Friedman: That Tipping point was reached sometime around the year 2000, when the ten flatteners converged on such a scale and with such intesity that millions of people on different continents suddenly started to feel that something... something... was new. They couldn't always quite describe what was happening, but by 2000 they sensed that they were in touch with people they'd never been in touch with before, were being challenged by people who had never challenged them before, were competing with people with whom they had never competed before, were collaborating with people with whom they had never collaborated before, and were doing things AS INDIVIDUALS they had never dreamt of doing before. 

What they were feeling was the flattening of the world. 

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century, 204.

Rhetorical Support

As a coda to Rowan's story, I would point out that at least three other children have been diagnosed thanks to our story's mass broadcast. The internet makes it easier to pay it forward.

Certainly our story lends credence to what terms such as "noble amateur" or "flattened infoscape" really mean. Few are arguing that social media are going to allow Madeline, the stay-at-home mom, to epistemically contribute to the cure for cancer. Research of that nature will continue to be conducted by an exclusive, well-supported, institutionally validated few. But social media do exponentially engage many in sharing the products of those elite few. Anyone familiar with Steven Johnson or Clay Shirky understands that this is what we mean by an increasingly smarter 21st century American populace. Knowledge construction might not be necessarily more egalitarian or democratic, but knowledge distribution certainly is.

In regards to Carr's arguments, I would note that he relies on particular, individualistic measures of intelligence—and he treats these measures as universally good. I would assert that Carr worries over individuals getting stupider because he doesn't have the disciplinary apparatus necessary to acknowledge that a body can be smart. Nor does he seem open to the idea that the forms of intelligence he chooses to highlight might in fact be a production of literacy and print mediums, and quite inessential (in every sense of the word) to human progress or happiness.

In some ways, then, Carr's criticisms remind me of rhetoric's ancient battle—it is Socrates and Callicles all over again; one emphasizes the intellect of the individual [mind], one speaks to necessity of the mass [body]. [Note 2] In articulating a theory of participation for 21st century digital rhetoric and composition, I am looking to intertwine these two positions—to make the individual mind a responsible (and responsive) agent embedded within the social body.