World is Flat: Part 1 Sec A

The World is Flat
Group A
The First Five Flatteners

Jennifer Alander
Katie Altmann
Elizabeth Anson
Bonnie Craighead
Katie Dillman
Jennifer Edwards
Nikki Oswald
Ashley Ray
Madison Tannenbaum

FAS 493: Current Issues in the Global Fashion Industry
Ms. Courtney Cothren
October 6th, 2008

It is hard to imagine life without the level of technology that people have today to communicate with each other around the world. There was a time when the world was, in a sense, more round than it is today. According to Thomas Friedman, there are ten significant events that flattened the world. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the invention of the Internet and web sites, and the advancements in software, uploading and outsourcing are the first five events that have flattened the world.

Flattener #1- 11/9/89: When the Walls Came Down and the Windows Went Up
The fall of the Berlin Wall released people who were being held economically captive. This paved the way for the spread of democracy throughout the world. Once Communism ended in the Soviet Union, the only other option was Capitalism. The interests and aspirations of people took precedent over government interest. It took some time for people to get used to the idea of no longer having a guaranteed job, education or house, but many people viewed this as a fresh start.
Other countries aside from Eastern European countries felt the effects of the fall of the Berlin Wall, such as India. The British left India after World War II. India, unable to gain aid from the United States, turned to Russia for ideas on how to run the countries economics. After the fall, India was in a bad place economically they too decided to restructure their economy and adopt Capitalism. The fall of the Berlin Wall was important because it set standards throughout the world on how economics should be. It paved the road for modern day use of accounting, banking and personal computers.

Communication was more readily available to the masses. Windows PC also enabled individuals to shared information and ideas. People were able to be more productive in their work. Programs were written for companies making work more efficient and global. People discovered they could connect their computers to their phone line and transfer data to others with the same server. This was one of the first steps in flattening the global economy.
After studying the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is clear to see the impact it had on the fashion industry. Slowly, but progressively fashion ideas and trends spread worldwide. The freedom of the people allowed them to take business where they wanted it to go - attracting new investments and inspiring various fashion nations. The events that happened in 1989 spread as a domino effect internationally, affecting how the fashion industry runs today. Countries work with other countries to produce and distribute goods. This has also employed millions of people with jobs in the industry. New technologies of production and distribution have made it even easier to communicate within the industry.

Patterns of opportunities and growth, combined with loss and conflicts, reflect business in the fashion industry. This is important to understand as a college senior venturing into the global fashion industry. The fall of the Berlin Wall led to a more horizontally integrated industry, connecting people all over the world. Programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, C.A.D. and E-mail allow people in the industry to communicate and share their ideas all over the world. Recently, guest speaker, Ms. Palmer, expressed how the Internet plays a critical role in the design process and production cycle with oversea vendors. As seniors, we need to understand current economic activity and be able to predict the direction of future change globally.

Flattener #2- 8/9/95: The New Age of Connectivity: When the Web Went Around and Netscape Went Public
Friedman explores the World Wide Web and the Internet for the next flattener of our world today. The World Wide Web is “a system for creating, organizing, and linking documents so they could be easily browsed over the Internet” (Friedman, 2007). Although the Web was originally created for scientist use, it combined with the Internet, have been a significant change in the twenty first century. Netscape, created in 1993 (originally called Mosaic), was a browser to allow users access to the internet. Over time more and more people joined from students to large corporations. (Friedman, 2007)

This new network became a dot-com bubble everyone wanted in on. The internet became so easy to use that regular citizens were making money off of the smallest ideas and new businesses were popping up everywhere creating competition. This competition was wonderful for the consumer because it meant lower prices. Friedman related it to the California Gold Rush in the fact that this large boom was “attracting new capital to the industry, driving innovation faster and faster” (Friedman, 2007). Although businesses assumed internet business would continue to grow at an exponential rate, network growth began to slow leading to a loss in capital for major corporations.

The new Web allowed people all over the world to connect to each other and get information not normally available for them. Although it may have leveled off, this fifteen year old network idea is still young. It has already had a large affect in flattening our world and will continue to do so with new innovation.

The fashion industry has changed and grown significantly within the past few years as the World Wide Web and Internet continue to grow with improvement. Most everyone in the fashion industry whether you are a consumer, designer, publisher, buyer, etc. utilizes the Internet for many different rationales.

With the World Wide Web and the Internet, everything is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Fashion websites such as and are constantly being updated as often as every 3 hours to keep the fashion community informed on the newest and latest fashions, shows, trends, etc.

These forms of networks are important to young women our age that are in college and about to enter the work force. The improvements of the World Wide Web and the Internet are essential to our education and our future which will continue to affect our every day lives.

Flattener #3- Work Flow Software
Work Flow Software is important in making the world flat because it creates a type of “virtual office” that is accessible to small businesses and large corporations alike. Effectively utilizing work flow software starts with creating a private network. This is what Friedman refers to as a VPN (virtual private network). The network has to be configured on each computer that will be using the it. Once it is set up, participants can work remotely from anywhere in the world as if they were all in the same office. An example in the book sites how Wild Brain employees collaborated to put together an animated series working from completely separate locations including New York, London, L.A., Chicago, Florida, San Francisco, and Bangalore. (Friedman, 2007)

The work flow software that is available today has made the global fashion industry extremely flat. An entire design team can sit and collaborate with the designers in Los Angeles as well as with the CEO vacationing in Spain and the head of the factory in India all working on the same network. Without having to send a spec file, make sure it can be opened and then allow time for changes to be made and sent back. In the industry this can make jobs much easier but can also be scary for leaders in the industry that need to keep things under lock and key until the day collections premiere. With hackers breaching security and us doing more work virtually it allows room for error and confusion. Not to mention the ability for a design to leak out and be knocked off before the company can release even the first version.

