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Archive for the ‘Multiplexity’ Category

Encounter, Time and Place. Neighbors become friends.

Posted by Simon on November 2, 2012

Our neighbors are leaving.

A~ and K~, and their children, T~ and L~, are moving to North Africa.

We love them and we’re desperately sad they’re going.

Movie nights; pasta-making nights; sharing tools; shopping favors; book-lending; baby-sitting swaps; recipe-swaps; music-swaps; car-lending; taking both sets of children to the playground; doing multi-family yard sales together; kids’ sleep-overs; kids trashing each other’s places; sharing stresses of work or lack of work; easter egg hunts from the age the kids could only just walk; singing Happy Birthday in English, French and Spanish; A~ jabbing our daughter with an epipen to save her from an anaphylactic reaction to nuts; meals on their back deck; bbqs in our back yard; chats on their stoop; chats on our stoop; chats while snow-shoveling; chat’s beside storm-blown trees; chats beside fire/police/ambulance visits; chats about God, science, history, the future, family life, everything; sharing in grief of losing my dad; K~ sharing story of losing his dad; welcoming each other’s visiting parents, relatives and friends; keeping M~ partying to 4am on New Year’s Day; learning California Stars on the guitar. And so much more.

That’s the both the substance and the fruit of the friendship that’s grown over the years. Friendships are emergent. You can’t decide ahead of time who is going to be your close buddy. You’ll totally freak people out if you do. And not every person needs to become a ‘friend’. There is plenty satisfaction and reward in a simple, cordial relationship. But we’ve had the enormous pleasure of real friendship grow over the years.

It’s not that complicated. Friendship or just good relationship can emerge from simply being around – a combination of encounter (face to face meeting), time (frequency and continuity) and place (meeting in different contexts). That’s all we had really, none of us set out to make friends of each other. But encounter, time and place were the foundation upon which reciprocity, a bit of risk taking, reasonable boundaries, shared and divergent interests bore fruit in a deep affection for one another.

Along with our other amazing neighbors, they’ve given us such a sense of belonging to somewhere, of mattering to someone. It’s been so rich, and so unspeakably fulfilling, to live life on this street with A~, K~, T~ and L~.

God bless you, friends.


Posted in Continuity, Directness, Multiplexity, RelationalProximity, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

rLiving Day 21: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (Multiplexity and Commonality)

Posted by Simon on May 22, 2010

Embarrassed, I turned off my new Verizon HTC Eris droid phone. I’d just checked work email, personal email, and twitter and facebook. Again.

It was 8pm this evening, C~ and M~ were watching a view Mary Poppins songs on YouTube, so I figured, “ah, they’re watching Mary Poppins, I’ll check my email”. But then I turned and saw M~ and C singing along and just felt embarrassed and, well, just wrong. Sure I don’t have to watch it every time with them, but unless I’ve got a good reason not to, why not? And I’d hardly seen them all week. This was one of those moments just to hang with them, watch it with them, listen to them singing, sing along with them.

Relational Proximity Dimension #3 is “Multiplexity”. My relationship with someone is better and healthier if I interact with them in two or three different contexts than if we only interact in one. This is, essentially, about my knowledge of the other person.

Relational Proximity Dimension #5 is Purpose/Commonality: Our sense of connectedness and relationship is greater to the degree we have things in common or share a common purpose, identity or experience. A good relationship has a direction to it, something that is common between the members that holds it together.

Earlier in the week I commuted with C~ to her preschool. I also went swimming with her, and with M~. We had breakfast together. I hung her upside down. M~ and C~ sat on my feet like slippers as I walked around. I yelled at C~ for being rude. She yelled at me for saying no. We chatted outside with the neighbors. And finally tonight, C~ also made did some paint and glitter work on a shell.

Don’t interpret that list as any sign that I’m a great or poor parent. It’s just what happened this week.

But it’s the ‘multiplexity’ of it that makes my relationship with her more significant. All those things contribute (for good or for ill) to our knowledge of each other. Interestingly, despite me saying yesterday that ‘purpose/commonality’ was primary, it’s all these multiple shared experiences that creates a ‘commonality’ between us. We get to know each other, and we become close through the bond of common experience. Which is why (among other reasons) it was such a poor decision to check email. Instead, another mysterious bond of being a family would have been sealed by watching Mary Poppins again with them, just sitting down with them to hear them sing along, and then sing with them.

It’s not rocket science. It’s not complicated. You just have to do more different stuff together. And do it more often. A greater ‘bond’ has no choice but to come, without you even trying, because you’ll know more about each other and you’ll have more shared experience, a greater sense of the past (#2, continuity) and if you’re conscious about planning more things, a greater anticipation of the future (#2, continuity). This also applies to groups. organizations, even countries.

