I’m returning from PUSH, which was a great deal of fun. My talk appeared to go over well, and a few folks were nice enough to ask for copies of my slides, which I’m posting here as Powerpoint slides and as a PDF document.
I tried to cover some new ground with this talk, and am pretty happy how it was received. As with most of my talks, I opened with a discussion about media attention and the lack of attention to the parts of the world I think are most interesting. When you lead with the assertion that folks need to pay more attention to Africa, for instance, there’s an implicit question: Why? What’s in it for me?
I’ve tried to answer this question a couple of different ways over the last year… and I’ve noticed that the strategies I’ve gravitated towards are echoed by other folks talking about these questions. My stock responses run something like this:
– It’s important to know about Africa/Eastern Europe/Central Asia and other “dark spots” on the map for reasons of security. Most people didn’t know anything about Central Asia until 9/11 – then there was a brief surge of interest in countries that might be hosting terror training camps. Should we be worried that the next global threat is coming from Somalia? Myanmar? Transdniestra? (Extra points if you can find Transdniestra on a map…)
– We need to watch the media dark spots to help prevent human rights abuses or genocide from occurring on our watch. If we pay attention to Darfur, Eastern Congo, northern Uganda, or thousands of other parts of the globe, we can prevent tragedies from happening.
– We need to pay attention to part of the world we normally ignore because the next billion people who will join the middle class, log onto the internet and generally extend the consumer economy are going to come from all over the world. If we’re not ready to sell these folks cellphones, cars and computers, perhaps the Chinese or the Indians will and we’ll find ourselves a second-rate economic power.
So here’s the thing – I believe all three of these explanations, to one extent or another. (Unfortunately, the fact that we’ve managed to draw attention to Darfur without preventing destruction calls the logic of the second reason into question for me… .) And the PUSH talk largely concerned the economic reason – the most optimistic of the three – because it implies that there’s an economic opportunity associated with correctly navigating the situation.
But none of these three reasons have anything to do with why I spend so much of my time trying to learn more about the world. The reason I work on Global Voices, the reason I work on blogging in Africa, the reason I’m starting to do podcasts with people around the world is not that the world is scary, but that’s it’s fascinating.
Most of the “bridge figures” (bloggers and otherwise) I know seem motivated more by fascination than by fear. Nathan of Registan is passionately in love with Uzbekistan, not afraid of it (though there are excellent reasons to be scared about Karimov’s government and reactions to it.) My favorite globe-hopping internationalist bloggers – people like Dina Mehta or Joi Ito – appear to be in love with the entire world, with friends in every corner of the globe and a passion for explaining their homes to people from other nations.
So I tried out a new term yesterday – “globophilia” – to explain my motivations and the motivations of fellow travellers who are interested in embracing the changes associated with globalization and getting to know this strange and interconnected world we’re living in. Ingo GÃ¼nther picked up the term and introduced its antonym – “globophobia” – in his talk, about an hour later. I like globophilia even better in relation to globophobia – many of my complaints about professional journalism center around globophobia, a tendency to embrace the scary aspects of international news and ignore the more nuanced and optimistic stories.
Folks seem to like the words. But there’s one little problem I need to work through before I register globophilia.com… Google tells me that there are already 2,250 pages that mention “globophilia”. And while those folks may or may not be enthusiastic about globalization, they’re happy to identify as globophiles: people who have a sexual fetish for latex balloons. (They also appear to call themselves “looners”. My, the internet really is full of things.)
Now, I like balloons as much as the next guy. But I don’t like them that way. And before I put too much intellectual investment into the term, I guess I have to decide whether writing about globophilia is going to generate confusion… or perhaps bring a whole new audience to my blog… :-)