Food for Thought

For today’s meal talk, I can sit on both sides of the table. On one side of the table is Friedman’s The World is Flat concept that the world is flat and we are all connected and free to collaborate and work together through the internet, on the other side of the table is Florida’s (2005) idea that the world is spiky and the worlds urban areas are driving the economy and innovation.

From my view as an employee of Purdue University, I see Friedan’s flat world while working with international students. Purdue University ranks second in international student enrollment among all public United States colleges and universities. Purdue actively recruits students from around the world to come to Purdue through social media and websites. Twenty years ago Purdue was recruiting international students through mailings and phone calls. As Friedman explains, search engines provide the platform for students to find out about any university anywhere in the world. When international students arrive on campus they are in constant communication with family and friends through the intranet and social media. I am writing a publication with a student from Ireland, she was at Purdue last semester and is now back in her home country but we continue to meet via video conferencing and work through a shared digital platform to write a publication. I have worked more with her this week than with the co-workers that sit less than ten feet from me in the office.

In stark contrast to collaborating with the student in Ireland, there are parts of rural Indiana that do not have the broadband needed to get access to the knowledge resources that we are producing through Purdue Extension. My engagement with international students resonates with Friedman’s theory and my lack of engagement with local Indiana residents in rural areas because of the lack of broadband resonates with Florida’s (2005) explanation of a spiky world.

Access to broadband and knowledge resources available through technology and digital media supports the economy, attracts businesses, and global competitiveness. Large urban areas have huge demand for technology and digital media because of the amount of people in those urban areas. So how do we drive demand for digital media in rural communities and the need for broadband? I think Clay Shirky’s TED talk provides an important point. He describes innovation as social. So as more people use mobile devices and take part in social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on their mobile devices than the demand for broadband will increase in rural communities. As a Land Grant university Purdue has a responsibility to engage with the residents of Indiana and disseminate knowledge and innovations. Digital media provides a platform for easy dissemination of innovation, but with the lack of access to broadband in rural communities it is increasing difficult to deliver timely innovative information needed to support economic growth. The challenge of connecting people in rural Indiana with digital media relates to Florida’s (2005) concept of a spiky world.

As leaders we must find a way to bring everyone to the digital media table and develop effective strategies to use digital media to support the greater good.


Florida, R. (2005). The world is spiky. Globalization has changed the economic playing field, but hasn’t leveled it 2005: 48-51. The Atlantic Monthly.

5 thoughts on “Food for Thought

  1. To abbreviate your name, I am going with DWDM…

    A nice post, DWDM. Your comments about connecting globally yet unable to connect within the state are spot on. I heard about a project at Case Western Reserve University last year, which wants to provide broadband free to every home and business in Cleveland. They see it as an investment in the students they will get in 20 years.

    With the growing interconnectiveness of both people and “things” (after all, my car now sends me emails), I am wondering if access to broadband will become the next civil right…

    • Great dialogue! Thank you for allowing me to break bread with you. When there are so many options on the buffet, individuals must indulge with caution. Creating the perfect balance for communicating through the use of technology will likely remain a constant challenge. It will take leaders like yourself to share the importance of communicating globally for the greater good.

      The World is Flat summary describes the collaboration of connectedness within various forums, including a simple appointment to creating relationships abroad (Friedman, 2007). Remote activities occur due to advance technology. Business are able to expand beyond the previously established limits. Remaining relevant within one’s perspective discipline and incorporating technology will help establish partnerships and foster continuous engagement. Like Shirky stated, “communication keeps the colony alive” (Shirky, 2008, p. 17). Shirky (2008) also referred to the social influence of technology. Relationships established through the shift in technology forces consumers to conform to the new standards and identify strategies to thrive in the uncertain world, whether spiky or flat (Florida, 2005 & Friedman, 2007)


      Florida, R. (2005). The world is spiky. Globalization has changed the economic playing field, but hasn’t leveled it 2005: 48-51. The Atlantic Monthly.

      Friedman,T. (2007). The world is flat 3.0: A brief history of the twenty-first century summary. Retrieved from

      Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organization. New York, NY: The Penguin Press.

