Today I’m going to an event at Bournemouth University called  Digital work-life-balance: ‘Going off the grid. 

Off the grid

What does going ‘off the grid’ actually mean? Originally it referred to the electricity grid:  “off-the-grid systems are designed to function without the support of remote infrastructure, such as an electrical grid” says Wikipedia. “Off-the-grid homes are autonomous; they do not rely on municipal water supply, sewer, natural gas, electrical power grid, or similar utility services. A true off-grid house is able to operate completely independently of all traditional public utility services.”

Life off the grid is not necessarily about having no access to electricity, but about being independent from public utilities. This may mean generating your own electric power through renewable energy sources like wind and solar, or it might involve eschewing electricity all together.

By the same token, I’m guessing it need not be about going offline – you can generate your own electricity, fire up your laptop, and connect via satellite, for example.

Disconnecting from the network

In recent years, the popular conception of going off the grid has become less about the electricity network and more about the internet network. And whereas going off the electricity grid represented escape from centralised political and corporate power, going off the internet is more about escaping from the superconnected digital world.

Going off the grid and away from the internet is seen as a healing disconnection from the ills of the network (and all the people on it). Companies like Camp Grounded , for example, offer the chance to ‘unplug and get away’

Trade in your computer, cell phone, email, digital cameras, clocks, schedules, work-jargon, networking events and conferences for four days of pure, unadulterated off-the-grid camp fun. Together, we’ll create a community where status updates, job titles, bitcoins and “busyness” models are worth little… and individuality, self-expression, community, friendship, and memories are what matter most.

At the same time, books like Unplugged: The Essential Digital Detox Plan explore ways to improve wellbeing in a connected world.

Looking for ideas

Today at this networking meeting I’ll be sifting through the different claims about whether going off the grid in terms of going offline is a good idea, and if it is, what are the best ways to do it.

Follow the event via @bournemouthuni @balancenetwork #DigitalWLB #GoingofftheGrid #BUtourism