Debates in Digital Culture 2019/Web 2.0
One way of understanding Web 2.0, as proposed by Murugesan, is that it was a development in web technology that "emphasiz[ed] peers’ social interaction...and present[ed] new opportunities for...engaging its users more effectively." (Murugesan, 2007). Unlike the internet that came before, Web 2.0 allowed the common web user a deeper engagement with online media through the innovative ways a website could now be designed. Many Web 2.0 sites gave users the power to create accounts to make online content, like: uploading videos on YouTube, contributing to articles on Wikipedia, or posting about their life on Myspace or Facebook. Allowing anyone to contribute, however, made Web 2.0 equally dangerous, with an example being online hate speech against minority groups. This heightened level of interaction dawned a new age in research for communications and media scholars worldwide because of the developments in online culture, politics and business, and potentials for further technological growth. In 2019 Web 2.0 is becoming outdated as the internet continues to grow and develop into forms greater than it could ever be.
This essay seeks to explore what Web 2.0 is, comparing it the retrospectively named 'Web 1.0' of the past. In addition, it will explore the potentials of Web 2.0 in areas like 'participatory' culture, Web 2.0's role in different industries as well as collective intelligence. Finally, it will explore the death of Web 2.0 and the new technologies subsequently developed that supersede it. Within the exploration of the main facets of Web 2.0, reference will be made to leading media scholars (Jenkins, O'Reilly, Lanier etc.), regarding their theories and viewpoints on the development of Web 2.0 and how they see its impact on our society.
Web 1.0 vs. Web 2.0
Web 1.0, also termed by Berners-Lee as “read only web" gave users the chance to find information online "search and read" (Getting, 2007). This was helpful to website owners as they were able to establish an online presence and allowed them to inform users about important information. Web 1.0 was a simple platform for users to browse, compared to the new engaging version of Web coined as “read-write” web by Barners-Lee. The transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 made it possible for all users to create content and interact with one another. With the appearance of social media (such as MySpace, Facebook), video sharing websites (like YouTube), and blogs that rely on users submissions, users were able to engage with one another. Users finally had the ability to interact with each other, edit their own page, and share their stories with pictures and videos in a user-generated virtual community. Flew describes that Web 2.0 is the transition from "personal websites to blogs and blog site aggregation, from publishing to participation, from web content as the outcome of large up-front investment to an ongoing and interactive process, and from content management systems to links based on tagging, or what is known as folksonomy” (Flew, 2008).
When delving deep into the transition from Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, it is important to understand what differentiates the two versions in order to fully comprehend their usages. These differences can be detected in a variety of areas such as, "technological (scripting and presentation technologies used to render the site and allow user interaction); structural (purpose and layout of the site); and sociological (notions of friends and groups)” (Cormode & Krishnamurthy, 2008). Beginning with the technological and structural aspect of Web 2.0. The level of sophistication between current and beginning websites is easy to see when looking at the technological and structural aspect. Rather than going through code as would have been the norm in the years of Web 1.0, Web 2.0 has easy ways to make websites and engage on online platforms as seen with businesses such as Wix. Wix allows users to easily make websites without the difficulty and hassle of using code, this in turn further emphasizes Web 2.0’s ability to provide easy to use and accessible tools for its users to utilize. The ideas of the sociological factors are arguably the most profound change that occurred during the transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized the idea of connecting with friends and staying connected to them. The use of instant messaging that was pioneered by sites such as Bebo and Windows Live Messenger has introduced a level of connectivity never seen in the world before. In conclusion, Web 2.0 can not only be seen as a departure from Web 1.0 but also a departure from how the world itself worked before the advent of Web 2.0. To further understand the transition that occurred with the shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 it is helpful to look at a example. Google AdSense is a tool that lets users post ads from Google on their own pages and calculate compensation based on a formula. In digital advertising, its ancestor was DoubleClick, which transformed the software into a service, but its business model required formal sales contracts to limit its collaboration to thousands of larger sites. There is no central point in the information network. The users in each border area constitute the bulk of the information network. The strategy of Google AdSense is to make each website easily become a place to post advertisements, so it grows fast and is very successful.
Web 2.0 and Culture
When society embraced the transition between Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, it greatly altered global communication and interactions among people. Web 2.0 allowed everyone to communicate with each other regardless of geographical barriers, and opened a world of interaction and information to be shared with everyone who had access to those tools. Several key concepts that were created due to the effect of the relationship between Web 2.0 and cultures resulted in societies practicing participatory culture, changes in learning through business and education, and the aggregation of a global collective intelligence. These concepts are important to fully understand Web 2.0 as they demonstrate the world wide changes cause by the addition of creative and communicative tools created for Web 2.0. The relationship between Web 2.0 and culture also helped to further shape Web 2.0 tools to meet the demands of the ever shifting society which seeks different ways to share content and collect information.