  2. It is an interesting contrast to look at how easy you have connected with international students, but struggle with ones who are closer to home. As I was reading your blog I thought how those rural students are not only disconnected from your institution, but they are also removed from the experience of connecting internationally. Just think of how many different ways these types of disadvantages can affect their learning. They are likely receiving a very different experience from the students in settings with more access. Friedman (2005) wrote about competition and education. While those students who are more disconnected technologically, they are put at a disadvantage.

    As I was reading Florida’s (2005) article, it was clear that technology innovation is actually driven by money, not geography. Your point about what it will take to even the playing field gets to one root of the problem. It takes resources to make sure all individuals have equal access, and it can either come from demand, or possibly a shift in perception, where there is a fundamental belief that with our changing society, all should have access. Shirky (2009) spoke about innovation occurring when something is so common it is taken for granted. If different areas are not in the same place, the innovation will continue to come out of the already technologically advanced areas.

    You make a great statement in that we as leaders must take some responsibility for bringing everyone to the table. This will require work on our part, but as Florida (2005) points out, it is an equity issue.


    Florida, R. (2005). The world is spiky. The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved June 22, 2014, from

    TED Partner Series (2009). Clay Shirky: How cellphones, Twitter, Facebook can make history (Blueline). Retrieved from

    The World is Flat. (2007.). In Wikisummaries. Retrieved June 24, 2014, from,

  3. Interesting reflection! Your personal example of collaborating with a student in Ireland was a great way to tie all three viewpoints together. I, for one, definitely take my access to broadband for granted. I grew up and spent the majority of my life in New Jersey and there are very few places left that do not have access to broadband. Now, as a resident of South Carolina, I have become aware of many more rural areas that don’t even have access to wireless let alone broadband.

    This prompted me to research what is being done by the American government to address the issue of lack of broadband access. “One year ago Congress echoed the Communications Act of 1934 and directed the FCC to develop a National Broadband Plan ensuring that every American has “access to broadband capability” Specifically, the statute dictates:

    “The national broadband plan required by this section shall seek to ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability and shall establish benchmarks for meeting that goal. The plan shall also include:

    1. an analysis of the most effective and efficient mechanisms for ensuring broadband access by all people of the United States,
    2. a detailed strategy for achieving affordability of such service and maximum utilization of broadband infrastructure and service by the public,
    3. an evaluation of the status of deployment of broadband service, including progress of projects supported by the grants made pursuant to this section, and
    4. a plan for use of broadband infrastructure and services in advancing consumer welfare, civic participation, public safety and homeland security, community development, health care delivery, energy independence and efficiency, education, worker training, private sector investment, entrepreneurial activity, job creation and economic growth, and other national purposes.” (The National Broadband Plan)

    While I realize that anything looks good on paper, it will be interesting to watch the progress of the U.S. Government in the coming years as they develop plans to achieve this goal.


    The National Broadband Plan. (2014). Retrieved from

  4. Dining with Digital Media,

    I can completely identify with you on several fronts regarding your experience with the flat and spiky worlds of Friedman and Florida. Our doctoral program is a great example of the world being flat. I, too, have a much stronger connection and sense of community with Creighton University through my online program than I have with my undergraduate and graduate school (master’s degree) programs; both traditional classroom settings. This mirrors your example of working with the young lady from Ireland verses working with your co-workers at your place of employment.

    My fiancé and I live about 30 minutes outside of the city. Surprisingly, no company has built a tower to accommodate the population with grounded internet. This reality has made my world very spiky as it relates to the internet – unfortunately, I’m in the valley of Florida’s spiky world. At work and at friends’ houses in the city, I have consistent internet that is accessible through the university network or a cable company. On the contrary, at my house, we had to purchase a “hot spot” to enjoy the pleasures of the internet – and even that is limited to about 10 gigs a month. Because of this, the internet is regulated so that we can stay within our limits . I hope that a company will see the need and potential profit of building a tower in our area. Everyone in our area would solicit that company’s internet like a fish thrives on the need water.

    In short, I could join you at your table, sitting on both sides of the conversation. When would you like to do lunch…? (smile)

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