The author says that the first two flatteners were hard to miss, but describes work flow software as, “a quiet revolution that most people had no clue was happening” (Friedman, 2007). For our age group, the integration of work flow software could mean that we will need additional training beyond college and outside of work to be qualified for the types of jobs we want. It can also change the way we look for jobs in general. With this type of freedom from a brick and mortar office, more people will be able to work from home or “remotely”. Perhaps the “willing to re-locate” question will slowly disappear from job applications.

Flattener #4- Uploading
In his book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman identifies “uploading” as his fourth flattener. Through the use of technology and the Internet, we are no longer merely consumers but producers as well. Friedman discusses three main focuses for uploading: community developed software, wikipedia and blogging/podcasting.

Apache is a free shareware program for web server technology. It allows individuals with permission to modify, play with, and develop the software. In 1998 IBM incorporated with Apache, which now powers about two-thirds of the world’s web sites. Since Apache can be downloaded for free, anyone in the world can use it. Thousands of other on-line software programs are currently being developed. (Friedman, 2007)

It is not only software that is being modified online. Wikipedia is a form of community-uploaded content that is available to be modified by anyone with internet access. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia with articles contributed and edited by web surfers. A neutral point of view is maintained in the articles, which are formed by a general consensus of those who add to it. Other forms of uploading are blogging and podcasting. A blog is a website where regular entries of events are posted. Podcasts are uploaded to the internet then downloaded onto an individual’s media player. They keep viewers up to date on world events, sports, sales, or anything else subscribed to. Blogs can be informative but overwhelming as a source for news.

The concept of “uploading” affects the world in many different ways, especially the fashion industry. Friedman goes into depth explaining how over half of the worlds population uses the Internet in their daily lives. Before the Internet, fashion was only seen in stores, magazines, theater, and television. Although these outlets were good sources of information, none allowed people to interact with the fashion industry the way the Internet can.

Using a site such as Wikipedia can have both positive and negatives effects on the fashion industry. Since the majority of the content is available to be modified by anyone on the site it can be beneficial to the fashion industry by providing new information to the public. Designers, merchandisers, buyers, or anyone with an eye for fashion can share and offer any new information or facts with the rest of the world. Wikipedia allows people from all over the world to become curious, aware, and learn about many different areas of the industry. Also, it is especially beneficial for new and upcoming fashionistas by promoting themselves and creating a free buzz about their talents. Also one has to question the credibility of the source, as anyone can be a publisher. Overall, “uploading & blogging” has been more beneficial than harmful to the fashion industry.

Flattener #5- Outsourcing
Another way the world has become flat is through outsourcing. America has
used outsourcing in numerous ways in many different countries, but one of the most
significant countries that participates in outsourcing is India. India has realized that with its one-billion-plus population, its greatest resource is people and their minds. In 1951, Jawaharlal Nehru set up the first Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) to train hundreds of thousands of Indians in engineering and computer science (Friedman, 2007). The application process of being accepted into IIT can be harder than that of some of the best universities in the U.S. Because of Nehru’s Socialist economics, India could not provide decent jobs for all the recent graduates, so American companies would offer them jobs. Then, after fiber-optic cables had been dispersed around the world, making communication across the globe efficient and cheap, Indians did not have to leave India to have professional jobs.

In 1999, the Y2K bug provided a highway for outsourcing. Companies began to realize that their older computers were only programmed to go up to the date 12.31.99; when the date turned 01.01.00, they were afraid the computers would think the year was 1900 instead of 2000, which would cause all their computers to crash. There were too many computers and not enough engineers in America who could fix this problem, but India did. India had the brain power and the people who could efficiently apply the knowledge to fixing this problem before 01.01.2000.
With Y2K and the “combination of the PC, the Internet, and fiber optic cable,” companies could collaborate with people around the world (Friedman, 2007). Outsourcing became easier with technology and cheaper because the cost of living is significantly less in other countries, such as India or China, compared to America. Companies could employ four Chinese engineers for the price of one American engineer (Friedman, 2007). Because of the 12 hour time difference, Indians can be working while Americans are sleeping, which allows businesses to work faster, and therefore, they can be more productive.

Outsourcing changed the fashion industry forever. With large factories and cheap labor abroad, companies can produce more merchandise for less. American companies can send factories information via the Internet expediting production. The faster production moves, the more money is made and traded. Outsourcing has made life easier because people can get more done; they do not have to wait as long for information or products to move forward.

Thomas Freidman has articulated many aspects within the first five flatteners of
the world. These events that have changed the world, or perhaps “flattened” it
according to Freidman have also made life simple.

The fall of the Berlin Wall gave people economic freedom and spread democracy; which changed the world into a more integrated industry that connected people all over the world. Inventions of web sites and the Internet allowed everything to be accessible twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The advancements in software gave freedom to explore and exercise different talents as well as provide many new jobs due to the uses of new programs. Uploading and outsourcing have made everything available on the web, which allows more to get done in less time. These advancements are paving the way for exponential expansion of the global economy.

Works Cited

Friedman, T. (2007). The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. New York City, New York: Douglas & Mcintyre, Limited.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License