[iDC] Against Web 2.0 - a student's view

Matt Waxman mwax at ucsc.edu
Sun May 28 18:44:15 EDT 2006

Hi, my name is Matt Waxman.  I am a fifth year senior at UC Santa 
Cruz and will be 23 years old this Summer.  I'd like to take a stab 
at this whole web 2.0 thing, participation in it, and maybe ground 
the newness and it's ideas in personal experience and the world 
around me.

 From my experience, it seems my generation of youth grew up during 
the internet's grand explosion into cultural consciousness and any 
transition from an "old" to "new" kind of web-usage.  By tracing my 
own history of using the internet and social networking sites, and 
observing internet use by people in similar ages to me, I believe the 
idea and relevance of a web "2.0" can be observed.

I started using the internet in Middle School. At that time, many 
people were already using the internet, but for many of my peers and 
I, we only used the internet from school computers.  My family got 
the internet for the first time on a 56k modem (my parents were 
waiting for that technology to be more economical with monthly rates) 
during my sophomore year in High School (1998-1999), and it was a 
very big deal to have access from home (and the phone line being 
occupied was always a constant issue).  I should add, from Middle 
School on, I grew up in the town of Moraga, middle class suburbia in 
the San Francisco Bay Area.

For my peers and I, at 15 years old at the end of the 1990s, the 
internet was very new. Personally I loved to explore the internet and 
became very fascinated by online design communities coming from 
forum/portal sites like k10k.net.  I also became very fascinated with 
web design and web programming and taught myself mostly by looking at 
other people's source code (plus Wired tutorials and code archives 
always helped). Other things people the same age used the internet 
for: other forms of creative expression, research, porn, and 
communicating with other people (this includes email, early social 
networking forums, and building personal homepages).

The internet and my fascination for web design ate up a lot of my 
time during high school. When I wasn't using the computer--which I'll 
stress again, because of the internet was less than healthy in 
retrospect--I would sometimes be outside, go over to a friend's 
house, go skateboarding, or go back to doing some of the activities I 
would do a lot before the internet, such as Legos and drawing.

It wasn't until freshman year in college (2001-2002) that I first 
learned about AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), and it was from a girl on 
my dorm hall (who I'd later talk to on AIM even though she lived 
three doors down).  Now, I think I knew a lot about the "cutting 
edge" in online design, but social communication came a little slow 
to me.  Nonetheless, I think this in itself is quite relevant, as 
most people don't participate in these communication infrastructures 
right off the bat, it takes time to catch on.  I should add that I 
quit using AIM at the end of my sophomore year in college because it 
had become an addiction and it was eating up time which I could use 
for extra-curriculars and studying.  I have only met a few other 
people in college who have also quit AIM, most students still use it, 
and it still remains a very large part of their social and personal 

I should also add that at this time (in fact I think it was all the 
way through my junior year in college) there was no massive, 
campus-wide (and national) addiction to sites like Facebook and 
MySpace on any scale like we have now.   I did have a few friends who 
used Friendster; but in contrast to the permeating, everyday 
social-consciousness and colloquial referencing emanating from 
Facebook and MySpace, Friendster cannot compete.  I don't think 
Facebook and MySpace even existed as they do now either--and if they 
did, most people didn't know about them yet.

In June of 2004 I first received an email from the 
collegefacebook.com website (which seems to be the less-popular and 
parallel version of the popular Facebook.com), and assumed it was 
spam.  It took a couple of months and talk with friends and my 
brother to learn that it wasn't spam, and was actually worth joining. 
At first I was skeptical and found the idea of adding "friends" 
bizarre, but loved the idea of connecting with friends and loved even 
more the ability to read profiles and look at pictures of people (the 
voyeuristic and self-showcasing is great).  A few months later, at 
the end of 2004, I added myself to thefacebook.com (which is now just 
facebook.com) because "everybody" was on that network.

