If I asked you what was more important, experiencing Internet or experiencing the international (ie various nations) I am betting most of you might point to a few important features of each. The Internet lets us communicate, schedule, share, learn. International experience similarly is a tool for growth, a chance to network, to engage with others. You might pick one or you might say they are equal. I say, they are the same.
Ok, off the bat, no I am not saying that the Internet as a network of technical instruments and waves is actually the same as the amalgamation of state boarders that help us define “international” (though already you can see a link in the somewhat abstract way we define each). I am talking about the way we use the Internet and the usefulness of defining things as international.
Let’s start with this international I keep talking about. Truthfully we could talk about what being international and doing things in an international manner is until, well we run out of words… in every language. So let’s take a simple example. A young Canadian say, gets a passport, she travels to various countries, living, working, exploring. She pays taxes on food in Denmark, she has earned interest on savings in the US, she votes in the UK (being from the Commonwealth and all). She has lived a rather international life. Socially, economically, politically – she has been impacted by the various nations she has spent time in.
Now lets think of her, settled in a little corner of the world, it doesn’t matter where. She needs a way to connect with all her family and friends and coworkers. Enter: the Internet.
Twitter, Facebook, Skype, G+, the list goes on. These tools allow her to connect with people around the world. She flips through pictures her former Swiss roommate posts and she is back in Switzerland. She has a chat with her Dad via Skype and she is back home. Checking her Twitter feed she hops from country to country, she needs no passport. There are no laws or even social norms barring entry (for the most part, China is an obvious exception).
Now think of another girl, in another part of the world. She has never owned a passport, and she has never traveled from her home town. Yet she too is online, exploring the world. She sees photos of Switzerland and talks to family in Canada. She orders specialty foods from Denmark and sends letters to the editors of UK newspapers. National boundaries are nothing to her because online she can be from anywhere or nowhere or some combination.
The Internet allows her to learn and act in ways that were once reserved for international travelers, international business people, and other such privileged folk.
Over the next little while I will be writing a series of articles examining the intersection of the Internet and the international. From legal structures to everyday habits, we will get a taste of the gaps the Internet is filling (and maybe some it is creating) in the international context.