When words and concepts have been used much and for a long time they become tired from overuse. Not only that: the organizations or firms behind this constant use appear tired and out of ideas too. A case in point is the word ‘Networking’.
In the Nordic community in Thailand we have been networking for many years. Do we really need to mend the same net one hundred times – by more or less the same people? One could of course argue, “never mind, the purpose is very important”. I will discuss that, but first: Let us have a look at the Norwegian roots of ‘Social Networking’.
John A. Barnes (Professor at Cambridge) carried out fieldwork over two years in a settlement on Bømlo, an island (235 km2) at the west coast of Southern Norway. The results were published in 1954. In his work he produces complete diagrams over all the inhabitants’ social contacts in life – family and friends, old contacts and new contacts recently established, frequency and duration. What to call these knots and webs?
Bømlo was a fishing community and our researcher got inspired from all the fishing nets and the men mending them, aha Social Network, of course. Barnes method has been used by researchers ever since. Social network maps can tell about the strength or the weakness of a person’s social life, but can also give most valuable knowledge about progress or stagnation in the community where the research is carried out.
Recreation or progress
We have peaceful old photos of groups of fishermen on Bømlo sitting together, maintaining their nets and smoking their pipes, old friends, old contacts – and we have photos of mature foreign businessmen in Bangkok, anno 2012, often standing, drinking their wine, holding their glass by the stem and eating their finger food or approaching the delicious buffet; old friends -often the same well-known heads like on Bømlo, old contacts; we get an almost cozy and recreational impression from both places – and so be it. So why not call these events what they are: Social gatherings. In the long run it is not profitable in any way to pull the wool over our eyes and call things what they are not; and modern social networking is somewhat more offensive and engaging than the impression, and words I get in private, about what is going on.
We tend to believe that our world is the best of all worlds; we are also conservative. When we reach a certain age and standing we see no need for changes. The ‘Young Lions’ will maybe ask: “Why don’t we”, “why can’t we”. If the answer to that from the old hands is: “Oh, but we are not used to do it that way” then it is time to think hard.
Stagnation is retreat
This page in Scandasia Magazine is meant for opinions – and it is my opinion, as an observer for 12 years, that the Scandinavian community is now in a phase of stagnation, maybe market based, maybe generation based or maybe both. Gone are the captains and the entrepreneurs, but also the engineers who founded Siam Cement and those from Kampsax and Christiani & Nielsen who designed the roads. EAC is now an entertainment complex, SAS will stop summer flights CPH-BKK and so on.
I give full credit to those companies that stayed and those that started up, but progress and optimism are not in the cards. In such a scenario I’m not sure it is a good idea to throw pompous black tie parties; or arrange big low key seafood parties away from Skaergaarden, the natural habitat of this tribal affair. Modesty and seriousness is what is needed, also taking the political and socio-economic situation in the country into consideration. The sentiment against foreigners can easily be whipped up again. But it will be most interesting to see whether new life can be blown into the Scandinavian community –and from where it will eventually come.
Flemming Winther Nielsen