As I am sloshing through “Within the Context of no Context” by Georges Trow I find myself torn between total awe for his insights and alienation for his fragmented writing style and the realization that it is the style that makes the reading so thought provoking and painful but also beautiful. I’m a fast reader and this is a slim volume, but this book is one paragraph, often just one sentence, at a time reading. I’ve been digesting “Within the Context of no Context”, morsel by morsel for well over a year.
Today I came across ChrisBrogan’s latest blog entry about how “local” will become more and more important, and I immediately had to think of “Within the Context of no Context”. It made me realize just how much more we feel disconnected the bigger our virtual reach becomes and that a need for immediate connectedness and belonging to a smaller subset that is ‘manageable’ might not be filled in the physical world, especially where business is concerned.
Trow talks about those opposing forces as quadrants. The quadrant of man alone and the quadrant of all (in this case all Americans). Trow writes about the loneliness of man in terms of one person looking for a connectedness in a one-way relationship with the TV (Trow’s essay was originally published in the New Yorker and as a book in 1981) and how we personalize and ‘make our own’ the stars and TV personalities we watch every day in an effort to shrink the distance between our quadrant of physical living and experiencing and the quadrant of the rest of America. Trow might as well have been talking about the internet 2.0.
I would that that a step further and say, that the larger our network becomes the more we become a group of one in the physical world. In an effort to manage our growing reach, we create an “us”, which in our own eyes encompasses “all”, but really only means an “us”; a group who’s sentiments, or geography, or political views we share. Everything beyond “us” is foreign and out of our reach, sic understanding. This, also a powerful explanation for any ‘club-yness’ to the exclusion of ‘the other’ (another favorite topic of mine).
The internet has made the stakes higher and the distance between man and the ‘rest of the world’ more distant. Trow’s quadrants have moved even further apart. Any business who understands to fill the void between the quadrants has a lottery ticket in hand.
If a business can reach out and have a meaningful two-way interaction with its customers on a global, virtual, all-connected platform, AND can give them their local 'heroes’ on the ground (as Chris Brogan calls them) – it will have a very powerful brand and a very strong relationship with its customers and consumers indeed.