1. How can Facebook be seen as a flattener?
When Friedman wrote The World is Flat, he did not mention Facebook as a flattener, because Facebook was launched in 2004 and still only on college campuses in 2005 when this book was first published. The social networking service was first established on the Harvard campus by student Mark Zuckerberg and other computer science students as a student exchange network. By summer 2004 Zuckerberg had relocated to Palo Alto, California, to establish the network on hundreds of college campuses. In 2006 Facebook was opened to everyone. By 2007, Facebook was being widely used by businesses that could create connections, hold events, generate business and publicity with fan pages and posts to followers in a multiple user worldwide environment more dynamic than simply using linked webpages. In 2010 Facebook allowed users to become beta testers after solving computational puzzles. If they qualified they could be hired by Facebook to improve the product. By 2011 Facebook was the largest online photo host, a hub that could be accessed by mobile phone where the public could meet and make friends, display profiles and photos, post messages, have conversations, give positive feedback (“liking”) to a comment or product that would post on other pages, join groups, shop, play games, and find old acquaintances. A Facebook Messages Service allowed the combining of e-mail, text messages, and instant messaging, By 2012, Facebook had one billion users, worldwide, using multiple languages. An online social network of this magnitude across nationalities creates an instant global shared experience, flattening time, space, and walls of every kind. Facebook has been criticized for problems of privacy, with people able to access personal information and using it for wrong purposes. It has also been studied and found to cause a psychological addiction and unhappiness to those who spend too much time on it.
2. What have been some surprises with social networking and globalization?
One important point made by Friedman inThe World Is Flatis that the Middle Eastern countries were being left out of the technological globalization process, and this frustration was one force leading to 9/11. In 2011, the world was shocked to see a different scenario however: Muslim dissidents, mostly young students or intellectuals who were Internet-savvy, started a revolution in Tunisia and Egypt with social networking tools, calling for democratic reform. In his book Revolution 2.0, a young Egyptian Google executive in Dubai, WaelGhonim, tells how he saw on a Facebook page the bloodied and beaten body of Khaled Mohamed Said, killed by the police. He immediately created a Facebook page as a memorial calling it “We Are All Khaled Said” and called for action to stop the brutality. Within three months, 250,000 people had joined the page. The historic rallies in Tahrir Square in Cairo were organized on Facebook and began on January 25, 2011. Similar rallies in the Arab Spring took place in Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain.
In his popular book, The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company that is Connecting the World (2010), David Kirkpatrick mentions that one of the virtues of Facebook is its ability to attract people to a common cause or interest. Analysts of the Arab Spring of 2011 talk about how revolution is now created through blogs, tweets, texting, YouTube, and Facebook. In a study Professor Philip Howard and Muzammil M. Hussain (Democracy's Fourth Wave? Digital Media and the Arab Spring, 2013) found that social media published messages across North Africa and the Middle East raising hope for freedom and democracy to millions who rallied to public demonstrations against repressive governments, all within a few weeks. This phenomenon was simultaneously broadcast to international news media and sympathetic individuals around the world via the same media. The week before Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's resignation, the total tweets about the situation rose from 2,300 a day to 230,000 a day. Facebook and blogs increased the attention on the protestors, giving them
international support. Howard found the countries that were most successful had the highest number of cell phone users. They kept a steady stream of photos and information going out to the world.
3. What has been the reception of Friedman's book, The World is Flat?
Friedman has won three Pulitzer prizes for his journalism and is highly respected as a columnist for the New York Times and a public speaker. The World is Flat won the inaugural Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award in 2005. The book has received mostly positive reviews from the reading public and was on the New York Times best-seller list. The book summarizes how a global Internet platform is making people part of one common world.
