From the outset, Julia Hobsbawm’s chutzpah is apparent. In age of endless data creation and manipulation, of speed and deadlines, of efficiency and complexity, here stands a business woman saying, ‘wait, a second – what on earth are we doing?’ Her book, Fully Connected, argues not to return to a time of wistful nostalgia, to those pre-internet days when apparently we all got on and understood one another, but instead to pause for a moment and reassess whether the route we are going down is an altogether healthy one (she points to how global productivity is stagnant, for instance). Networks are what we should be concentrating on and while these can be cultivated online, they can and should evolve offline.
She is a captivating speaker, at once confident but also thoughtful, and open to debate and discussion. She invited one audience member to say more when she noticed they were nodding their head in agreement, and asked another ‘but, what do you think?’ The book is part memoir, allowing her to personalise her argument and give examples, and expand on ideas that have had the most impact on both herself and her business.
This makes for an intimate experience, but also one in which it is hard to challenge the central argument as to do so would be to change the tone of the event. One audience member did ask her about social mobility and access to these networks, and it is at this point that Hobsbawm’s argument faltered a little, because networks are all about access, who can access what and how that access is spread across society. Despite the ability of the Internet in connecting us both globally and locally, someone, somewhere, still has to let you into the networks that make the difference.
For more on the Edinburgh International Book Festival and it’s programme click here.