Monday, September 12, 2011

Reality is…

…where you take pictures to post on Facebook.

I’m not sure where the quote came from, but it’s a good one this week. I feel like I’m seeing the world through a variety of filters and lenses lately, a postmodern stance where the nature of reality depends on the time,. manner, and place where I view it.

For example, a windy Monday is, according to the paper, the remnant of Hurricane Katia, sweeping in from America.  The storm didn’t have the rain I’d associate with a hurricane; the gale howled out of a clear blue sky all day.

This is the cap to one of the coldest summers on record for the UK, and one of the wettest for the Netherlands. While presidential candidates still deny the evidence, I wonder if climate change is finally affecting the Great Ocean Conveyor.  Predictions are that the global flow of water, driven by salinity and temperature differences, will reverse as the atmosphere warms, plunging the Continent into a much colder weather pattern.

conveyor

Closer to home, I’ve been trying to get our company website updated with a new News page that I can write to using a blog.  Bids from US programmers topped $4000, an unbelievable amount for only a few days programming to put a supplemental page onto an existing site.  A passing cab in London suggested trying Freelancer.co.uk: I posted my job and got a half-dozen bids from Indian programmers ranging from £40 to £250.   I accepted the higher bid, since he offered to put the rest of the site into order while doing the supplemental page.

So I’m managing the project remotely, using someone I’ve never met to do work that we only describe to one another over typed Skype messages.  The language issues have been significant (it’s almost impossible to describe a conventional specification), but the work seems to be of good quality and we’re making steady progress.

It has made me think about my antipathy to globalization, though: am I disloyal to my home markets and exploiting emerging ones? I’ve taken some heat from US friends for offshoring, but given the difficulty in raising funds, I spend it carefully, even virtually.

Then I ended up in London over lunch today, grabbing a sandwich after a meeting, typing imaginary plans into a Gantt chart for presentation to a client board I’d never met in New York. Outside my window, in the shadow of the Gherkin, was a pub, the Shepherd Naeme.  And, in the shadow of the entryway was a gaggle of men and women, all expensively dressed, all clutching pints.  At 2 pm! On a working afternoon!

This sort of two-hour, two drink lunch ended in the US 30 years ago, but here the (presumed) bankers were carrying on the tradition with gusto.  I scrolled off a quick tweet, earning a “Lighten up; enjoy life” rejoinder.

Maybe.

Postmodern philosophy says that reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually.  So, is reality my breezy day, best value, slacker’s lunch, or someone else’s hurricane, exploitative act, social occasion.

Does it all come down to perspective, and circumstance?

To consider further, try the Victoria and Albert museum, who’s hosting an exhibition of postmodern art (Style and Subversion), visible (in some sense) through January 2012.

1 comment:

Peter Holland said...

Yes, everyone has a case or a reason to find cheaper goods or services. We all want a bargain because we are all 'feeling the pinch' even if we are relatively well off or if our company is actually doing well. There is always an excuse to go the cheap route and to get these goods and services from abroad.

Are you being disloyal to your home market? Coaching these things in language like that makes the whole thing seem ridiculous but yes, support for your neighbours should come before support for a foreign economy. Not only for 'nationalistic' reasons but the fact that you are also keeping the status quo. India will remain a 'low' economy which essentially is set up to support us. The system only works when the cost of living is low in India - this way they can 'afford' to offer us relatively low prices. So you are creating a vested interest in the part of business owners and politicians, i.e. the ruling elite, to keep India's economy lower than the West's.

It's often been said the reason for the success of any Empire is ultimately money. The supply of goods and services to the ruling country for no or low cost. We don't have a physical empire now but an economic one.