Flat World Rules – Friedman Lives

After considering the first week’s readings and the videos that we were instructed to watch, I am very hopeful about the practical uses of the knowledge and insights that we will gain in this class. I had read previous versions of Friedman’s book and found it to be entertaining and enlightening. The summary that was provided for us provided little that was new in my opinion. However, I found the article by Florida to represent a new perspective to which I had not been previously exposed. The “spiky world” and its consequences are hard to deny based on the volume of demographic data and the way in which it is presented. In spite of the hard evidence that Florida presents it does not eliminate the practical truth of Friedman’s suggestion that in a flattened world more and more people can participate in the world’s economy in ways that were previously denied based on location.


I believe that the two points of view should be synthesized to get a more complete picture of the realities that exist in today’s world. The lack of a spike in Australia does not keep a software engineer from collaborating with colleagues in South Africa (another spikeless location) to generate new products that can be sold and consumed around the world. Friedman’s point that the tools and mechanisms for distribution are available throughout the world is quite valid and does not change because of the lack of spikes in various parts of the world.


Listening to Shirky’s talk leads me to believe that he would land on the side of Friedman. The open participation that Shirky mentions is clearly a result of the “ten forces that flattened the world” mentioned by Friedman. Florida paints a picture of a world of increasingly high peaks that make it harder to get out of the deepening valleys. Shirky gave evidence that even though China would generally show up as a “valley” in Florida’s paradigm, the reality is that through the technologies that have flattened the world the people in the valleys of China were able to make an impact on the government of China which was accustomed to controlling the flow of information by establishing their own wall around their people. These walls (or peaks) proved to be easily scalable with the right types of technology.


A reasonable question to be asked is “are these concepts still relevant?” Even before I knew we were to write about this question I was thinking to myself that this data – especially the Atlantic Monthly article from Florida – was quite old given the rapid pace of change in today’s world. I did investigate Florida’s website which would be a worthwhile resource for anyone in this class. However, there was no follow-up on this “spiky world” paradigm that I could find. I hope to do some more research on this in the upcoming days. I do find Florida’s work intriguing and worthy of our consideration even though the data used is nearly 10 years old.


7 thoughts on “Flat World Rules – Friedman Lives

  1. Julie Fickas says:

    Your comments drove me to Google Richard Florida. The theory he is apparently most well-known for is his theory regarding the creative class. The “spiky world” paradigm is derived from this theory. He equates strong innovative forces from his termed “super-creative class” with economic gains. I agree with you that his viewpoint can be synthesized with Friedman’s. Where there may be hubs of strong innovative forces in urban areas where people are more densely organized to collaborate, innovation can spread either from these areas or it can rise up spontaneously in remote areas as you suggested because technology is available.

  2. I had never read anything in particular from these authors, but found the Friedman summary interesting. I quite enjoyed the Shirky video, so I’m looking forward to the readings coming up from the Shirky text as well. He seems to have a great grasp on the ‘here and now’ in technology, so his views should be quite interesting.

    Creative Class is an interesting organization. Looks like a consulting firm, but they are clearly interested in letting us know how much they are involved in philanthropy, which is curious as well.

    I would agree that what Florida has to say is only as good as the data, which is somewhat old. I don’t know that a lot of it has changed significantly, such as things like areas where there are a great number of patents or scientific publications. However I don’t necessarily think that is a great indicator of where technology is ‘flattening’ the world either. I think I’m pretty tech savvy – I teach online. This is my second graduate degree I’m pursuing online. However, I haven’t submitted a patent or made significant enough scientific publications (one) to make a difference in his map. I think the economic benefits will come once the technology becomes pervasive throughout a culture and ‘flattens’ it further.

  3. The concern I have with Shirky’s article is that it assumes in my thoughts that no one is creative outside of those spiky areas. On the contrary its uber amazing that most of the people involved in Cyber crimes are predominantly in Romania and surronding countries,

    In the military we see places that aren’t on Florida’s spikes causing quite a commotion so I caution folks to think that creativity is mainly is those places he identified. I have personally witnesses technology in Africa being a bit behind times but I think that will change very soon.

  4. Nice post. You raise some good questions. I have been questioning for two years whether to start this course with Friedman/Florida … yet the dialogue continues to be new to many in this class … and it raises the issue of the complexity of the wired world … something only looking at Shirky might gloss over.

  5. Your synthesizing of the article, video and book synopsis were very enlightening! I agree that the lack of spikes in a region does not stop communication with that region. There are several places where technology and innovation is concentrated only in a particular area, but are displayed on the map with no spikes. I feel that there are parts of both authors work that are still relevant, even if some of the data is old; the premise of each is still valid.

    I was intrigued by the website you shared, that I decided to examine it myself. On the website, there were an abundance of resources, videos and articles to explore. I even watched a video from Richard Florida! It appears this organization is very involved in stimulating creative minds!

  6. Sarahjini Nunn says:

    Well stated! I must agree that the two writers are examining two separate variables; opportunity and current innovation. The lack of innovation (spikes) in one area of the world certainly does not negate the opportunity for others to join in on the fun. The opportunity is there for all who dare to seek it according to Shirky. What an inspiring thought! I can be in a remote part of the world with my laptop and an internet connection and connect with people ad businesses around the world.

    However, Florida (2005) did present an interesting perspective. While opportunity is open to the world, only select areas of the world are capitalizing on the opportunities. This leads me to wonder what the real issue is. Culture? Government restrictions? Lack of knowledge? I have to believe that in the future, many more individuals and small businesses will figure out how to partake in the opportunity.

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