Web 2.0

Welcome to Web 2.0

I’ve heard about Web 2.0 as a buzz word for a while now… but never bothered to really look into what it was. For some reason I thought it was an academic intranet. But someone I’m working with on the Radio Project (John Housser) is actually incorporating it into his Intellectual Property Panel Discussion which I will be participating in… so I was reading up on it last night. I’m very excited about Web 2.0… because it provides me with a framework (both theoretical and methodological) to organize some of my independent research around.

Web 2.0 is catchphrase coined by Tim O’Reilly back in 2002 which refers to the social evolution of the Internet. It’s the user-created side of things. Institutions of Web 2.0 include Wikipedia Google Flickr Myspace Facebook BitTorrent… pretty much any web based service that allows for user control of it’s service.

O’Reilly put forth Web 2.0 as a marketing concept for business (one that explains the beta phenomenon on the net)… but much of the “lessons” we learn from Web 2.0… as O’Reilly tries to sell the concept as a new business model… are extremely relevant to the community context of the web. Web 2.0 is the user-created universe.

Robert Putnam wrote a book called “Bowling Alone” and the book was dedicated to showing how civic engagement at the community level is deteriorating. The example he gives from which the title of his book is derived… there has been a steady decline of group membership or joining clubs… like bowling leagues… in America since the 1970’s. Not only are fewer people getting together in these organized manners… they are voting less and overall seem to be less engaged with society.

One section of the book is dedicated to social movements and the Internet… suggesting that these may in fact be ways in which social organization is changing. Bowling Alone was written in 2000.

He notes that Internet communities run the risk of a sort of “cyberbalkinization” where groups that are formed online are interest-based rather than geography based; and potentially narrow in their focus. He seems to think this is a bad thing… but a community based on shared ideas rather than mere geographic location seems progressive in my mind.

One of the biggest tenants of Web 2.0… perhaps the one thing that drives the movement and evolution of the web (and the physical communities of it’s users) is trust. It’s a new trust… one based on word of mouth (user endorsement through hyperlinking) and one that does not really have any real-world measures (aside from those who use Web 2.0 merely to bring their physical realities online). We can see these differences between Facebook and Myspace users… where facebook does not facilitate new contacts that extend beyond I know this person through this person… where Myspace is far more open. Trust on Myspace may be more shallow than trust on Facebook because of this real-world connectedness… but only in initial contact. Deep trust can be established on Myspace… but it happens in a different way than on Facebook.

My theory… which I plan to develop further one day… is that Facebook reinforces the identity that we know to be our own… where MySpace allows us to test new elements of and refine our own identity. It’s complicated though… and ties into issues of identity fragmentation in a globalized world.

Another interesting element of Web 2.0 is the folksonomy (I love this concept… it is very new to me). Folksonomy is the opposite of taxonomy… it expands concepts of concepts rather than narrows it into a specific category. An example of a folksonomic practice would be photo tagging… allowing users to label the concepts themselves. For example… on my Flickr account I have a series of pictures tagged as “Autism”… I am creating a visual concept to go along with the label of Autism… The photos are of my boys at their most autistic. But… when I click on the “autism” tag in Flickr… my conceptualization of autism is incorporated into how others have conceptualized “autism” in their own images… thus giving the user a broader (visual) conceptualization of autism.

The same can be said of blog tagging… not the game but the specific practice of assigning categories to blogs. If I put this blog in the category Computers and the Internet… it becomes part of the online dialogue today of Computers and the Internet… if I tag it as News and Politics though… or Religion and Philosophy… I’m saying as a creator of cultural content… this is much more than a discussion about Computers and the Internet… it has religious and philosophical implications…

Get it?

Web 2.0 also fosters an environment of collaboration and cooperation. The comment function allows us to interact with the information images and concepts that are being presented to us instantly. We (as users in Web 2.0) are no longer passive receptacles of information… our interaction changes the information we are being presented… whether it is in disagreement or agreement of that information. If we disagree… we question and thereby present different ideas to the topic… if we agree… we reinforce the idea of collective consent towards the topic or idea.

Open Source software and Creative Commons licensing fosters this environment of sharing and collaboration… not to mention trust. It completely defies the tenants of Intellectual Property and at its core… says NO! information is not proprietary.

I’m going to end here… chew on this and spit it back out to me would ya…

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