Continents are generally defined as large masses of land, all of them are… but Europe and Asia. Africa is a clearly defined continent, so are the Americas, Antartica, but are Europe and Asia a Continent in a geographic sense or in a cultural/ethnic sense? The more I look at the concept of Asia for example, the more flawed I think it is. As you can see from the Wikipedia, Asia is really part of the same land mass as Europe so they should be one continent: Eurasia. Why do we then have two continents made of one land mass? Probably because in this case it is not geography that prevailed in the definition but a cultural construct in which Europeans who were drawing the maps decided that Europe ended wherever people did not look like Europeans or did not practice the same religion as the cartographers.

So where does Europe end and Asia begin? Either when European looking people meet non European looking people or Christians meet Muslims. But now that building FON I spend a lot of time in Asia I believe that if it is culture and not geography that defines continents then Asia should not be one continent but at least three. The first one should be the area that uses some Chinese characters or has significant Chinese populations and influence, including China, Japan and Korea and South East Asia. Secondly India which seems to be a cultural continent on its own, but could also include Nepal, Burma and maybe Thailand. And third the Muslim world that should include parts of what is seen as South East Asia, Pakistan, to Turkey and North Africa could all be part of this concept of cultural continent.

In terms of cultural proximities, if we did conceive of these three continents namely the Chinese world, the Muslim world and the Indian world we would see that some of these cultural continents have more in common with other continents than with their neighbors in Asia. Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong for example are in my view closer to Europe in their way of life than anywhere else in Asia. To me a Japanese has much more in common with a French than with a Pakistani even though Pakistan and Japan are both seen as Asian countries. Personally I have abandoned the concept of the geographic continent as pretty much useless in business, and I think more and more in cultural continents populated by different cultures who while diverse among themselves, say the Japanese and the Chinese, have more in common than other cultures who do not belong to the same continent, say the Chinese and the Iranians. That works better in many respects including more concretely for us at FON in understanding how to grow the FON Movement around the world. At FON we see Europe, North America which for us does not include Mexico, then Latin America, Africa, the Muslim World, the Indian world, Australia/New Zeland, and the Chinese/Japanese/Korean World. But this is how I see the world when I have to generalize and I am very willing to change my view which may also be affected by the same prejudice that I accused the original cartographers of having.

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XL on September 12, 2006  · 

Basically Euro Asia is divided by Urals Mountains and Volga river. We should remember that each area has developed his own culture completly different, and it was a big aussence of comunication between all the continents, and over all the things we have the religous fact that split the continents. From Volga to Gibraltar the population was cristhian, from Volga to malasia, was Muslim…

But ethnically, culturally and geographically we can spocke about Euro Asia, gipsy comes from India, we had the invasions of the Hunos, Tartars, Mongols… So…

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Andrey Golub on September 12, 2006  · 

Martin, just wander if you see Russia (well, the ex-USSR) as Asia or Europe or you “do not see” this region as an interesting location for FON movement?

Kind Regards,
Andrey Golub

P.S. Thank you for this great Blog! I am always reading you before all the other things I have in my Agregator tool.

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Hadi Kabalan on September 12, 2006  · 

I agree that Asia is extremely diverse and some parts are much more cohesive that others. I think it’s true that “Asia” has been made a disservice by subjective map drawing throughout various empire systems, and it could have ended up very differently. It was once explained to me that the reason central Asia is such a mess, for example, is that Stalin drew the maps so that it WOULD be a mess and always need the soviet hand over it. The borders were designed to run through ethnic groups (so that none was strong enough to challenge him) and always encompass several ethnic groups in each “country” (so that they were always infighting and needed him to arbitrate). It seems that historically, populations living “at the edge” of continents were largely left alone and developed strongly, whereas it was obviously very difficult to build cohesive societies where armies were always “conquering through”. History still echoes into today…

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Hubert on September 13, 2006  · 

Mediterannea is also a strange point of the world, composed mostly of countries and cultures which define themself as mediterreanean, not african, not european, not arabic.

In a time where we are connected, web2.0, FON, I am sure that we will let the word “continent” to geographs.

But you are right Martin, cultures are leading the way we perceive the world, which also explain the small enthusiams of Europeans to see Turkey being integrated within EU, the culture seems too far from the European one.

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tech bee on September 14, 2006  · 

There is a new continent. The continent of the mobile people. They might be migrants, third generation, or business people, they can be bi-national, bi-cultural, bi or tri-lingual. Founding cultures you describe are so interwoven one is at loss to pick what belongs to whom. But this new continent is quite extraordinary, and in the making. If I had a business I would focus on them. I atttended a citizen journalism forum in Korea this summer. I met an Indian born in California, another living temporaly in Australia, a Japanese lady from Tel Aviv, a Korean girl from Singapore, a Palestinian from Borneo….There, this is the new invisibile and fascinating continent.

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Galleguayo on September 14, 2006  · 

Quizás el Mundo, se divide en Desarrollado y Sub-desarrollado, ese gran invento de la posguerra, que busca la transformación y sometimiento total de las culturas y formaciones sociales de tres continentes, de acuerdo con los dictados del llamado Primer Mundo.

Creo que otra división, de momento no es necesaria, pues el concepto de Desarrollo, es impuesto y aceptado por todas las naciones del Planeta y su búsqueda, hace invisibles a las tradiciones, religiones y culturas.

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Martin Varsavsky on September 14, 2006  · 

You are right tech bee, I am one of them. Have approximately lived a third of my life in Argentina, a third US, a third Europe.


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JONPY on September 19, 2006  · 

If I understand, there is a new continent of people, migrants, cyber-nomads, disonnected from all notion of land and territory ?

Doesn’t a continent, by definition must be a land ? Does every migrant have the same identity, defining themself only as migrants ? Where we come from and we go is important, even if travelers have things to share.

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Daniel Raven-Ellison on October 10, 2006  · 

Help Give Geography its Place and join the campaign at

We are looking to set up international branches. If you are not based in the UK and want to raise the profile of Geography in your country get in contact via the website.

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