In his first piece for True/Slant, Internet wunderkind, Gaurav Mishra, takes aim at Thomas Friedman’s notion of flat, equitable world. Mishra says that the title is misleading, much the way most are, to sell more copies. Technology empowers the oppressors and the oppressed equally and, while the playing field might be leveled, the mighty get to keep moving the goalposts.
My research on the intersection of technology and society has shown me that the world is hardly flat, or even flatter than before. Internet and mobile technologies are like alcohol: they strengthen the tendencies you already have, give you permission to engage in behavior you already want to.
Mishra also said of technology :
They transform some of us into cosmopolitan, global citizens and others into entrenched nationalistic bigots. They makes open societies even more open and closed societies even more closed.
The only objection I would make is that technology creates opportunity where none existed beforehand. Corrupt, oppressive governments have a new means to snoop into the lives of their citizens. The citizenry itself has a new way to spread memes and share what they are feeling, as long as they manage to stay one step ahead of their leaders.
This afternoon I was interviewing the owner of Tuff City Tattoos about the global spread of graffiti art through the Internet. In many places where graffiti books aren’t sold, flourishing graffiti scenes exist because the painters can keep up on global trends via the Web. I recognize this is only one example, about art, nonetheless, but a flat world is not a zero sum game.