Monday, December 22, 2008

Disruptive Technology and Global Networks

Connect three parts of a NYTimes article Arab women as flight attendants (Some Arab Women Find Freedom in the Skies).

Most coveted are long-haul routes to places like Toronto and Sydney, Australia...

They watch bootlegged DVDs — “Desperate Housewives,” “Sex and the City” — bought on layovers in Bangladesh and Indonesia.

As the networks of Arab expatriates in the gulf countries become stronger and as cellphones and expanding Internet access make overseas communication more affordable...

Classic globalization technologies: global physical connectivity (long-haul routes), global cultural connectivity (the bootleg DVD network), and global communication connectivity (the Internet and cheaper cell phones). By allowing new social roles, they are disrupting old ones.
Flight attendants have become the public face of the new mobility for some young Arab women...

This disrupts older, traditional family patterns.
For many families, allowing a daughter to work, much less to travel overseas unaccompanied, may call her virtue into question and threaten her marriage prospects.

These technologies will be seen as a threat by those who strongly value traditional norms. I feel compelled to add how women in Saudi Arabia aren't even allowed to drive, which is horribly repressive (and takes away half of the market for auto sales), but it doesn't follow from the technology aspects here. It does fully relate, however, to women's allowed roles in the Middle East. Do recall that there are dozens of different cultural traditions there (cultural, religious, historical, geographical...), don't think of it as one cultural hegemonic bloc.