligently, creating a “smart house steward” concept, I think.

The opportunity for communicators here in U/X, I think. The house will need to have an avatar or at least a voice and personality. The “house entity” will have to be capable of building a relationship with the owner – very rudimentary at first, of course, but increasingly layered and textured as times goes on. It will start with a crude Siri-like interface and grow to the moment where “House” is an actor in your life – a family member, a partner, etc.

This new “House” personality will be an agent in the lives of the house’s occupants, and it will steward the flow of information to occupants as well as regulating temperature, etc. Much as Google can guess your proclivities and make suggestions to you, “House” will do the same. It really will be a butler and a friend.

It is up to professional communicators to understand how to build relationships with occupants through the “House” and use it as a tool rather than perceive it as a barrier.