[iDC] Against Web 2.0

trebor at thing.net trebor at thing.net
Wed May 31 14:50:38 EDT 2006

It is a remarkably predictable, slightly draining, ever-repeating cycle. Once an
argument is made that a networked technology has positive social effects or that
there are really existing economies emerging from it or that sociable media can
be used against the intentions of their inventors -- there are always people
stepping to the front who take that argument, push it to the absolute extreme
(“computers will save the world”) and then stop there (“utopian notions of
community,” “sociable media as fad.”)

It’s labor-intensive to keep up, some give up on emergent media. (It takes me
about two hours a day.) Just for a moment picture that people who argue for
sociable web media have critical faculties. Somebody who finds blogs or RSS or
podcasts empowering, may well be aware of the participatory panopticon and
clearly see the corporatization of open-everything. Soft coercion through
networked, casualized labor and all that hell of the networked lifestyle may
actually be on her mind. Just imagine that.

She agrees that “mass communications systems largely serve the interests of
power.” She reads media history and does not buy into into the overdetermined
liberation-talk about blogs. But she may have also read the “Handbook for
Bloggers and Cyberdissidents” and thus know what blogs can do to real
dictatorial regimes. She read about the SMS Sydney Riots last December, the
role of texting in the Phillipines, East Timor, China, and at the Republican
convention in NYC.


To argue, ignoring all this, that “computers are not the answer to the world’s
social problems” is, well, troublesome because they are *an* answer to *some*
social predicaments. The Internet is not the savior that comes along on a white
horse swinging the golden sword of salvation. The World Wide Web is not the cure
to the planet’s diseases. But it may help connect researchers to find a remedy.
The Internet is not the cash cow for the populace but it does create
alternative sharing economies. (It took Benkler ten years to write The Wealth
of Networks, I’ll not make the case here in passing). How about a balance
between enthusiasm and critical distance? Just imagine that.





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