There is nothing like a flat world

We are different. It is the real strength of human species. We have different habits, different mindsets, different cultural background, different languages, different history, different ways we dress, different styles, different behaviors, different food, different houses and architectures, different looks and physical aspect. That is not bad at all. Being different, we can learn from each other. We can try something different when we travel and visit other countries, we can become aware that there is not a single point of view. Being different does not mean that you can easily say which culture or society is more advanced and which is more primitive. Maybe a gap does exist, but not necessarily. Are jeans better than kimono or jallaba? Is Coca Cola better than Crodino? Is whisky better than sake or vodka? Do you really need an MP3 reader or a mobile phone to demonstrate that you belong to a civilized society? Sure you do not. In fact, it is possible to find mobile phones even in poor and underdeveloped countries as well as in dictatorships. Technology is not a reliable measurament of your level of civilization.

So we are different, but what is about the so called global world? Is the web a global place because you can interact with people from any other country? Are Facebook or other social networks really global places? Sure they are, but they are flat too, whereas the world it is not and we have to hope it will never be. Because we are different, and differences are a richness. It is quite useful to have a language as English that allows us to communicate, whatever is our native language, for example, but the existence of different idioms is an intellectual capital that has to be preserved anyway, because they are not simply different ways to voice thoughts and concepts, but they are intrinsically connected with different ways to think, different points of view about life and the world around us. A language is the mirror of life as intended in a specific place.

And again, we are different. Even when we speak the same language, wear the same dresses, eat the same food, watch the same TV shows, we are different. But the web, the global web, mostly designed by people leaving in USA, seems to ignore it. In most social networks you cannot search by language or by country. Why? Well, you may want to surf the web to keep in touch with some interesting guy or gal in Japan or Africa, in Australia or Alaska, but in most cases the real network is with people that can understand you, not just because you speak the same language, but because you live in the same culture.

Think about Twitter. Short messages: hard to understand references to people, events, and situations which are typical of a specific country. For example, how many people outside Italy may understand any reference to Carosello? Even if you explain to them that it was a small show made of commercial video clips, you will never be able to explain what it represented for two or three generations of Italian children. Similarly, most of Italians cannot understand references to typical TV shows which Americans are keen of, as the Muppets. Of course, many people know who they are, but not what they really represented for Americans, because it is something strictly related to the American society and culture. This is one of the typical reasons most of people living outside USA cannot understand specifica references to aspects of American society in serials and teleplays. That is why it is really difficult for any person to understand a comedian belonging to another country. It is not a matter of language, but of cultural background.

The point is that actually the web is not really global, but a global extension of the American websphere. Of course you have other webspheres in Internet. The Chinese one is really big, but it is mostly a black box for the Western countries. The Spanish and the Brazilian webspheres are quite large too. On the other hand, many European webspheres based on languages different from English, as the French, the German, and the Italian one, are small and separated bubbles, with several links to the English websphere but few links from it. In fact, most of the non-Anglophone people knows at least a little bit of English, whereas it is not necessarily true the vice versa.

So, the world is not flat at all, but most of Americans do not know it. In fact, the so called web gurus are used to think to the web as a flat world because they see only the English piece of web and realize that is frequented by a lot of people from other countries too. But this is only a partial view of the web. If you go to Facebook, for example, you can search people by gender, age range, interests and several other criteria, but not by country or language! If you go to Plaxo, you can search for all colleagues of your company, but you cannot filter them by country. Linkedin is a little better: in the past you could search only by title, company, school, industry, and groups, but recently they also added the possibility to search by location and few languages: English, German, Spanish, French, and… Other! Search by other? Funny, isn’t it?

So, there is still a lot of work to do to have a real global web. Not a web that is global why all of us think, speak, and behave in the same way, but a web where we can confront different points of view, different cultures, different mindsets. And the first step is to ask social networks, blog platforms, web systems to include the typical parameters of such differences in their search engines, filters, navigation mechanisms, that is, location and language, at least. Web inclusion will be founded on that.

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