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.