There have been critical responses to his book, however. Though Friedman spends a lot of time on Indian business development, his portrait of India's IT industry was not appreciated by P. Sainath, rural affairs editor for The Hindu, who thinks Friedman's view of a flat world is too biased toward the United States. Professor Pankaj Ghemawat in an article for Harvard Business School's Foreign Policy magazine(2007) refutes Friedman idea of a totally unified and wired world. He asserts that most web traffic, cell phone calls, and investments are local. Friedman has exaggerated the picture of a new globalized and homogenous world, he says. Professor John Gray from the London School of Economics and Political Science wrote a review that disputes the idea of globalization making the world more peaceful. Richard Florida also rejected certain of Friedman's assumptions of flatness in his article for the Atlantic in 2005, “The World is Spiky.” Other critics point out Friedman's American point of view in the book. They would like a review of the facts that is more objective and inclusive, instead of biased toward Americans winning a technological football game. His characterization of other cultures, such as in India, Arab countries, and Mexico, for instance, is sometimes insensitive. He does not always understand the implications of technology for cultural values, religion, or ways of life. On the other hand, prominent writers have agreed with Friedman, such as Nobel laureate economist, Joseph Stiglitz in his book, Making Globalization Work.
4. What are some arguments for and against globalization?
Globalization is a term describing the phenomenon of international integration of cultural ideas and products, resulting from increasing ease of travel, communication, and the opening of international business markets. Countries have become more interdependent, rather than isolated and discrete sovereign nations. There is increasingly a common culture over and above local culture. Many, like Thomas Friedman, feel this is a healthy development that will increase opportunities and world peace with shared values and communication. It is expected that children will grow up bicultural, with both their own ethnic background and the new global Internet culture. On the other hand, some critics point out that local cultures and ancient traditions suffer and are endangered by the new technological advances and values. Ethnic identity is lost, and the young do not want to preserve the old wisdom, crafts, or languages.
“Globalization” had a negative connotation in the 1980s and 1990s with criticism aimed at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank of the United Nations that loan money favoring international companies' investment in developing countries. The World Bank has also funded projects like hydroelectric dams that displace indigenous people. These economic policies, though meant to remove poverty with business development in poor regions, can interfere in the natural economies of traditional peoples, who, for instance, might be fishermen, but forced to work in factories. Environmental issues might follow, with timber being depleted, water polluted, and diverse food crops replaced with monocrops like sugarcane. As Friedman points out, globalization began with European imperialism. Critics argue that though we say we live in a postcolonial world, Western values still rule, and ethnic peoples are now dominated economically and technologically, rather than politically. Economist Takis Fotopoulos describes the current domination of a transnational elite. In a more positive vein, sociologists Martin Albrow and Elizabeth King in Globalization, Knowledge, and Society (1990) have seen this globalization process as leading to a single world society and identity that transcends tribal and national divisions.
5. Is globalization good for the environment?
Globalization can be seen as both a positive and negative force for the environment. On the one hand, with a growing population and a world consumer lifestyle, natural resources are rapidly depleted and the environment spoiled. On the other hand, nations are joining hands in crises like climate change, waste management, and pollution to ecosystems.
Climate change leading to severe weather conditions all over the world is partly blamed on human activities, such as the increase of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion, deforestation, and the use of aerosols and refrigerants, causing ozone depletion in the atmosphere. With ozone depletion, the earth has less protection from the sun; global warming of earth's surface temperature results. Human activity in terms of industrial pollution, overpopulation in cities, and resource depletion are blamed on global modernization. Smaller cultures with fewer people and local economies had ethics about caring for the land which gave them their livelihood. As Friedman points out, the middle class today lives a prosperous life from services and intellectual property and does not need to be much in touch with physical labor or the outdoors.
Various world conferences have been held in Geneva, Kyoto, and Copenhagen on climate change and other environmental issues to get a world consensus and legal framework for new standards. Though the United States has been a leader in technology, it is not the leader it could be in the area of environmental change. It is one of the few countries that did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. In his book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How it Can Renew America (2008) Friedman criticizes Americans for their laxness, calling for clean energy, biodiversity, and a major global initiative led by engineers and entrepreneurs, rather than governments, who can rally business and money behind an environmental revolution.