April 2011: Ode to Face Time

Victor Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, WatersTechnology

I was never crazy about the various odes we studied in school. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate all poetry. It’s just that when it came to, for example, John Keats’ Five Great Odes, I found the subject matter, frankly, underwhelming. But that’s about par for the course for a rugby-mad South African schoolboy who considered lessons to be important rest periods between early morning and afternoon training sessions.

However, there are two odes that I distinctly remember from the haze and angst of my teenage years with which I still strongly identify: Yazoo’s Ode to Boy from their second album You and Me Both, and, of course, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy from the fourth movement to his ninth and final symphony—Symphony No. 9 in D minor, op. 125—inspired by Friedrich Schiller’s Ode An Die Freude, written in 1785. What’s all this got to do with the subject of this column? Well, quite a lot actually. Generally, odes are a genre of poetry praising something or someone, although I’ve never quite got my head around Keats choosing to immortalize a Grecian urn—maybe a Greek goddess or a mythological heroine, but an urn? Not so much.   

Anyway, this letter is an ode to the importance of face time, even though it’s conveyed through prose as opposed to the conventional three-part, multiple-stanza ode structure.

I’ve chosen to highlight the importance of face time for two reasons: Last week I was in our New York office for most of the week, allowing me to spend some quality time with my New York-based team; and Anthony Malakian’s column that addresses the age-old theme of machines replacing people. My trans-Atlantic visit and Anthony’s thoughts have crystallized the notion for me that regardless of how pervasive and ubiquitous machines might grow to become in our industry, they will never supersede the role of the individual.

I put in daily calls to the New York office and I like to think that I have a good sense of what everyone’s up to on that side of the Atlantic, but I have to admit that it doesn’t come close to simply being around my colleagues. The accountants might view regular trans-Atlantic visits as an expensive medium through which to communicate, but from where I sit, nothing will ever replace face time as the most effective means of interpersonal communication.

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