Web 2.0 has become an essential technological tool in the creation of participatory culture as we know it today. Participatory culture, as defined by Henry Jenkins, is a culture built on the ability to engage in meaningful artistic expression and civic engagement while receiving informal mentorship or interactions from other users (Jenkins 2009). Web 2.0 has given people the ability to interact on a global scale through platforms such as social media, which has led to the pressure people face from society to become a part of the participatory culture. This online pressure to interact with society comes in many forms such as always-on culture and civic engagement. With Web 2.0 tools available to people practically 24 hours a day, it is easy to see how most users are constantly contributing and participating online. This phenomenon is known as always-on culture, which Mandiberg (2012) describes as ”being networked to people and information wherever and whenever you need it.” With the ability to access and interact online, everyday tasks typically void of technology can now involve online interaction. Social media platforms enable constant online interactions among users without the limitations created by geography. With phones within easy access of the user, people can always be alert and aware of conversations taking place online and respond in real time.
Web 2.0 and Prosumers
Part of participatory culture's meaning is web interactivity at the public level, i.e. everyone has the freedom to make additions as a Prosumer. A popular website for this phenomenon at the height of Web 2.0 was, and remains, YouTube. YouTube, as a participatory platform, is for watching videos created by solely by its users and, subsequently, sharing one's own videos for others. Chau studies YouTube's structure as a participatory platform at the base level, assessing its accessibility to the youth of internet society. He argues there is a high degree of self-sufficiency to YouTube because of the user base being able to guide and tutor future prosumers without assistance from traditional media producers (Chau, 2008). Valtysson, meanwhile, studies 'remixability' of online media through YouTube. Following the ability to upload a video to a website, the ability to download the videos quickly followed. So, users began to modify existing videos or compile them together, which became a popular trend in internet culture (Valtysson, 2010). Internet culture has grown through exposure to 'remixed' user generated content, like for example memes. With an ever-growing number of internet users producing their own media and consuming that of their peers, new perspectives of participatory culture have been established.
The users’ engagement and sharing of opinions, creations, and knowledge contributes to the creation of an online collective intelligence. O’Reilly (2005) mentions the “harnessing” of collective intelligence reinforcing Web 2.0's image as a “global brain.” This idea has been in mind of earlier thinkers like Lévy (1997) who wrote how “networks promote the construction of intelligent communities in which our social and cognitive potential can be mutually developed and enhanced” (p. 17). Wikipedia is an example of how collaborative work can create a network of information that is shared as a collective public good and shows how widespread participatory culture has become.
Contrarily, Lanier (2006) described the phenomenon as an act of “foolish collectivism” because in his opinion he believes people using sites such as Wikipedia should not be able to post content without review or critique. This is not to say that smart mobs cannot be the creators of highly interesting and accurate information, but Lanier (2006) highlighted that the anonymity of the users who can include anything “without having to worry about the possibility of being wrong” and the chaotic structure could negatively affect the process.
Despite these potentially negative parts, Wikipedia still has an order and a set of rules that allows it to continue being one of the biggest websites online. Furthermore, it is undeniable that the characteristics of Web 2.0 gave way to a more democratic space in which people. The conception of users as “co-workers” that help to build a better place fits with O’Reilly’s thoughts on the innovative aspects of the platforms.
Web 2.0's Impact in Business and Education
The impact of Web 2.0 in Business Communication
The emergence of Web 2.0 resulted in companies having to reorganize their traditional work environment and overall structure to comply with the new implications and integrate the changes to adapt their company. Employers, employees, customers and external suppliers or investors were all effected with the shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 as new opportunities to improve communication and solutions to problems arose. Web 2.0 can be used as a tool which enables businesses to “overcome geographical and temporal barriers” when considering not only consumers but employees too (Lytras, 2009). The ability to communicate online through instant messaging, document sharing, video conference and more, has allowed for a work place to be orientated around collaboration and team work without face-to-face interaction. These aspects allow for boundaries which were once in place to be overcome and communication throughout a business to be more fluent and organized, whether that is nationally or internationally. This is only possible because Web 2.0 allowed our culture to become participatory, and push for not only individuals but whole companies to become active online.
Furthermore, Chen (2009) reviews the influence Web 2.0 has had on how businesses organize or structure their content, introducing data bases or private company portals where employees can access easy, findable and organized resources or archives . This also allows for daily communication for employers using less time-consuming methods, an example being travel. The elimination of travel allows for both money and company time to be spared. Chen 2009 introduces the increase in growth surrounding business models when considering the impact Web 2.0 has had for creating individual platforms which involve user generated content to boost the companies plan to generate revenue.
One example of an industry utilizing Web 2.0 is the medical industry, which has gained tremendous benefits from this technology and turned it into an improvement in public life. According to a survey on a website, almost “89% of physicians use at least one Web 2.0 tool in their medical practice”, and other exciting data suggests that Web 2.0 can help with everyday behaviour. Numerous reports detail how doctors use Web 2.0 to connect with each other to enrich their knowledge base.
