A View from the CLOUD: The Shape of Finance (Interactive Biz Reporting Magazine)

IBR View from CLOUD

During the 22nd XBRL International Conference in Brussels, Belgium from May 17-19, 2011, I had the privilege of speaking on how a CLOUD-enabled Internet could propel the advance of XBRL even further. At the conference, the inaugural issue of Interactive Business Reporting magazine was available. After speaking with its editors, I had the privilege of “penning” an article for Issue 2 (page 38). The first two paragraphs from the article frame the rest of the thinking:

For the past several centuries, we have organized our world of knowledge on paper.  During SWIFT’s annual global financial conference, Sibos, in Amsterdam in October 2010, I reflected on how this world of paper leads to a shape of finance and the implications of the ‘cloud’  on the way we perceive money.  During XBRL22 in Brussels this past May, I began to ask the same question about our financial reports and whether they, too, are ‘shaped’ by the way in which we organize our world of information. Is the full promise of interactive business reporting being held back by a similar ‘physical geography of knowledge?”

The Physical Geography of Companies (Part 3 – Soundscapes)

I write this final part of the series on the physical geography of companies in the study of Francis Alÿs’s late father just west of Brussels (a photo of this study appears in a post from CLOUD Finance last year).  It has been a busy few weeks since Part II of the Physical Geography of Cities, with meetings in New York City, the commencement of SWIFT’s digital identity incubation project in Mountain View, CA and the past week in Munich, Germany where I was on two panels (one planned, one unplanned) at the European Identity Conference.

As I mentioned in Part II of the Physical Geography of Companies, I was stunned when I began reading some of the philosophy behind Francis’s work, since it so closely aligned with my own thinking that surrounds CLOUD.  As I toured the opening of his exhibition at MOMA with my wife, his brothers and sisters from Belgium and the rest of his family, I was struck with the same feelings I had when seeing his exhibition at Wiels in Brussels.  Quite simply, wow.  The ways in which “one of the greatest artists of our generation” expresses his work is simply spectacular.  I do not paint on the same canvas, but I hope CLOUD will paint with the same spirit (le meme coeur).
The ideas for Part III have been stewing for a while and may be the last post on the philosophy behind CLOUD for a few months, as we tackle the practical aspects of bringing this vision to life through various emerging projects we are starting with a number of terrific partners.  However, it seemed necessary to put forward some additional thoughts on the connected company and more importantly the impact of connected people. The inspiration of a beautiful day in the countryside west of Brussels could not be a more spectacular setting by which to capture these thoughts. 
You will recall that I ended Part II teasing out the idea of the frame in which we “paint” our companies. The difference between the mediums of a painting and a soundscape are a fascinating tableau by which to tease out how the connected company and the connected economy must work as we move into the future.  This quote from David Toop in “Sound Passing Through Circumstances” helps carry this idea forward:
Artists who begin with the visual are confronted with the challenge of the system within which they work, in which the visual can can stand for status and containment.
That’s just it.  Our current companies are much more like the work of a European master, painted on the static fabric of the canvas and then framed appropriately and hung on a wall.  Even the masterpieces of the great European composers are in many ways “framed” similarly, using sheet music, rather than a canvas, and then reproducing these notes through a conductor and their orchestra without variation.  The urban soundscapes that Francis Alÿs and others capture are not planned for ahead of time; they emerge:
Sound has no sightline, no fixed point in space, no duration beyond its own activation, no single moment of existence, no edges, but only cumulative moments of disappearance at the edge of its reach.  Its place as a mark within (the) temporal dimension and the mapping of space can be a mixture of the precise and ambiguous: a bell rings, the clock chimes, a cannon fires a shot.
The whole point of CLOUD is make these types of random connections possible on the Internet.  Right now, we “frame” our connections on the Internet by painting inside the lines of a web page.  The future of Dave Gray’s connected company, the connected economy and beyond may well be found in the urban soundscapes discussed by David Toop and captured in some ways by Francis’s work now on display at both the MOMA and at PS1, an extension of MOMA in Queens.  However, even Francis notes, that the very capturing of these “soundscapes” and his “walks” reduce the transient nature of these furtive acts.  In his words, “the video (of such acts) can flatten any sense of emergence.”
Just like new mediums allow for new types of art, it is our hope that the new language of CLOUD for the Internet, CTML, will allow for all of as connected people to create new works of art, too.  These new works of art will also force us to become comfortable in the idea that we may never actually ‘frame’ these masterpieces in some static form. Just like “sound passing through circumstances,” it may be our “walk” in the words and work of Francis Alÿs, that is our true and lasting art.