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 22 2013: Great answers so far, and I would like to take this question in two parts.

    How will travel change local in the future? That will depend on how the "local people" choose to interact with it. Some cultures encourage tourism and trade while others do not. The ability and ease of today's travel will allow us, as individuals and families, to interact with communities as we wish. (and as those communities that allow it) Most of us have the ability to experience various cultures within a short distance of our home and we may decide to live in this "local" neighborhood because we like the houses or close proximity of natural food stores. Others may like the fast pace of a city and high-rises.

    Personally, my wife and I enjoy the urban life of Seattle, but live in a neighborhood that is outside the limits. It is very quiet and peaceful, but close enough that we may enter the city to enjoy the hustle and bustle. Just 100 miles east individuals live the farm life. Slow and quiet, but no easy access to the hustle and bustle. And if that is their choice then great.

    Travel today will allow people from around the world to interact with this concept on a grander scale. We may travel to France and see Paris, or choose smaller out of the way towns. As the world wide travel systems expand and money flows to develop them, communities will have the ability to decide how much they would like to interact. Does this village want to have roads built to them? Do they want a train stop? Or, hotels, restaurants, etc.

    2nd part
    How does this change what we explore? Information such as Google maps, public transportation information, along with our ability to email or facebook local people, all help us decide "Do I want to visit this area?" "What is is like?" AND "Will I like the people?"
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      Feb 22 2013: So you think it's the receiving/host communities that have the power, not the visitors?
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        Feb 23 2013: I would see it as more organic in nature. Or perhaps symbiotic would be another term. Many places like Paris, Rome, Seattle (great city). Have a balance with tourism, visitors etc. Some places do not have a balance and when the balance shifts so does the position of power. Vegas comes to mind. That place is very geared towards tourism and the power there in many ways is in the hands of the city. On the other side of the spectrum. Think of a little town that suddenly gets media attention and can be overrun with tourism. If that town is not ready for it, then there will be a lot of problems.

        Hmm. but that makes me wonder what you might have meant by power?

        I see power in the information. Try this as an experiment, if you have not already.

        Find a city you want to visit and the place you would like to stay. Since this thread is in collaboration with Intercontinental then one of their hotels would be ideal. Make it a city you have never visited.

        Then take the address and plug it into Google maps and do a virtual walk of the surrounding area on the street view. This is so great that you can read street signs, business signs, see people eating in cafes. And then ask yourself. Do I want to visit this place? My last visit to Munich came down to renting 1 of 2 flats. I chose the one with the better walk. (Better= better for me and my personal tastes) Nice clean streets, grocery store nearby as well as a beer garden easy walk to the U-Bahn. (oh and that is a neat trick. When we arrived I knew how to get to the flat because I recognized all the streets)

        I believe that ability is power. some places may choose to embrace that technology. Some may not. Intercontinental, I am sure, could somehow create virtual tours in collaboration with Google Maps.

        LOL. I could have made this shorter by asking you, "What do you mean by power?" Please let me know if I misinterpreted.
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      Feb 24 2013: I really like your first take on the matter at hands Leo, and the distinction you make between those who are interested in living "local" and those who prefer the global side of things. As with most of the polarities, the reality is probably in a savant alchemy of both for most of us: although I would almost always prefer a local and proudly independent coffee shop to a chain-led one, there is no denying that the latter option, in an almost ironical way, can help people to experience another culture, and another taste of "local", almost, without necessarily having to travel.
      I distinctly remember going to this American mermaid-led coffee shop when its first branch opened in my hometown of Lyon, France, for it was a way to reconnect with my past experiences of New York. As Daniel hints at in the video presenting this conversation, it might be then than one of the solutions to the on-going tension between global and local could solved by seeing the emergence of more global brands allowing locals to travel through their offering of small pieces of foreign experience.

      At the end of the day though it all comes down to the choice you underline between different lifestyles, and whether one opts for being a local and thus, probably, travelling to explore other ways of being one. One thing I wonder about is if that is something that is influenced by one's education and/or the place we grew up in.
      David Rogers in his comment above for instance hints at its Welsh heritage and how it has influenced the way he lives and defines himself, and I think that's critically important. I grew up in different regions of France, each with its own interpretation of "local", and they contributed to define who I am as a local, and who I am as a traveller in quest of other sorts of local. I presume that almost makes the notion of local merge with that of culture, but then again, isn't it that quite the case already?
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        Feb 24 2013: I like your idea that it merges local with culture. IF we can define a culture of "local" travel, then we might be able to see a segment of the worlds population with similar views as you and I. Imagine millions of people that travel to France or Italy, Or Hawaii that, instead of heading to the tourist areas, immerse themselves with a local flat rental, local shopping at the marts, etc.

        When I mentioned "local" travel I meant travelling abroad but with a "local" mindset. Visiting France but avoiding the mermaid coffee shops. Instead we would travel to Europe and live like a local. I myself prefer this method by renting a flat in a neighborhood I like and then shopping locally at the grocery stores and corner marts. That is why I need a flat so that I may have a kitchen to cook the local cuisine.

        An interesting idea occurred to me yesterday. I am a businessman and while I do like to shy away from large corporations when I travel this idea occurred. IF travel moves to a local mindset, a large corporation could build or purchase small rental units. Rather than 10 floors of rooms in a downtown hub, it could be 4 apartments in a nice neighborhood. Automate the check in and give travelers the safety of an expected room and checkin process with a local neighborhood feel.

        At the moment this is being done on a small scale with individuals that rent out spare houses or flats. It is fine, but can be a laborious process and uncertain process. OR, a local community that wishes to promote visitors could do it on their own by providing incentives to build such apartments.

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