Hyper-globalization Meets Hyper-localization
In the massive spread of connectivity hatched from the network-based economy, we are experiencing a paradoxical result of hyper-globalization and concurrent hyper-localization. While there are larger industrial networks revolutionizing the global market, social media is one obvious example of connectivity that touches individuals and industries: we can seamlessly filter through intimate personal messages laced with global data streaming to us on the same feed. Social media platforms allow a local bar to promote open mic night and simultaneously, an international brand to advertise a new pair of shoes. These networks empower mom-and-pop flower shops to publicize and the in same capacity provide a medium for rebel groups to organize nation-wide government coups. The implications can be dizzying but amazing if embraced.
In the initial waves of globalization, the pendulum swung toward conformity among markets, goods and cultural endeavors. Now that the novelty of having quick access to the entire planet is no longer new, people are pivoting—revelling in the actuality that they live in a real, local place. Though we can easily connect globally, we corporeally occupy the same space and environment. While keeping one foot on the global stage and an eye on the cues signaled there, we act on the local stage, carrying out the cues given there. What happens in local innovation and cultivation is what most directly impacts and improves our lives; but the extent to which local systems are connected to global networks will determine their ability to scale solutions and services.
Modernism tried to box us into one-stop-shop solutions for everyone, everywhere. The new era (TBD on what “-ism” history will coin it), takes into consideration the complexity of cultural layers and local assets, allowing for more localized solutions, informed by globalized data. While we cannot pretend suburbia and small cities are not falling victim to one homogenized development after another, at least urban centers are flourishing in local identity. Portland feels specifically Portlandish; Madrid beats with its characteristic Madrileño traits, and Tokyo bustles with its “Tokyo-ness.” You may travel on a physical street or possibly in a metro or bike lane, enjoying or despising how clean or dirty your surroundings are; you may stop to sit in a café made possible by reasonable rent; or run an errand to a local store whose owner keeps a good watch on the street, making you feel safe. Local leaders understand needs on a deeper level. Nations are often too colossal to create palpable change within the daily lives of constituents. They can lay the groundwork of legislature to protect freedom and agreements, promote business and build inter-state networks. On the contrary, a city’s responsibilities are much more pragmatic: sidewalks, parks, affordable housing, a fertile scene for entrepreneurship, cultural centers and businesses. Cities are more agile, less idealistically polarized and can accomplish ventures faster. The beloved Jane Jacobs stated decades ago, “The economic foundation of cities is trade.” City-sized trade economies succeed based on local networks that are enhanced by their connections to global networks. As cities flourish, so will the macro system of inter-city trade, creating a healthy global economy.
Within city trade, there is renewed value placed on craftsmanship and creating. Beth Comstock, CMO of General Electric, in a Monocle podcast blurb, sheds light on the current environment: “There is an interesting convergence happening right now—this moment of coalescence where you have craftsmanship, the making of things, a rediscovery of the value of the tactile, and at the same time, this incredible speed and unprecedented innovation in the virtual and digital world.” This coalescence is creating more access to resources, linking industrial products to virtual platforms, giving businesses admittance to more markets and connecting people to more goods and information. Access is created by expanding non-hierarchical entry points, creating a more democratized marketplace which leads to more diversity and cultivates a healthier economic ecosystem—locally and globally. Networks often proliferate on virtual platforms and innovation in daily objects often mean more digitization—both resulting in a more buttons and screens. It is interesting, though, that in a world where it can feel like endless reflections in a house of screens, the hand-made, the DIY, the artisanal products of the world are thriving. There is a new emphasis among consumers to understand the process of how materials for a product were sourced, the method in which a product was made, and in addition, by whom it was fabricated and where—often the closer to home, the more desirable.
This new economy means you can enjoy writing a note on that letterpressed card made by a local printer while you look up on your internationally made iPad the recipient’s address on the world wide web. You may strut that locally made canvas messenger bag you bought from a local retailer who advertised it on the far-reaching internet. You are able to keep an eye on the constant feed of global happenings, but keep your feet on the city-funded sidewalk to a local coffee shop, and once there talk to a real person (with your voice, not a keyboard) knowing that your coffee purchase keeps a small farmer in Guatemala in business. While there, you may send an email to Japan or South Africa, check your stocks and the weather in Stockholm for your trip next week, while sitting on an IKEA chair that is a token of globalized style and sipping from a one-of-a-king mug spun by a local artisan. Enjoy discovering the significance of your local-global citizenship.