JULY 2016 IN

How Flat Is the World?

With the Internet, the world is “flat.” Huge international corporations compete with high schoolers who don’t even necessarily care about turning a profit. But how flat is the world? Crowdfunding tells us something about that.

As I write this, a tech company seeking crowdfunding for the new Windows Phone has drawn 206 backers on one of the major crowdfunding sites. Windows Phone was an experiment by several multinational corporations with a ten-year history that burned through $50 billion in corporate funding. At its peak it had a 2 percent global market share. Now the future of Windows Phone depends on the success of the current crowdfunding campaign.

There are 206 backers. That puts a household name in the same ballpark as, well, a high school club collecting funds to repaint the bleachers at the baseball field. The world is more flat than it looks. At this rate, the new Windows Phone won’t get the funding it needs to pay for the pivotal first day of manufacturing.

Corporations have an advantage in size, but the advantage is not quite what it seems. The advantage of the huge corporations is a degree of influence over the corporate media that they use to make us take sides on an issue. Thousands of people have and use a “big” new product, but millions of people have opinions about it. Corporations know how to get us to waste our energy forming opinions on subjects that have no relevance to our own lives.

This creates the illusion that corporations are more popular than they are. For several years Windows Phone was thought to be something of importance. Now that the promotional spending has died down, we learn that the actual popular support for Windows Phone is not close to a million, but struggling to reach a thousand.

The same is surely true of half of the commercial concepts that came to light only because of corporate spending. Don’t believe the hype. Most of the products that seem intriguing and even ones that are at the top of their respective markets aren’t as successful as they are made to appear. By the same token, many of the other products and ideas that you never heard of, including ones have a hundred backers on a crowdfunding site, are more important in the bigger picture.

Corporate media still largely controls the illusion of big. By this measure, the world is not very flat — yet. But step outside the box, and it turns out the world is as flat as they say.

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