Friday, June 09, 2006

The Power of Virtual Networks

To what extent could we eliminate face-to-face interaction? Urban geographers understand well the value of place. Certain industries demand close proximity to various resources, forcing them to cluster in the central business districts of major metropolitan areas. This creates an urban hierarchy, meaning you must travel to the big city in order to find certain services. Cities compete to sit atop the urban hierarchy, subsidizing sports franchises and providing tax breaks to the top businesses. Cities can be understood simply as centers of high end services and culture.

The advent of the Internet would be well on its way to obliterating urban hierarchies save our preference (thanks to our education) for face-to-face interaction. As we socialize more online, we become more comfortable with other forms of communication.

We have much to learn from the rest of the world, including the recently departed terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi built a virtual terrorist network that spanned the globe. The New York Times article points out:

Mr. Zarqawi's Web propaganda generated and probably embellished his reputation in the Iraqi insurgency. But it also helped secure the Internet as a center of terrorist recruitment and instruction, partly supplanting the role of old Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, according to counterterrorism officials and analysts.
What Zarqawi did for al-Qaeda's terrorist aims, Pittsburgh can do for its Burgh Diaspora. You can already see the power of this network among Steelers fans who interact online at various fansites. Not only do they share information about their favorite team, they talk politics, exchange photos, and organize tailgating events at away games close to their new place of residence.

The trick is figuring out what would galvanize the Burgh Diaspora to network like Steelers fans do.

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