TechTrotter: Innovation Happens Everywhere

TechTrotter started as a global investigation into innovation hubs often overlooked by the mainstream press.

After two months in Brazil I relocated to India and my observations now cover technology in daily use, Web trends and weird and wonderful aspects of life in the world's largest democracy

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Guarav Mishra argues flat world is an optical illusion

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.

I like Mishra’s argument, though I question the notion that in all cases the Internet simply amplifies the existing; for every Great Firewall of China, there is a nation of bloggers, like Iran.

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.

TechTrotter Interviews Tom Friedman of The New York Times

Our first multimedia feature on TechTrotter is an unexpected interview with columnist, author and tastemaker Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times.  Late last week Friedman was spotted hanging around the Columbia Journalism School building and when I saw him Friday, I sprang into action. Although he was loath to discuss why he was on campus, speculation is rampant that is has something to do with the announcement of Pulitzer Prize awards.

Friedman is someone I admire for his prescience and depth of knowledge. The premise of Friedman’s book, ‘The World is Flat,‘ singlehandedly inspired the TechTrotter excursion, because as he told me in our interview, when someone in Philadelphia has a good idea, someone in the Philippines has that idea one second later. I would even venture to say that someone in Philly might have that idea a second after someone in Manila, though I’ve got nothin’ but love for Philly. In sum, competition in a flattened world means that innovation can and will come from unlikely quarters.

While I have been challenged by Friedman’s ideas, since I started reading his column over a decade ago, his image has been tarnished in no small part by his ardent support for the Iraq War, his denunciations of the Obama bailout strategy and his calls for the Federal Government to bailout venture capitalists, his influence will live on in the strength of his ideas, whether or not people are willing to swallow all of what he has to say.

As far as global entrepreneurship and competition from the developing world are concerned, his writing was sage, and I invite you to disagree as politely or forcefully as you wish.