TED Conversations

Closing Statement from Daniel Raven-Ellison

Thank you TED community for taking the time to join our conversation. I have been fascinated by the diverse range of contributions that have been made. The stories that have been shared are particularly powerful, with examples of how globalisation is impacting on the communities that we live in, visit and influence.

What is clear is that many of us are working from very different definitions of what 'local' means. Ronald Estrada describes local as "minimal, ecological, and symbiotic" while Iain Ellwood says it is more of "a state of mind not a geographic destination". This idea links well to Dustin Smith's suggestion that technology "changes who we spend time with, and allows us to choose "our own local".

The diversity of definitions of 'local' goes a long way to explain why we have so many different predictions about the future. Steve Knight had the most radical prediction, suggesting that personal air travel "will allow people to re-populate currently remote and unpopulated areas of the world". Pabitra Mukhopadhyay, Dorian Knus and many others share our concern that global forces are damaging local places and raise valid concerns for the future. These worries are met by many points that express the advantages of globalisation, including one by David Rogers who asks "Is the advantage of globalisation the ability to start a conversation anywhere in the world around common experiences?"

There have been a number of engaging solutions, including ways for tourists, travel companies and host communities to act more responsibly and sustainably. The common areas here appear to be high quality research, learning, education, empowerment and participation. Scan through to find some real gems.

Finally, thank you to InterContinental Hotels & Resorts for sponsoring this conversation. This specific discussion is closed, but you can follow the "Future of Local" project via Twitter on #FutureOfLocal. And we'll begin a new conversation on TED.com in the coming weeks.

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    Feb 21 2013: Travel is intrinsically about discovering new things, and making new connections. One model that can be of importance to analyse the impact of globalisation on our societies is the small-world network (1) and the small-world experiment (2) that is derived from it.

    Karinthy, a Hungarian author amongst the first to be inspired by this theory, wrote in 1929 that the world was "shrinking", and in "Chain-Links" he bets that "using no more than five individuals, one of whom is a personal acquaintance, he could contact [a] selected individual using nothing except the network of personal acquaintances." (3)

    You've probably recognised the famous idea behind John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation, a notion that is central to our contemporary online social networks. But what's really interesting is that although in the 1950s six seemed to be the golden number, recent studies have proclaimed that the real number of degrees is now lower.
    Facebook data team released a paper in November 2011 announcing that the average distance between its then 700M+ members was 4.74 (4). A shrinking world indeed.

    Being (and staying) local has never been as easy and as difficult: information about local customs is aplenty, and we justly marvel at their multitude, but the perspective of preserving those customs from external influences is fading away rather fast.

    1. Small-world network: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small-world_network
    2. Small-world experiment: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small-world_experiment
    3. KARINTHY Frigyes, 'Chain-Links', in 'Everythign is Different', 1929: http://djjr-courses.wdfiles.com/local--files/soc180%3Akarinthy-chain-links/Karinthy-Chain-Links_1929.pdf
    4. BARNETT Emma, 'Facebook cuts six degrees of separation to four', in The Telegraph, Nov. 22, 2011: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/8906693/Facebook-cuts-six-degrees-of-separation-to-four.html

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