It’s time for us to remem­ber that civic and com­mer­cial inno­va­tion can thrive on the local lev­el as well – not just glob­al­ly. The argu­ment against Balka­niza­tion, made by US-based tech­nol­o­gy giants, has always relied on some per­verse notion and at times fun­da­men­tal­ist notion of utopi­an cos­mopoli­tanism: if only we are allow max­i­mum inter­con­nec­tion, inter­cul­tur­al con­tacts will get estab­lished, peo­ple in Mali will dis­cov­er peo­ple in Mon­tana, every­one will sud­den­ly care about African war­lords like Joseph Kony, and so on. Yet, per­haps, it’s time to ques­tion whether the pur­suit of this cos­mopoli­tan agen­da has served us well. We want­ed to build a glob­al vil­lage – only to end up with a glob­al panop­ti­con instead. There’s lit­tle evi­dence that peo­ple in Mon­tana are any more con­cerned about Mali than two decades ago. At the same time, the cos­mopoli­tan impulse – strate­gi­cal­ly played up by Sil­i­con Val­ley in seem­ing­ly noble ini­tia­tives like (a Face­book-led effort to get the remain­ing five bil­lion peo­ple con­nect­ed) has stopped us from exper­i­ment­ing with com­mu­ni­ca­tion mod­els that, while pos­si­bly less inte­grat­ed at the glob­al lev­el, would pro­mote dif­fer­ent val­ues locally.

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Kars Alfrink

Kars is a designer, researcher and educator focused on emerging technologies, social progress and the built environment.