Posted in Multiplexity, Purpose, RelationalProximity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

rLiving Day 18: Global Team Dynamics (Relational Proximity)

Posted by Simon on May 19, 2010

IMHO, “Team Interaction Dynamics” should replace “virtual teams” or any notion of a difference between “virtual” and “non-virtual” teams. Unless you’re literally within spitting distance, you’re a virtual team, until you come together again physically in shared space. So the question is, how does a ‘team’ interact,how often and why? How are relationships amongst teams mediated and managed for optimal performance? I want to look at this research and match it against the Relational Proximity model and see how Relational Proximity holds up as an analytical model, and perhaps even a predictive one.

Studying the Effectiveness of Global Virtual Teams. In 2000, Martha Maznevski and Katherine Chudoba published a paper entitled, “Bridging Space Over Time: Global Virtual Team Dynamics and Effectiveness.”[1] Their 21-month study of three ‘virtual’ (i.e. not geographically co-located) teams in a major US producer of technological manufacturing equipment revealed that certain factors distinguished the two successful teams from the one unsuccessful team that was eventually disbanded. They were examined with respect to the dynamics of technology use, choice of media, and group outcomes. This is my summary of a summary by Elizabeth Kelley, “Keys to Effective Virtual Global Teams.”[2].

What made teams effective? What characterised the effective teams had to do with an interplay between task, ‘interaction media choice’ and ‘rhythm’:
– the nature of the task or group (not, “I prefer email”) determined media choice
– if tasks were interdependent they met more frequently
– if tasks were more complex (so the ‘message’ was more complex) they chose richer media
– if the team was composed of greater cultural/professional/national differences they chose richer media
– they prioritized building relationships to enable trust and shared views (this was mostly face-to-face & telephone)
– as trust increased, message complexity decreased, so they changed media choice
– the ‘planned’ meetings were only coordination meetings, regular conference calls, impromptu conference calls
– there was a ‘rhythm’ to their meetings

More about rhythm: “Effective teams also exhibited a strong, repeating temporal pattern to their interaction incidents. The basic rhythm was set by intense face-to-face meetings, with the interaction between meetings defined by a response to previous meetings or anticipation of the next. The researchers characterized the face-to-face meetings as “a heartbeat, rhythmically pumping new life into the team’s processes, before members circulated to different parts of the world and task, returning again at a predictable pace.””

Interpreting findings through Relational Proximity Lens: There’s more to the study, but I’ll take a look at just these findings. Remember, this is what characterized effective teams.

First, noticeable is the absence of learning styles, personality types or personal media preferences as a factor. Kelley’s summary doesn’t mention them. It was an intense 21 month study and I’m sure they would have controlled for those factors or rather picked teams similar enough that styles, types and media preferences wouldn’t vary greatly between teams.

Second, there were three driving factors for interaction media choice a) interdependence of tasks, b) complexity of task, c) level of trust and mutual understanding. In terms of Relational Proximity dimensions, I want to say the nature of the relational Purpose (dimension #5) is the driving factor for appropriate relational Directness (dimension #1). In other words, what they were about and their sense of common agreement on that determined how they chose to interact.

Third, a predictable yet flexible rhythm to their meetings was a major factor in success. The rhythm was determined and adjusted according to a) an upfront decision b) level of mutual trust and shared understanding (esp. in cross-cultural/professional situations) c) previous and expected outcomes. In terms of Relational Proximity, the regularity and future reliability of the meetings (dimension #2, continuity) was determined by their goal (dimension #5, Purpose) and by shared agreement (dimension #4, Parity).

So Relational Proximity is confirmed here to a certain extent. The dimensions have broad definitions and I may be stretching or confusing them a little. ‘Shared views’, for example, is clearly about Purpose/Commonality. But one could argue it’s also about power: agreement requires not forcing your opinion to dominate others, or being will for your opinion to change. I’m not sure if the proximity model has anything to say about task complexity or task interdependence (though the latter implies multiplexity, dimension #3).

Task drives (social) media selection, not the other way around! This study is 10 years old, so it was before the SoMe explosion. But that should only have added media options. It still should be the task at hand that drives media choice, not the other way around. You might ask, “ooooh! what can we do with this new tool?!”, but don’t ever just say, “well, we’re going to have blogs and wikis” without knowing why. Maybe there’s more recent research that builds on this? I know I came across an MIT study in the last couple of years. Can’t find it though. If you know of any on the topic of team interaction dynamics, media choice and the nature of the task/group, let me know. And if you have other thoughts or comments on this research and analysis, I’d love to hear it!

[1] Maznevski, Martha and Katherine Chudoba. “Bridging Space Over Time: Global Virtual Team Dynamics and Effectiveness.” Organization Science; Sep/Oct 2000, Vol. 11 Issue 5, p473-492
[2] Kelley, Elizabeth. “Keys to Effective Virtual Global Teams.” Academy of Management Executive; May 2001, Vol. 15 Issue 2, p132-133

Posted in Continuity, Directness, first-follower, Multiplexity, Power, Purpose, RelationalProximity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

rLiving Day 8: UK/US ‘Special Relationship’ (Continuity/Multiplexity)

Posted by Simon on May 7, 2010

You’d never know it – if you live in the US – but there was a general election in the UK yesterday, that resulted in a hung parliament. The last election was four years ago and the last hung parliament was in 1974. There was very little US media coverage of the election, so most Americans probably have little idea about it.

