Imagining a Flat World

If you have been following the recent news, there has been considerable debate around Invisible Children’s latest media campaign Kony 2012, a thirty minute web documentary that has explosively gone viral. Invisible Children’s stated goal of the video is “to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.” So if you are wondering who Joseph Kony is I would encourage you to watch the video and enter into the conversation. While the video has garnered a handful of sincere critiques, it is not my purpose to add to the conversation around the debate, but rather make the point of why I believe the Kony 2012 campaign is a profound milestone in history.Released March 4th 2012, in just two days the documentary had an unprecedented 18 million views via YouTube and Vimeo and by the end of the first week 70 million views on YouTube alone. But so what? There are lots of videos out there that have millions of views and have gone viral from American pop culture such as the Numa Numa Dance, Charlie Bit My Finger, and Rebecca Black’s Friday – just to name a few . So, what is special about Invisible Children?Kony 2012 Video StatsFirst, it is the nature of the content. Never before has someone captured the attention of so many people (especially youth), so quickly, for a solid thirty minutes around a specific cause. Second, it is the fact that the very thing Invisible Children has set out to do, it has done. Millions of people around the globe are now discussing Joseph Kony and his war crimes. But what is truly amazing, is how a global community is gathering around a humanitarian cause for justice, not just American pop-culture.Thomas Friedman, American journalist, columnist, and author known for his research surrounding globalization, has famously claimed, The World is Flat. In short, he makes the case that we live in an era of globalization that is primarily built by individuals and small groups who are able and must think about positioning themselves and their actions in a global mindset. It is no longer governments and multinational corporations that act as the key agents in global interactions, but it is the individual empowered through the platform of open source communication via the internet.Now, Friedman is no idealist. He fully acknowledges that the world is far from perfectly flat recognizing that the disparities of poverty, global health issues like HIV and malaria, and general access to education and the internet prevents everyone access to the level playing field he claims exists. But, what he successfully paints in his book is a picture of how the global community of the web has erased the barriers of distance, space, and time thus enabling millions of people to communicate with one another from anywhere for virtually no cost.What Friedman fails to address in his argument is the power (and even necessity) of a well-told story as the foundation to unite people around a common culture/goal in the global cyberspace community. It is to this point that we all must applaud Invisible Children. The Kony 2012 campaign successfully creates a common culture around their cause through the power of story. Story moves us because it captures our imagination and inspires us. Albert Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." It’s true, when it comes to taking action that makes a difference, no matter how many facts, statistics or images flood our brains, if it fails to capture our imagination and inspire us, than we will ultimately not take action. On the other hand, inspiration based on a lie and unreliable facts can result in negative consequences.

Imagination is more important than knowledge ~ Albert Einstein 

In a recent HBR, The Kony 2012 "Controversy", Dan Pallotta, the president of Advertising for Humanity and the author of Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential, captures the true significance of what Invisible Children has done.  The success of Invisible Children to leverage the voice of the world’s youth has produced “a generation of kids believing that they can change the world”.While time will tell if Kony 2012 will serve its purpose in changing the world by bring Joseph Kony to justice, it is safe to say that Invisible Children has already changed the world by changing the way the world will engage activism in the future. Many people’s imaginations, having been captured, now see just how flat the world really is. I am my brother’s keeper.~Garrett Cichowitz

FeaturedMark Rodgers