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online since  2014-06-12
The Demarcation Line: An Opposition Force against the Flat World

□ By Yue Luping

In the summer of 2005, I lived in London for two months, when I frequently went to the bookstore of "Economist" , where The World Is Flat was a best seller at that time. Although I found little interest in reading it, I had already learned it was well known.

Back in China, I happened to notice in Pan Shiyi's Blog that he was recommending it, which had probably been one promoted by Bill Gates.

After finishing reading it, I wrote down a brief account of my feelings in my Blog:

While reading through Pan Shiyi's Blog today, I came across his mentioning of The World Is Flat, which Bill Gates had recommended. Its main idea is that internet facilitates the otherwise difficult interaction between people from all walks of life, making the traditional pyramid society increasingly "flat". It reminded me of the best seller I saw at "Economist" bookstore in London.

Though I've not yet read the book thoroughly, I can not agree upon the argument The World Is Flat in it in the event that Pan Shiyi's retailing is accurate. It's true that information technology transforms the world into a more transparent one, but the pyramid hasn't disappeared. The only difference is that, with information technology, we are accessible to occurrences in other levels of life in a more transparent sense. That's the progress we've achieved, even though each insulation board between layers is likely to be any of all kinds of magic lens, i.e. we'll get a more or less distorted view on happenings in other levels of life. But everything becomes more transparent after all.

In the process of research program in London sponsored by the British Council in 2005, I put forward the project of "the Far People Space Station", casting a highlight on the multi-cultural existence in London. The cultural exposure looks fairly diverse, but actually a thick glass wall intervenes between different cultures. The difference lies merely in that we are in London, which brings about a clearer view of it.

In 2006, I called for discussion on Watershed in Xi'an, establishing an online space for The Demarcation Line. It was designed to focus on the currently deteriorated Chinese culture and art, which is marked by passiveness, plagiarism and loss of initiative, in hopes of restoring a proper relationship between culture & art and its environment by firstly paying attention to the situation of Qinling Mountain.

Discussion was realized mainly through founded in 2003. Since we had got no stable channels for discussion, we chose internet, which produced fruitful results. It seemed to be a regional proof for the theory of The World Is Flat. When I discussed with Shanghai artists, I referred to the platform feature of internet. At that time when I admitted to have benefited from the The World Is Flat, I didn't take seriously its imaginary approach, blind optimism and the complicated manipulating of "a new empire" behind into consideration.

In February 2007, I left Xi'an for home for Spring Festival. As I arrived at the airport ahead of schedule, I stayed for a while at the airport bookstore, killing time. While I was reading a book entitled The Long Tail, I met again with the same blind optimism as dealt with in "The World Is Flat". When I realized that optimism of this kind seemed to have formed a momentous, undeniable economic-political-theoretical force, I began to find pressed flat, there will be cracks soon, because they are unwilling to be crushed flat. The branches may be destroyed, but the roots survive; the force to rise could not be suppressed at all and there must be resistance when it is squeezed and pressed forcefully flat.

In the course of crush and bouncing back, the world does take some change, which is that the process forms new chasms, reshaping the cracks generated throughout history. The size and shape of the new cracks will be a compromised result between the force of old cracks and the strength to flatten them.

To know the world well, it's far from enough to just know the flattening force. We have to gain a good understanding of the new cracks, gaps and dividing lines, which are the focal points in disputes, a recreation of the conflicts, a visualized presentation of fights and the result of the wrestling.

They are the watershed between the new and the old era, mixed with the remains of earlier watersheds. Some are squeezed, curved and get deformed, while some others are exposed.

The watershed indicates not only the motive and source of the flattening force, but also the counter force. It's here that the old and new forces alternate successively, with one gaining energy while the other fading in power.

Geologically, watershed is usually considered as travel resorts for relaxation. It is a fallacy because they are in fact the central place of conflicts, because of which they are extremely complicated and rich in concepts, beyond human imagination.

The watershed on culture has not been fully discerned yet. Discern it, present it, explain it, it is our job.

Information age brings with it a number of optimistic emotions and views of point on a Beautiful New World. In fact, when we think it over calmly, lots of loopholes are right there. But it's really hard for us to organize some valued discussions in current Chinese cultural and artistic atmosphere. All sorts of meaningful discussions on the issue of watershed and the space of the Demarcation Linewould be highly appreciated.