The Role of the Web in Education
Businesses are not the only organizations that are utilizing the tools available through Web 2.0. Schools around the world have increasingly relied on interactive technology to enhance and facilitate learning. The use of the applications provided by this technology prepares students for a future that is increasingly digital and driven by information access. Web 2.0 services are mediators between students and the world around them. Wikis, as defined by Anja Ebersbach, is a web page or set of webpages that can be edited by anyone who is allowed admission (Anderson, 2007). This collaborative tool implements cooperative learning where students can upload resources and draft text together, create online presentations that incorporate images, text, gifs, videos to demonstrate and share learning. As well as this application used in education, Paul Anderson mentions others that demonstrate the base of the Web 2.0 such as blogs, tagging and social bookmarking, multimedia sharing, audio blogging and podcasting, and the RSS (Anderson, 2007).
The Death of Web 2.0 and a possible Web 3.0?
Responses to Web 2.0
While Web 2.0 has continuously developed and shaped based on societal needs, many believe that the shift has moved far past its origins and has possibly reached its 'death'. For many the 'death' of Web 2.0 is brought about with the newest iteration of the internet, Web 3.0, however simply because a newer version exists does not mean that the previous version of the web is dead. The discourse of versions helps to define periods of the internet's history illustrating a continuity rather than a radical shift of the Web (Allen, 2012). This description resembles the concept of remediation, “the representation of one medium in another” which explains how the old content can prevail in new mediums. Sometimes the features of newer versions of the web are simply not suitable for a website's purpose and so are not used. For example, a small e-commerce website does not require the user-driven content of Web 2.0 and so will not employ those features, but this does not make the website obsolete as a consequence (Getting, 2007). Therefore, this section will focus on debates surrounding Web 2.0 and arguments for and against it.
The concept of Web 2.0 has been around for well over a decade now and so when considering criticism's, it is important to recognize that these are sometimes no longer relevant as time has passed. For example, an article from CNNMoney in 2008 proclaimed the supposed death of Web 2.0, citing the lack of profitability from social media sites as one of the main reasons that they would become obsolete. However, a decade later in 2018 Facebook reported record profits.
Theorising the assertion of death
This topic has been discussed under various contexts. In the book “The Death of Web 2.0” by Greg Singh, an Associate Professor at the University of Stirling, he discusses it with perspectives of connectivity ethics and psychology. As mentioned before, if Allen suggests that Web 1.0 or Web 2.0 are just “a discourse of versions,” instead of distinct technological innovation, then Web 3.0 refers to the reproduction of versioning discourse. Such extension involves how Web 2.0 is constantly changing the lives of people nowadays, especially “in the realm of participatory cultures.” The media connectivity not only creates a more democratic culture, affecting digital literacy frameworks culturally and politically, but also generates a new form of social media interaction. Singh explains a “recognition theory” of the “always-on” phenomenon. The first level is in relation to interpersonal and the mobilization of identity,” as well as the challenges towards traditional social relations. In other words, how the social media continually impacting issues of rights, fairness and equity. All these contributes to the formation of “self-realization”(Singh, 2019). In short, the topic is not simply to deal with the ever-growing development of technology, but the possibility of any future discourses (Web 3.0 or even Web 4.0) that would help eliminate the flaws of Web 2.0.
Successes of Web 2.0
Web 2.0 was merely created in an attempt to develop the internet referred to as the 'second stage,' characterized by the change from web pages to user-generated content and the continuing growth and rise of social media. The social networking sites such as Facebook and myspace is critical to the success of Web 2.0 applications. The fact content can be shared and enhanced by personal connections rather than through search or query techniques it has emerged as a major aspect of the success of Web 2.0 applications (Hendler, J., Gold-beck, J.) . Referring back to a previous section of this discussion, YouTube is a modern web application that can be shared by other users allowing a bigger platform for the video to become popular. Web 2.0 has also been successful with its relationship with organizations such as education systems as mentioned previously.
Flaws of Web 2.0
Despite the success of Web 2.0, one major problem that is considered to be the flaw of Web 2.0 would be privacy, which causes concerns and has potentially caused the 'death' of Web 2.0. The personal information flows of web users are usually being neglected in many Web 2.0 platforms. Personal information that exits in online platforms like Twitter or Plazes can serve as investigation purpose for employers, police and other activities, both legal or illegal. Contents of deleted e-mails were being reported to be found in searching engine Google(Zimmer, 2008).
Overall Web 2.0 has an array of advantages that has led to the success of the technology, however Web 3.0 or the 'third phase of the world wide web' is on the rise. The World Wide Web is an on going evolution in itself and Web 2.0's success has played an important part in creating user-generated content and benefits for businesses and organisations. Its creation allowed a new way of online culture to take hold and shape the future of online interactions, and without it much of the communications people and organizations are capable of today would not be possible. Whether Web 2.0 has met its end is not important, but rather that the technology currently embedded in society continues to grow and adapt to meet the users needs and provide a service that engages users around the world with each other and information.
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