Shannon Clark


who I am, what I do, where else you can find me online and offline

How many networks is your company a part of?

author Posted by: Shannon on date Oct 20th, 2006 | filed Filed under: my Blogs

From the most local retail store to the largest metanational corporation, every modern company (and organization, artists, or government) is enmeshed into many different networks.

Consider the local café. It serves as a hub of the social networks in the local community, a meeting place for individuals and groups, a social network from which the employees of the store are hired and to whom they build relationships over time.

Like many modern cafes around the world, the local café offers wifi access, as customers open up their laptops and go online they become multiple nodes on the global Internet Network. As they work, send email, chat with friends, upload and download digital content, they do so through the connection the café owner purchased and maintains.

The café serves a variety of locally produced baked goods from a number of local bakeries and serves coffee the owner roasts herself in the back of the café. These form two critical supply chains for the café, one a very local network of bakeries and their daily deliveries, and the other an international supply chain which the café owner is connected to through the regional distributor from whom she buys unroasted beans. Teas, milk, sugar, cups, and other consumables she purchases from yet other networks of suppliers and distributors.

When customers pay with cash their money is first placed into the café’s cash register, then each night into the safe, and a few times each week the money is deposited into the café’s accounts at a local branch of a business bank. When customers pay with a credit card, the card is swiped into a dedicated credit card terminal which then connects to the merchant bank the café works with to check that card for approval. When approved those charges are added to the accounts for the café and on a regular basis money net of fees is paid to the café for those transactions. In short the café is deeply tied to the financial networks for credit cards, banking, and other services. Likely, the café has an established line of credit which was used to set up the café and which may be used as part of the payment processes for the many suppliers the café depends upon.

When the café pays its employees it also sets aside funds for a variety of other parties, federal and state taxes, unemployment insurance, and since the café owner believes in a living wage and fair wages she also provides good if minimal health insurance for her employees. In her state, she also collects a variety of sales taxes on every transaction which she remits to the state on a regular basis.

Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night the café hosts musicians. To market these performances and to build her customer base she advertises in the local independent newspapers. For many years she also paid for a yellow pages ad, though in more recent years she no longer does that, instead she buys some targeted ads on Google and trades with one of her regular customers for help in maintaining the café’s website and presence on MySpace.com and other sites. In all of this promotional efforts she is part of a marketing network both on and offline where she is seeking to gain the attention of new customers, fans and musicians.

And on a prosaic, but important level, the café is plugged into the local power grid, reliant on the local telco for phone (and alarm) services, and reliant on the local transportation grid to ensure that customers can reach the café either in a car or via local public transit.

in short even a small, local café is deeply impacted by multiple interlocking and different networks. And as firms and organizations grow larger they will be impacted by still other and more networks.

MeshForum 2007 will focus on this intersection of networks – economic, technical, social and physical. We will bring together world renowned academic experts, creative artists, and business and government experts who each study and work with in one or more complex networks. Over three days you will learn many new approaches to visualizing and understanding networks and you will have many opportunities to work with your fellow attendees and colleagues.

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