The World is Flat the World is Spiky

This is my first post relating to my IDL 831 Leadership and Technologies Class. Those of you who are taking this exciting course with me understand this, but we must also realize that these posts have the potential of be seen by countless millions of people all around the world. This knowledge is supported by the fact that the Internet, on which this page of information is being posted, has the potential to reach the outermost fringes of our world. Thus, what we blog here in this relatively small cyber classroom has the potential to affect the masses. I therefore direct my thoughts inwardly that I might learn from you, and outwardly, that I may share our collective thoughts with those whom, though invisible to me, may be giants in their own realm of influence.

Is The World Flat or Spikey

This week’s topic of discussion rests on the question of whether the world is flat, that is to say, a level playing field, or spikey, which means concentrated into only a few elite urban areas (Florida, 2005). Richard Florida (2005) argues that concentrations of innovations exacerbate the economic and social disparities that already exist around the world (Florida, 2005). Further, it is proposed that if the trend continues to rise, the divide will require a consorted political effort to solve in the coming decades (Florida, 2005). On the other side of the coin, Thomas Friedman, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner for his work in the subject matter, believes that technology has leveled the playing field in the area of innovations globally. Friedman (2005) contends, that the ability to adapt and specialize where need is, drives a global economy, and that this drive can be realized by anyone, anywhere and at any time as long as they tap into the endless resources technology provides (Friedman, 2005).

My Thoughts

has long been my belief that the boundless potential of a free market society is driven by those who are willing to put their time, effort and muscle into innovative products, services, and ideas. That said, technology has given more people the opportunity to make their voices heard. Technologies like the Internet, as one example, have allowed the masses to share ideas and ultimately achieve great things. Technology has truly made the world flat. It has given everyone the ability to excel. There are a few deterrents to this ability to excel. Certainly, there are those who do not have the drive or the ability to utilize the vast amount of freedom technology affords. This is not unlike the problems that have occurred as the result of technologies from past centuries. Over-all, however, technology has made even the poorest, in the United States for example, recipients of far more leisure than the vast majority of our ancestors.
It can be said that there are many countries that remain in poverty, even in the electronic age. Yet, it can also be said that there are many oppressive governments still active in many parts of our world, thus making technology less productive in such areas. This does not diminish the fact that spikes can be flattened for the benefit of all through technological advance. We can fly around the world in a day, send an email in a minute and call a friend in a second. This certainly proves, at least in my mind, that the world truly is flat, and that the spikes are only as high and sharp as oppressive regimes allow them to be. As for the fact that spike-less areas reside in every area of the world even under the banner of freedom, this phenomena is largely exacerbated by many that fail to take advantage of all that technology offers. That is where leadership comes into play. It is the duty of our leaders to help the masses reach their potential through education. In this class, we were instructed to watch a video by Clay Shirky. He states emphatically that an individual has the potential to get a message out the world at any time they want (Shirky, 2009). That statement along with many of his other statements leads me to believe that he believes that the world is as flat as I do. In his ending statement, he gives us the key to how this can happen by stating the question, “how can we make the best use of this medium, even if it means changing the way we’ve always done it” (Shirky, 2009)? The answer, I believe, is changing how people view technology through education, positive reinforcement, and progressive leadership.

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Diana March 7, 2014, 6:10 pm

    While I agree in principle that the Internet and technology have enabled growth and development, I hesitate to agree that only oppressive regimes prevent capitalizing on them. That is, unless you consider the United States economic policy oppressive. Certainly, the Internet has allowed tremendous opportunity that was not previously available. My participation in the Creighton doctoral program is an excellent example! Still, economics play an enormous factor in opportunity. In order to take advantage of the Internet and mobile technologies, participants must have the financial resources to acquire the tools – laptops, tablets, cellphones and service providers. Those living in poverty can hardly afford water and electric. The costs of technology are not feasible. So, while I agree that the technologies provide tremendous opportunities, realistically, they are out of reach for many.

    • Jay March 7, 2014, 6:20 pm

      It is interesting that you mention financial availability. In the United States there are many people who are homeless; yet, having worked with them in the past few months, I have found that they can have access to these technologies. Libraries are available, community centers, and universities. Where there is a will there is a way. I dare not say that it is with ease that the world is flat, but it is certainly attainable through education, direction, and desire. Is the ability to innovate tied to having these tools in our homes? I have met a lot of homeless people who have cell phones. In fact, Medicaid, in the State of Indiana has a program where people who have little can get a cell phone and a voucher to pay the bill. I would say that it would be hard to truly solve a problem with such vast implications and complexities as what we are discussing this week in one blog-post, but there are some interesting ideas that have been developed in our discourse.

