Maps are such a big part of my life as I experience the world via my sailboat so the TechCrunch posting XKCD Updates Its Map: We No Longer Live In Actual Countries But Digital Ones provided some serious fun for me this morning looking at this updated map for 2010 and this previous 2007 Map of Online Communities from XKCD. These maps show online communities as countries with size based on the volume of daily social activity.
It is both a fun perspective on the world we live in and very useful to support the trend I’ve been talking about for many years that the whole notion of national boundaries is fading fast relative to their importance and relevance in our daily life. Let me be quick to point out that I am not in any way suggesting that national boundaries will be eliminated or forgotten nor that we will be any less proud of your national heritage.
But in terms of what matters in our daily lives as we go about living, learning and working together I think we are all seeing more and more examples where national boundaries matter less and less. The country of origin of a person, product or service matters less and less to us compared to their fit and match to our unique needs and preferences.
Think about it, in your conversations and correspondence over the past week which have you mentioned more often; what country you are from or what online community you are from?
I’m certainly pleased and proud to be Canadian for example and just sent out a Happy Canadian Thanksgiving (Oct.11th) wish to one and all. But guess where and how I sent it? My blogs, Facebook, Twitter and all done from the cockpit of s/v Learnativity here in Majuro atoll in the Marshall Islands group. (07 06.274 N, 171 22.358 E)
I would also point out a related pattern that the importance of and the differences between the physical and the digital, between the real and the virtual, between the geographic location and the online location, are also becoming less and less relevant and distinct. We can and should start dropping them as qualifiers in our conversations. Just like we are less likely to feel the need to point out that we are calling someone from our car or an airplane and focus on the conversation at hand, we will have less need to add that some thing, or even some one, is digital or online or Canadian and focus more on having the right people and things connected together at the right time and way to meet the unique needs of the moment.
Perhaps more importantly it seems to me that communities matter more than countries. I don’t see this as anything uniquely modern or new or digital. Reflecting back on human history one could argue that communities have often been more important than nationalities. What is new however is the reduced need to factor things like location or nationality or digital into our daily decisions. They are not irrelevant, just less relevant.
Taking an even longer view, which is my nature, I see all single point categorization such as nationality, gender, age group, digital, real, and so on, fading in importance and relevance as we instead use these as bits of metadata or characteristics which number in the hundreds, millions and centillions (10600) and which we combine into mashups and mine to help us make faster better decisions and help us avoid stereotyping and other forms of mass production thinking.
While not without new problems and challenges I for one see all these changes as a VERY good thing and a major step forward by providing more ways and opportunities for all of us to help make this a better world to live, love and work within.
In any case, have fun wandering and pondering these maps.