on the Popularity of Empty Places

Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo!, recently announced that all remote workers would soon be required to report to physical offices.

Whether or not the decision is agreeable, I find it interesting that this was apparently a matter of such great proportion that only the CEO could address it. I imagine a giant, monolithic Yahoo! office, tumbleweeds floating through hallways, and Mayer, alone, shouting into the emptiness: “Return!”

Other leaders, managers, or vice presidents could have made an effort to wrangle up the herd. Or were they, too, hacking away at a keyboard in their bathrobes at home? Mayer’s decision to personally make the statement seems to indicate either a grand political maneuver, or a last ditch attempt to solve a monstrously large problem.

Either way, the corridors of Yahoo! aren’t the only places that seem empty lately. In music and television, the echoes of solitude ricochet often. The French website La Blogotheque recently released a music video series called “Empty Spaces.”

The producers have arranged for grand physical locations to be abandoned (in the first video, an ornate Parisian library) and filled in by musicians to play their songs with the same honesty and intensity as they would were a giant crowd in the room with them.

What is the idea, here?

I sense a connection between the imagery of a band playing to a lifeless room, and the Yahoo! story, and maybe even a TV series like LOST in which the physical environment people inhabit is stripped of all ‘normal’ connectivity.

With all of our devices blinking and tracking and routing, giving our minds the freedom to kind of ignore the physical space around us, have we forgotten what it’s like to just ‘be where you are’? And is that anxiety collectively materializing in art such as Empty Spaces and LOST, as well as in the attendance policies of corporate America?

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