WEB 2.0: What’s the Big Idea (s)?
by Aristee Georgiadou, revised April 20, 2018
The internet –cyberspace- in its public conception embodied the techno-utopianism of counter-culture movements of the ‘60s following the libertarian ideals of US politics of the time. It was meant to be above and beyond governments. The prevailing notion was derived from novels where the individual is in control of the cyberspace. The computers, on the other hand, were created in the ‘80s in response to the need of centralized management and increased control by companies. Fairly static and informational, the internet was popularized by the arrival of the web in 1993. Attempts to commercialize Web 1.0 famously failed on March 10, 2000 with the dot-com bust when NASDAQ lost 78% of its value.
Users had been deemed important since ’97. Application protocols enabled the e-mail first and when blogging begun, social networking was open. It went from physicists sharing research papers to people sharing cute cats providing User Generated Content (UGC) themselves, gradually colonizing everything in the network. What was once anarchic was now through the Architecture of Participation emancipatory; a dynamic and inexpensive production and reproduction of shared content by the many which bypasses the few and leads to a democratic revolution. Or does it? No doubt the web is powerful in environments of limited speech. It is how people were mobilized in unofficial uprisings. It is how governments engage more directly with citizens and the latter draw attention to local issues. Paradoxically though, information is commodified by the social networking sites (SNS) companies today thus becoming exploitative in nature.
Access to information is expanded. The Wisdom of the Crowds has opened the way to collaborative knowledge communities. In contrast to the powerless audiences of the mass media, the new media decentralized the monopoly of information. Collective knowledge is shared. Yet its veracity is problematic. And inasmuch as we are becoming dependent on the digital we feel lost without it. By being connected we have instantly compromised our privacy, logged and available at all times. Isolation, self-reference and waste of time are other associated risks.
The volume, velocity and variety of data is epic in scale. Suffice it to note that 90% of today’s data was created in two years and more interaction is on the way. This information overload is difficult, impossible even, to assimilate and the feeling of missing out (FOMO) on not interacting socially is stressful enough without counting data theft or abuse of profiles from those digital traces devices and objects leave behind. Fake and hateful content owing to poor information ethics is yet another parameter. Two additional ideas upon which Web 2.0 is built on is Long Tail theory (benefits small segments of population which otherwise would have been left not catered for due to low demand) and open content where free software is available for everyone to use.
Following the adage “markets are conversations” Web 2.0 constitutes the transition to user-focused businesses, the realization that online users, unlike TV audiences, are participatory. Both controlling and controlled however. Under the allusion of providing control by enabling users the creation of profiles and interacting, companies enhance their own businesses drawing income from advertising. Through the process of horizontal integration the internet companies gain permanent control by increasingly knowing more about the users and their habits. In essence, social media can be both controlling and empowering in a fluctuating negotiated price, because of the importance of the users and their authenticity in communication.
Anderson, P., (2007), “What is Web 2.0? Ideas, Technologies and Implications for Education”, JISC Technology & Standards Watch, pp 2-26.
Hepp, A., et al., (2018) “Transforming Communications: Studies in Cross-Media research”, Communicative Figurations, pp 3-6.
Hinton, S. & Hjorth, L., (2015), “Understanding Social Media”, SAGE, pp 7-31.