[iDC] Who's afraid of Web 2.0?

David Golumbia dgolumbia at virginia.edu
Mon May 29 09:21:14 EDT 2006

> Jon Ippolito wrote:

Commerce didn't invent Web 2.0 features, and when the current marketing
> blizzard blows over, few business plans centered on them will still be in
> the black. Remote scripting ("AJaX") didn't start with Microsoft's
> XMLHttpRequest or Google Suggest;
> real-time community interfaces like The Pool have achieved the same effect
> for years using open standards like a hidden iframe.

Exactly. These features were in many ways inherent in the network for a long
time, and they are not going to "transform things" now any more now than
they did before.

Conversely, the glee with which media CEOs spout Web 2.0 buzzwords can turn
> to horror when they realize what increased community participation might
> really mean for their consumers. Oxygen Media asked Keith Frank, one of the
> pioneers of remote
> scripting, to tell them how they could bedazzle their online audience with
> Web 2.0. He told Oxygen's captains they'd be crazy to try: do they really
> want users to start tagging Oprah episodes with user-defined descriptors
> like "fat," "fatter," and
> "fattest"?

Once again, exactly. My complaint about Web 2.0 is not that corporations are
using it as a buzzword; it is that the buzzword is distracting us from what
corporations are actually doing with computers, which does not have very
much to do with open access, democratic distribution, etc. There is very
little "we" can do with distributed user technologies that "they" can't use
even more effectively to screw with us. As a computer "insider," I just feel
like I undrestand that much more fully what the NSA might be doing with
"data mining"--but nothing I do with del.icio.us is going to change that--it
might even help the Ecehlon-style efforts.

> My advice to anyone suffering from Tag terror and Folksonomy phobia? Try
> 'em out. Whether you're a computer programmer or art historian, play with
> them long enough to glimpse how they might change the way you view and do
> your job. And spend a little
> less time bitching about the "impending" co-optation of the Internet by
> commerce, and a little more time doing something about it. You can start by
> calling your government representatives to express your support for the net
> neutrality amendment
> currently being debated in the US Congress (
> http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,70994-0.html).

Now here's the nub of the disagreement. I don't hear anyone expressing
"fear" of the Web 2.0 technologies--to the contrary, they are cool, some
cooler than others, to the degree that (as you said above) they are actually
even changes from what's come before. But "doing something about it": that's
where we really disagree. The world is full of seroius social problems. The
web, however cool it is, is nothing but a small (maybe very small) part of
the solution to those problems--and in many ways, it is a disturbingly
effective distraction from addressing those problems. To the degree that
there is social activitism left among any of us, I hate to see it focused on
"doing somethign about it" by advocating RSS feeds, tag clouds, and
folksonomy. That's BS I hope we are trying to target in these emails. Our
world is in an seriously f****ed-up place. To the degree that those of us
with the passion or power to do something about it focus their attention on
web technologies, it seems to me they are avoiding actually becoming engaged
with the real-world politics we have got to address. I hear and see too many
people with stars in their eyes: "yeah, we're nearly in a totalitarian
state, but gosh darn, Web 2.0 is coming!" sorry, but I don't see "Web 2.0"
-- or "Web n.0" -- as getting near our real problems.

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