The Concept of “Placement”

Placement is a way of becoming the one who controls the devices! Placement is a what we do when decide when, where and how our devices are used: smartphones, tablet PCs, laptops, desktops. We gain conscious control over them by making clear decisions about when they are used, how they are used, and what they are used for. We also “place” the process we want to enact in the right “place” – physical and/or virtual. Often we are in a reactive mode, not very conscious, and end up being driven by the gadgetry rather than being the driver. This can result in poor use of time, or using the device for the wrong purpose or in a less than optimal way.

Placement is a conscious wilful act. When I “place” a process, I claim mastery over its location. In the world of digital technologies and process, placement is a way to decide and act upon a process in a way that determines its location, and your relation to it. When the process is effective and works well, it is usually as a result of skilful placement.


I’m currently working with four “placement” choices.

1. Placement of a physical process in the physical world.

Example: A  meeting.

We could place this meeting into some other form, such as an online meeting, a phone call, a virtual chat on a messaging platform, or an email exchange.  But we decide to locate the meeting in a real meeting room, in the physical world.

2. Placement of a physical process in the virtual world.

Example: A meeting

We wish to meet and do so using a video messaging platform such as Skype. Or we “meet” in Second Life, a virtual world.

3. Placement of a virtual/digital  process in the virtual world

Example: Making a decision

Here a decision is to be made and we allow a computer to run a programme which is “automated” and makes the decision for us.  In  the future, this might also involve our “avatar” meeting another’s avatar to discuss something and then simply informing us of the decision.

4. Placement of a virtual process in the digital world.

Example: Reading a document

One example could be where we decide to print out a digitally created and stored document onto physical paper in order to read it in a chosen location, such as the park, or a cafe.

The aim of placement is to locate the digital or physical process in a “place” that maximises personal and/or business value. Competent or skilful placement involves placing appropriately in a way that can be measured in terms of personal, social or business value. Incompetent placement involves placing a physical or digital process in the “wrong” or “less effective” place.

Placement can be careful or clumsy. When it is clumsy, we may find ourselves struggling to make decisions in an online teleconference that really needed us all to be in more tactile contact in a physical place. What William Borough’s called “sacred” meeting. When it is clumsy we are are sitting in a room trying to exchange information that could have been done in far less time and with more clarity via a shared online document or using a micromessaging platform such as Yammer. When we are placing clumsily, we are expecting a conferencing platform to show a new design to a group of people watching online, when the colour hues and clarity simply can’t be realised online and where we should have also sent and shared physical images as well.

When we are being skilful in placement, we hold a monthly team day where we all work together and this develops the necessary rapport for our many online interactions. When we are being skilful in placement we book a physical meeting room because the emotional content of an issue needs a face to face meeting. When we are being skilful in placement, we turn off the phone because we are on a train in a public place, and we save confidential calls for when we get to a private place to speak.

Skilful placement is also time based. It is where a digital process might maximise effectiveness by aso reducing the time taken to complete a process. Or vice versa. Skilful placement is location and time appropriate. The extent to which resources  – physical or virtual – become wasted, this determines part of the measurement of skilful placement.

Skilful placement can also be meaning and value based. Where actors or participants in a process sense that personal or business value has been maximised from the correct use or placement, this is also  a measure. A process can be viewed as more or less useful or helpful depending on the choice of placement. If the aim was create clear team understanding over a project definition, and the choice of an teleconference resulted in greater confusion, this is an example of unskilful placement.

So, placement is a useful way at looking at the location of processes in the physical and digital personal, social and work places.

About Paul Levy

Paul is a writer, thinker, facilitator, theatre-maker, and conversifier. He is the author of the book, Digital Inferno.

Posted on November 6, 2012, in Key themes. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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