Personal Velocity, Placelessness and Virtual Social Connectivity

I was reading Bruno Giusanni's handy summary of the goings on at Aula2006, held recently in Helsinki, when I came across an interesting concept dreamt up Joshua Ramo of Kissinger Associates: personal velocity. Long story short, Ramos sat down with a friend and began calculating the number of miles they each traveled in a year, divided by the number of hours in the year, to arrive at average miles traveled per hours during the year, or PV. Ramo's PV at the time came out to 45.8, reflecting the activities of a man constantly on the go.

His point in framing the PV concept was to illustrate how placeless we sometimes become in a world of rapid global travel and transient physical relationships with location. I myself have begun to become a little reverse jet-lagged after having traveled back and forth to Asia and Europe several times earlier in the year, only to stay home for a couple of months recently as projects and domestic demands required. I now yearn for the blur instead of the buzz of the summer insects outside my house each night.

Ramo pointed out that he could very well meet the same people he knows through business in several locations around the planet in a short time. Again, I have experienced this a lot in the past year, meeting with the same project team in five countries on three continents. While he says that, with high PV, people seldom fix meaningful relationships with locations and experiences, more and more now social relationships become placeless. More often than not now, I only use the remnants of a "physical" address, someone's mobile number, when I know I am near them--near enough to need to coordinate meeting. But in those long spells where we are all, or some of us, moving, we remain connected and often experiencing each other's movement via various social media or communications channels. I may be at home for a few weeks, but a friend traveling to the World Cup, or another city near him in Croatia, often shares that travel with me, and we are connected through three different channels: e-mail, IM and Flickr. Likewise, while I don't see the people I work with and for very often, I do often see more "experiential" parts of their lives--inside their apartments, conferences they have attended, food they eat--on a more frequently updated basis than my nearest relatives. So, while we are all increasingly placeless, our social connections remain both constant and constantly updated.