I've remained on Facebook ever since; I can't say I'm addicted but I 
do have my binge runs now and then.  In the single year of 2005, 
Facebook really exploded with intense campus-wide and nation-wide 
networking.  One of the most interesting experiences I remember with 
Facebook occurred at the beginning of Summer 2005 when I received a 
facebook message from a girl who was going to attend UC Santa Cruz in 
the Fall.  I just so happened to be the first person listed in her 
"social network" (a list of people connected to people you're 
connected to), and she had decided to message me asking about 
college.  I responded with a lot of tips and info.  Amazingly, for 
that girl, college has had and will always have Facebook as an 
important part of the college experience.  For her, college does not 
exist without Facebook and online social networking.  A few weeks ago 
I was speaking with a different freshman who had been using Facebook 
all year and uses the site constantly.  She was very surprised to 
learn that when I began college, Facebook didn't exist... she said 
she hadn't really thought about it, and assumed it had always been 

I believe it was in 2005 fellow students really started to join 
MySpace en-mass.  I have a MySpace account but only use it to view 
people's photos on MySpace when necessary (you can view MySpace 
profile pages without login).  In contrast to Facebook, I believe 
MySpace has attracted many more people because anyone can join (not 
just college kids like Facebook), you can really modify (sort-of) the 
look of your page, and there are many special features.  I have to 
admit, as I don't use MySpace, I can't really speak from "personal 
experience" but only from observation.  Students use MySpace 
everywhere and all the time.  I've seen students using it while 
sitting in class, doing nothing but looking at the messages people 
have left for them and looking at photos of their friends and 
themselves. (...might this be a downside of having wireless internet 
in classrooms?)  References to both Facebook and MySpace also seem to 
frequently pop-up in dining-hall, party, and meeting conversations.

A few weeks ago I entered upon a group of students discussing the 
injustice of University officials using photographs and text on 
Facebook as proof that some students had consumed alcohol and drugs 
when cited.  Most of the students at that meeting seemed visibly 
upset, and they spoke of drafting a petition on Facebook to try and 
ban authorities from entering Facebook.  To be honest, I find this 
ridiculous, and it seems to me these students are still learning the 
consequences of engaging in new social spaces: if you don't want to 
get in trouble when a photo gets posted, it is really your 
responsibility to not be in those photos.  Facebook also has a 
"Flyer" function where you can pay to advertise with "flyers" (small 
banner-ad sized announcements) across a school's network.  The 
"flyering" and the events announcements on Facebook work well, and in 
some cases, seem to be more effective than physical flyering when 
people spend an increasing amount time in front of the computer.

It's almost halfway through the year 2006 and these websites continue 
to thrive with activity.  We now also have sites like Flickr, 
YouTube, GoogleMaps, etc., which are quite different but very much 
related and in the same vein of internet experience.  Facebook 
continues to grow as well.  Fall 2005 they added the ability for 
students to add unlimited photos, and last week they added 
connectability to Facebook via cellphone text messages (just type 
"FBOOK"!) and the ability for users to post "status" messages saying 
what one is doing at the very moment (in response, I've heard 
students ask each other why Facebook is trying to be like AIM).  Also 
(I think it was Summer or Fall 2005) Facebook extended their networks 
into High Schools, and very recently into some USA business and 
regional network categories (I'm part of the UCSC network and the San 
Francisco network... and can thus surf profiles of people from 
different Universities also connected to the San Francisco network, 
and also find people on the San Francisco network who are connected 
because their office network is, such as Google.)  I think Facebook 
should add more international networks, they now only have London, 
Paris, and a few locations in Canada.

What is going on?  Due to the internet and online social networking, 
High School and college experiences--and I'll add, Youth experiences 
in general--of youth today (right now!) are very different from my 
High School and part of my college experiences... and I graduated 
from High School only five years ago!  It is important to note that 
the internet existed while I was in High School and was a younger 
youth, but that internet experience greatly contrasts the internet 
experience of current younger youth.

It is the very fast, visible shift in the consciousness of 
what-is-the-internet, and hence what-is-the-world, among young 
internet users that tells this tale.  In many ways this story can be 
compared to the story of television's evolution: the television I 
grew up with (and felt like always existed because it always existed 
in my world) was very different from the television my parents grew 
up with.  Web "2.0", I'll gather, is one way of expressing a 
recognition of this new kind of world people inhabit, a physical 
world constructed by a new version of mediated experience.

And calling it a "2.0" is in some ways relevant, as well.  As 
experienced by the college freshman at UC Santa Cruz, the new version 
of living with the internet is assumed to be the only way of living 
with the internet; a consciousness of only a web "1.0" no longer 

Matt Waxman
Undergraduate, UC Santa Cruz
Film & Digital Media and an Individual Study in History & Theory of 
mwax at ucsc.edu / 831.402.4770
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