      Thank you,
      Jay Prewitt

  • Twaina Harris March 7, 2014, 8:08 pm

    Our backgrounds, experiences, and surroundings shape our views and beliefs about our world. So, I understand your position about the flat world and the reason for it. From your perspective, only those of us subjected to oppressive regimes are prohibited from taking advantage of the wonders of technology. From my perspective, as a servant worker in higher education, there are students this college campus from regions of Africa where they parents have to walk a couple of hours to mail them a letter and even further for computer access to send an email. In this case, oppression has nothing to do it. These parents live in place where they simply don’t have access.

    Also, from your perspective, everyone in the United States, including the poor, enjoy the leisure provided by technology. Do you believe that every person in the US have been privileged to experience air travel, have an email address, and have a cell phone, or a telephone at all? From my perspective, I can attest to the fact that there are people in the state where I live who have not. Some people have to use a neighbor’s phone. Yes, they do have access to a phone, but I don’t think they would refer to their situation as leisure. Granted some have chosen not to experience these technological conveniences; however, others want to have these experiences but can’t financially afford them.

    From my perspective, I disagree with the notion that the world is flat.

    • Jay March 8, 2014, 4:48 am

      I can understand you point, when I was younger I grew up in a very poor home. We did not have a phone, could not afford cable television, or a color one for that matter, and certainly did not have the luxuries that most of those around us had. Still technology pressed forward and made these things more affordable. It was through great personal effort that I have been able to have leisure, as you have mentioned. Yet, the idea of leisure is not really what I was trying to get across. opportunity, was the real point of my post. That is to say, your neighbor who had to use another’s phone did not have it leisurely, but the technology was available even in a limited capacity. Thus, their world became a little flatter. Access is the main point, not how much work must be applied to obtain such access. I find that innovators, such as Alexander Graham Bell, struggled to attain their innovations, but through effort, hard work, persistence, and sheer will power many innovators have overcome great obstacles to make there mark. It was said once that Bell failed over 1000 times before he finally got the telephone right, that was not leisure. It is not whether someone has something conveniently available that makes the world flat, but how hard they work at using technology that is available. Available at a neighbors house, a library, a university, a local shelter, there are options for those who work at achieving. I will say, there are some that mentally or physically may be unable to use new technologies, but this does not make the world spiky. In my opinion, of course.

      Good reply,
      Jay Prewitt

  • Britt Watwood March 8, 2014, 4:39 pm

    Jay, nice post. We definitely will not solve this one this week…but you raise interesting points about “access”…which might be defined differently by some in this course and globally. As an optimist, I see flatteners within the opportunities afforded by this access…which is growing more available and lower cost daily.

    Case Western Reserve University has been working on a project to provide broadband free of charge to every home in Cleveland…with the thought that in 20 years, they will get a better quality of student. We certainly live in interesting times!

  • Paolo Narciso March 10, 2014, 1:24 am

    Hi Diana,

    I like your perspective that education can play a role in reducing the “spikiness” and inequalities in the world. As I read your posts, and the posts of others in our class, it’s interesting to see an emerging theme of social justice. There is a strong desire to fix a spiky world and make sure technology is accessible to all But is Friedman or Florida’s article about justice? Or does it even matter if the world is flat or spiky?

    One of the interesting things about Friedman’s argument is that he reports the world as he sees it — and makes us think about how we should personally respond in order to compete in the flat world. Florida almost agrees with Friedman, but I don’t think he actually condemns a spiky world. It appears that Florida is telling us that we should think about culture and creating cultures where people would want to congregate in order to compete. Do you agree?

    Also, I agree with you that while access to technology might not be available for all, the trickle down effect makes it better for everyone and society as a whole benefits when the world is flat. I also like that you put personal responsibility on the individual to use technology, and to use the technology in the right way. Your posts remind me that technology is an enabler versus a solution on its own merit. If someone uses the technology incorrectly, it can cause problems (think cyber-bullying), but used correctly like Shirky’s example of China, it can cause the world to open up positively.

    Thanks so much for your post!


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