Everybody knows the world is becoming increasingly inter-connected. Many people also know the international system is not up to the task of managing this global interdependence. Few people, I expect, look at what needs to be done from both a top down and a bottom up perspective. I intend to do so in this blog.
When I think of “top down,” I am referring to the role summits of government leaders do and could play. When I think of “bottom up”, I am referring to the role individuals are increasingly able to play as a result of the development of social media.
Summits seem to many to be exorbitantly expensive events that produce demonstrations and consequential police action. Could the same result not be achieved through one or several conference calls, enhanced by video if need be?
Everybody also knows that power is more and more widely distributed in the international system. There has been a major growth in the scope for and the role of what are called “non-state actors.” The latter include individuals, private sector corporations and non-governmental organizations.
Something else is happening. We are moving into a world where those on the Internet, whether on a computer or a smart phone, can be broadcasters. People can find out what other people are writing without knowing who they are. People can find other people who are angry (or happy) about something or someone. People interact and form networks. This development is not necessarily positive (the potential for generating “echo chambers” through narrow-casting is real) but I would argue generally the results so far have been useful.
I am not writing this blog for myself. Rather I am writing it to engage you the reader who have already borne with me for a minute of your time. I will want more of your time, but obviously will only get it if you are interested in undertaking this extended conversation. I am quite open as to how we should proceed. There are a number of different roads to Rome (defined as a better world – we can discuss later what that might mean). Moving eastwards to Greece from Rome, I would like to see this blog as a kind of virtual agora.
So I intend to listen before my fingers fly (sic) on the keyboard. Then we will determine collectively where we are going. I shall respond in turn to your comments. We have power if we work together. As a matter of fact, the wonderful hosts of this blog have proposed one “rule” which I am ignoring, if you agree. They asked me to write three blogs in advance of the first going out. I say: “No; I want to decide with those interested where exactly (at least more or less) this enterprise is going."
Let me leave you with one idea/question. How would you define the role of social media in the events of the last year in the Middle East and North Africa? It seems too easy to cast off the extremes – on the one hand that social media had no significant impact or on the other that these were/are social media driven revolutions. The reality was/is something between the two. In my mind what is key is that social media told people very quickly what was happening and what others were thinking. The virtual interaction that occurred facilitated practical action in the streets.