Image: screenscrape using Jing from

The US election, which seems to go on for four years even though it’s only held every four years, is covered by the British media head to foot.

Relational Proximity Dimension #3 is Multiplexity: a relation between two countries is better and healthier if they interact in two or three different contexts rather than just one. This is, essentially, about knowledge of the Other.

Relational Proximity Dimension #2 is Continuity: our relationship is formed and strengthened by the amount, frequency and span of time we are together. It includes a sense of shared history, and an anticipation of the future.

With respect to ‘knowledge’; the media is one way the US and UK ‘interact’, get to know each other as nations. So you can see from the example of election coverage that there’s a huge imbalance, not to mention deficit and distortion, of information and understanding between the two countries. Unless an American and Brit meet, or travel to one another’s country, the media is the only way the countries will build an understanding of each other as a people. The news media (let’s be specific here) is just one ‘context’. We need more (type, quantity & quality) if we’re going to have a better relationship.

With respect to continuity; a relationship anticipates a future, and a shared future (Dimension #5, Purpose). A relationship cannot rest solely on its past, shared history. It has a timeline but that timeline has to extend forward if it’s to be considered a relationship. The election coverage doesn’t reveal this, but I don’t get any sense of forward thinking between the countries.

Little knowledge, and little future planning. Doesn’t sound very special to me.

Posted in Continuity, first-follower, Multiplexity, RelationalProximity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

rLiving Day 2: Love my neighbor (Multiplexity)

Posted by Simon on May 1, 2010

One reason my wife & I continue to rent and have failed to buy somewhere else is because we love our street so much it drains our enthusiasm for moving. We just love the way the pavement looks. And the lamp-posts are just fabulous!

The multi-neighbor yard sale we held today is one reason. This was our fourth and it was our most successful, financially: over $700 between five families! It was also the most gorgeous day for it, and we were all present, and all in great spirits! Even my guitar playing, as poor as it is, added a little something (I only know House of the Rising Sun, some 12-bar blues (E/A/B7) and I’m learning Walk the Line):

Photo: by my neighbor Andrew from his porch

I know some of my neighbors better than others. [I’m going to use fake names here, just because.] Adrienne and Keith over the road have two children similar ages to ours so we’ve gotten to them best over the last 6 years. Below them in the two-family house are Susan & Derek. Directly opposite are Gavin and Andrew, and their lodger Sarah. Below them are Maureen and her mom Margaret. These were all involved in the yard sale. Then next door and a few doors down are Rich, Andrea, John, Bill, Doreen.

Relational Proximity Dimension #3 is “Multiplexity”. My relationship with someone is better and healthier if I interact with them in two or three different contexts than if we only interact in one. This is, essentially, about my knowledge of the other person.

Arguably, I have the same directness with the latter group (Rich etc.) as with the former (Adrienne etc.); we encounter one another face to face and are on very friendly terms. And with them all we’ve talked about weather, jobs, backgrounds, the Red Sox, local history, family etc. But because we organized and ran a yard sale, my relationship with the individuals in the former group increased incomparably.

Imagine the richness of knowledge (savoir and connaître) added to our relationships by doing this one thing? Susan buys individual colored stickers for each family, sends copies of yard sale posters to us all, gets a cash till and a book to manage transactions. She’s also a master seller! Derek and I pretty much follow orders, but make wise-cracks while doing so! Gavin & Andrew provide coffee & muffins for everyone when we start at 6.30am; then burgers & hot-dogs at lunch. I provide cream-cheese on toast half way through the morning; then beers later. Gavin puts balloons up in the streets around. Keith charms the buyers with his smile and warmth and conversation. Derek gives us a kids bike that he was going to sell. Keith also fixes up his old, but meaningful, mountain-bike and wrestles over whether to sell it and for how much. I break out in a Johnny Cash. I could go on. And it did, until about 4pm.

That’s it. Just one more context of interaction I’m bursting with the fullness of the relationships. It’s highly unlikely I would have ‘known’ all of that just be talking over the fence or even having dinner together. And now, the “g’morning!”, the “how’s work?”, even if that’s all we do in passing for months, somehow means more and is treasured more because of this May 1st yard sale.

[This is also an example of Dimension #5: Commonality/Purpose. That we engaged in a common and agreed task – and all the trust that goes into accomplishing that, as evidenced above – probably better explains the enormous sense of fulfillment we had at the end, over and above simply getting to know each other better.]

Posted in first-follower, Multiplexity, RelationalProximity | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

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