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Beyond borders

March 2, 2012

Alain Gresh and Philippe Rekacewicz in Le Monde Diplomatique:

Never before have we had access to so much information. The development of broadband internet allows us to check millions of facts and statistics in real time, but this freedom has become a handicap. With so much information, it is now difficult to choose the most appropriate for a particular subject, and that’s before any critical look at its relevance. How important is it to know that Turkmenistan’s per capita GDP is $3,970? What does the GDP of an African country that only controls a small part of its territory really represent?

Never before has information circulated so fast, almost drowning us, despite powerful search engines like Google which claim to rank information according to relevance.

Never before has the world been so difficult to read. The constant stream of images, text and figures does not bring order to disorder, and the ranking suggested by the internet usually has more to do with fashion or financial interests than thought. We are living in pivotal times of change in which new centres of trade, production and power are emerging. The abstract is not replacing the physical, but accompanying it, as we can see from the massive rise in containers for transporting goods, and information networks too. Old perceptions are becoming confused. (…)

Even borders, which we think are imprinted forever on maps, shift in space and time, especially when history speeds up and disrupts geography. When generations of diplomats carved up the world, from the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) to the Yalta Conference (1945), making clumsy sketches by hand (sometimes kneeling in corridors), they tried to find the borders that suited them best. But not all borders are political. [More]

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