If you just got here, this is Part 3 of God only knows how many parts to the new overview for Global Neighborhoods.Please read the preceding two parts before you get here. I am looking for feedback. I want you to help me write a better book.
3. Culture Blending & World Peace
There’s another way that Onliners are likely to change the world. They are culture blenders. They meet somewhere online and discuss a local pop group in East London, or about Global warming. They sit in their own rooms or cafes or occasionally huts and they bring themselves transparently into the conversation. Because it is on the Internet it is available for others to see and will remain available for a very long time.
This process grinds slowly and steadily at certain historic barriers between cultures. People discover online how much alike they are when they meet to discuss a topic online. Clothing or race or sex may have prevented the conversation from even starting in the real world. Some cultural barriers remain formidable, language for example. Yet Onliners manage to side step them at east a little bit through universal languages of music and pictures.
The world of the Onliner is often described as small and getting smaller. It is simultaneously getting bigger.
A case in point is Annie, a Scottish honors student whose parents rarely travel outside Scotland. She was accepted into an accelerated languages program when she was 16. As her term project, she created a video podcast version of “The Dating Game,” using classmates as contestants. Except for one little hitch. The entire program was conducted in Japanese and was digitally produced on the Internet. There, the Japanese media picked it up and started emailing her for interviews. She has become quite popular there and has been invited o speak there. She has also had to turn down a couple of marriage proposals from older Japanese gentlemen.
Culture blending is making something else noticeable, something that has probably been going on all along. But now, the tools are making it more obvious.
One example: Two Saudi teens are observed sitting at opposite ends of a table in a tent. They are both children of a wealthy family. Between them, a stern chaperone stays vigilantly. Her job is to make certain that these two are never alone, that they do nothing improper. Above all they must never touch, at least not until the wedding night that their two families decided on before they ever met. So their they sit at opposite ends, each seemingly ignoring the other, appearing slightly bored, each fidgeting with a cell phones, Beneath the unknowing eyes of their stern-faced chaperone, they are using these phones to send each other text messages. In fact, they are vigorously flirting.
On another peninsula, on another continent, a teenaged boy and girl sit back-to-back in a South Korean shopping center, their fingers dancing on cellular keypads. Even though they are touching each other in a very public venue, they are using phone messaging to send intimate notes to each other. This same behavior is also observed in Finland and among U.S. teens. Part of this story is as old as the human species. Young people have always flirted with each othe. But the tools they use have evolved. They can now be miles apart while passing notes through this new channel. Text chat has other anticipated applications. In Cupertino California, teacher have caught kids during exams, text messaging with friends outside the school, looking up the right answers in textbooks.
Yet, all this online culture blending cannot offset a universal truth. Nothing quite beats a face to face meeting. Hopefully, nothing ever will. Most people hope this fact never changes. But as the Onliners come of age, other low cost networks are making direct communications easier and much less expensive. While everyone knows the power of Skype, which now carries ten percent of the telephone traffic between the US and Europe, but there is a whole new generation of telephony services that will cost users a fraction of what Skype charges and will not require being tethered to your computer.
Even more important, low cost airline services have sprouted up in Europe, North America and Asia. They are providing a safe, bare bones means for people who could never travel before to visit almost anywhere. This includes people who meet online, who are already starting to meet at international gatherings of people who found out Online that others shared their subjects of passion.
In many ways, the Online Generation is fulfilling the dreams of the Boomers. Like most generations, the Boomers ended up a pragmatic and productive generation. But they started out an idealistic lot. They talked of power to the people. They talked of world peace.
The challenge for business is that the power is now rapidly moving to the people and they will decide more about their futures that enterprises and institutions. The challenge of many of the world’s governments is that their citizens may be more dedicated to peace and tolerance than they are.
There is little doubt that the social media are moving power into the hands of people. Simple conversations online are already disrupting even the best financed branding campaigns. There is even some scant, but hopeful evidence that not only will Onliners make business more efficient and transparent, they also accomplish more than the Boomers did in that touchy area of world peace.
Take a look at Ine Dehandschutter, now a professional Belgian photographer. At 19, she received a scholarship to study photography in Jerusalem. While there, she developed two strong friendships, one with a Palestinian and the other with an Israeli. The two young men were equally shocked and disturbed that Ine would be friendly with someone on the other side of the barrier that separates Arab East Jerusalem from the Israeli sector. They continuously used Ine as a conduit to send messages to each other. At first the messages were acerbic, but over time, Ine’s diplomatic skills coupled with her personal passion for peace reduced the tone on both sides to a gentle chiding. After a while, Ine grew tired of serving as their mutual relay station. So she emailed them both and told them to pick up to chat directly and leave her out of it.
This resulted in several days of silence followed by light pings from one to the other then back again. The conversation grew more regular. The arguments remained impassioned but they became less hostile. The online relationship normalized as the two discovered how much common ground they shared. Eventually they did the natural thing. They met for coffee, face to face and as Ine had predicted, they discovered that they really liked each other. They stopped being an Arab and a Jew and became two friends talking over coffee.
Well, Ine wondered, if it could work between two people, why not between two groups? So she found a teacher’s group already dedicated to fomenting world peace in the classroom and suggested they use social media for a new experiment. They built a private online community and recruited to high school classes, one Palestinian and one Israeli.
The kids began by discussing simple matters. How do they help their parents prepare for holidays? What do the wear to school? How do they get along with siblings? The two groups share many photos and discover they all look a lot alike. The folk music of the two cultures has certain similarities as do their two languages. Eventually, they too got to meet, share food and play soccer together. Ine’s biggest hope is that if teens can meet on a soccer field, maybe a few years later, they won’t meet on a battlefield. Buoyed by this success, the educators progressively expand the program to include other teenagers in Europe and Africa continuing to use social media to bring together groups of significant cultural diversity.