[iDC] Against Web 2.0

Trebor Scholz trebor at thing.net
Fri May 26 16:52:00 EDT 2006

David Weinberger, blogging philosopher and author of ³Small Pieces
Loosely Joined² said in a recent interview:

³some of the talk about Web 2.0 makes me want to point back to Clue
Train Manifesto. The only part of the Web 2.0 stuff that I have a
reaction to is when Web 2.0 people say- now at last the Web is for users
and users have a voice. And I want to say: NO, back from the very
beginning what drove people onto the net was not so that people can shop
at Amazon. Weblogs and all that have made it way, way easier but the Web
has always been about voice and conversation."


I agree. Online sociality is old: It goes back to the beginnings of the
Internet. You don't have to be a media historian to understand that.
Online sociality is new: It has reached a new level of participation, in
some cases even interaction. Today, sociality online is empowered by
easier-to-use tools, broader access to bandwidth and technology as well
as a deeper familiarity with the tools.

When I first came to the United States, I met Annette Michelson,
professor for cinema studies, in her New York University office. She
asked me why I decided to move to the US. A bit tongue-in-cheek, I
responded that I did not come for the American Dream. I remember it like
today: her eyes turned dark, then a moment of silence, ... then she
raised her voice: "Don't you even MENTION the American Dream 
to me. It does not exist."

Russell Shaw's in his recent Zdnet article "Web 2.0? It does not exist"
does not argue that Web 2.0 does not exist just like Michelson surely
did not doubt that there are people who follow the American Dream.
Russell Shaw just turns his back to the suggestion that there is a
rebirth of the Web.


Wikipedia states about Web 2.0 as "a social phenomenon referring to an
approach to creating and distributing Web content itself, characterized
by open communication, decentralization of authority, freedom to share
and re-use." The encyclopedia continues by characterizing Web 2.0 as "a
more organized and categorized content, with a more developed
deep-linking web architecture." They also refer to a "shift in economic
value of the web, potentially equaling that of the dot com boom of the
late 1990s." The term Web 2.0 is yet another fraudulent bubble designed
to trick investors with pretended newness. It's just like McDonald's
re-stacking their greasy beef layers to sell an entirely new product
every 6 month. I'm not at all suggesting, however, that the phenomenon
behind the term Web 2.0 is corrupt. 


The term is attributed to corporate "futureneer" Tim O'Reilly who
convened a Web 2.0 Conference in 2005. (White male faces dominated this
conference just like other O¹Reilly events.) The Wikipedia DEF for the
term Web 2.0 links it to what some people see as a second phase of
development of the World Wide Web.


Other terms kicking around include groupware and the term social
software that was mainly used in the early 1990s. It stood for people
connecting or collaborating through networked communication

Howard Rheingold referred to sociable web media as
³cooperation-enhancing technologies.² Cooperation, in contrast, is a
less intensive form of working together in which participants account
for gain or loss individually. Contributors have individual goals. While
collaboration is a risky, intensive form of working together with a
common goal. The gain or loss is shared among all. The term sociable web
media is surrounded by this discourse. Edward Barrett, lecturer in the
MIT Writing Program introduced the term "sociomedia" in the book of the
same title. Judith Donath wrote on Sociable Media for The Encyclopedia
of Human-Computer Interaction.  


The term "sociable media" is used by the MIT Sociable Media Group, for
example. They define ³sociable media² as engagement with issues of
identity and society in a networked society. "Sociable," for me, means
approachable. Webster defines "sociable" as " a) being inclined to seek
or enjoy companionship and b) marked by or conducive to friendliness or
pleasant social relations." A sociable online environment is open to
contributions. But that does not mean that it is social, that is has a
community of participants. Opening a room does not mean that people will
come to party. "Sociable" alludes to the possibility of sociality. I use
the term sociable web media.

Next time you hear Web 2.0 feel the sour aftertaste.



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