Internet as a disruptive force

For tomorrow night’s Fertile Ambition call, my argument is that the internet is an inherently disruptive force for institutions and industries whose business models don’t take advantage of a flattening world. Pragmatically speaking, I’ve identified the music, movie, and news industries as ones which have already been at the receiving end of this characteristic. In the near future, I see at least the political and educational systems facing serious change.

One effect of the disruption I’ve identified, but have no support for at the moment, is that the institution has a reduced capacity to fulfill its tasks through the duration of the evolution. Moreover, if there are no support mechanisms in place, then society’s capacity to function in the affected arena is seriously hindered. Alternative methods of education are abundant on the internet, but I can’t think of any backups we have for the current political process.

There are at least several questions I still have. How valid is this premise (and is it concrete enough)? What other institutions or industries are vulnerable? How do institutions take preemptive action to address the changes they will eventually have to deal with? Most importantly, what are the discrete components of each stage of institutional evolution?


Shane Lofgren October 27, 2008 Reply

I like this conversation; however, I think that your argument is unclear.

“the internet is an inherently disruptive force for institutions and industries whose business models don’t take advantage of a flattening world.”

What exactly do you mean by disruptive? That the institution/industry will undergo rapid change? Or that the businesses in the industry will be unstable and go out of business? Or that the goods businesses will be in less demand? With institutions, do you mean that they will have less of an influence and/or will influence fewer people? Do you mean that they will change rapidly and significantly? You kind of have a rough definition of disruption in the second paragraph, but I can’t really follow it well. This is the crux of your argument, so let me know what you mean.

You talk about business models, but I think that that doesn’t apply well to institutions.

Does disruption only happen for institutions and industries that don’t have business models that adapt to the flattening world? Aren’t there other ways disruption happens?

What, exactly, do you mean by flattening world? Are you referring just to globalization, the economic process where economies become increasingly specialized and interconnected according to comparative advantage? Are you talking about Friedman’s definition of “flat,” as in a “flattened playing field,” where one’s ability to succeed is less determined now by where one was born, as a result of globalization? Or, do you mean something else?

“Internet” is your cause, “disruption” is your effect, “flattening world” is your because. Yet two of these three key components of your argument are vague. The because also needs to be fleshed out further so that we can see how these things combine.

Intuitively, it doesn’t quite follow for me. I look at music, for instance, and don’t see an industry that’s going to be disrupted (which I’m guessing means something like “something bad will happen”) because globalization means massively growing markets with disposable income to sell to.

Globalization seems much more disruptive to manufacturers in developed countries, which now have to compete with much lower unskilled labor costs abroad. Music doesn’t really involve a lot of unskilled labor.

Examples both prove and clarify a point, so flesh out your examples and let them do some arguing for you.

My advice is clarify your thesis, and flesh out some examples. I think you have a good idea, but right now it’s still stuck in your head.

Leave a Reply