Web Squared: Web 2.0 Five Years On

With under a week remaining in the course I have finally grasped the true concept of what Web 2.0 really is. Highlighted text in blue lettering on the first page of Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle’sWeb Squared: Web 2.0 Five Years Onexplains, “Web 2.0 is all about harnessing collective intelligence.” The most simple explanation I have seen to date, yet also the most logical and easy to understand. Today’s blog entry will examine how Web 2.0 focuses on collective intelligence and how all of these rapid changes will affect us as users. Before understanding Web 2.0 and the importance of collective intelligence, we must first examine collective intelligence.

Collective intelligence, arguably the main goal and fuel of Web 2.0 is defined as, “a shared or group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals.” For the World Wide Web, such a definition seems very fitting. As a person who has only been on the internet for a few years, personally I don’t believe I ever truly experienced the web before Web 2.0. Unfortunately for me, this makes it difficult to understand how the Internet looked and functionned prior to Web 2.0. Interestingly, the definition is somewhat similar to that of socialism, “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.” As both the definitions of collective intelligence and socialism stress, the final outcome is based entirely on the use of the community. In the case of Web 2.0, O’Reilly explains, “data is being collected, presented and acted upon in real time… participation has increased by orders of magnitude.” Without the support of the numerous users, Web 2.0 would likely fall apart just as socialism would if part of the community did not handle ownership and control correctly. As Web 2.0 has shown, websites which are focused on “harnessing collective intelligence” will thrive. Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are prime examples of sites which harness collective intelligence. A user uploads information about themselves whether it be pictures, videos or short text inserts and in doing so adds to the enormous base of collective intelligence. The same user can click onto other users pages to view what they have uploaded, and the circle continues endlessly. The question I ask, is a serious one which could undermine Web 2.0 as a movement entirely. What if people begin to lose interest in sites like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube? What if users begin to understand that all of this collective intelligence is being used by advertisement firms, Google and the government? Then what is Web 2.0? Although it seems that users show no signs of stopping now, these questions are just a few to consider when thinking abuot how Web 2.0 affects us as users.

In the “gold old days” a user would have to sit on their chair in their living room, go to Google and type in a few words to search for something. As O’Reilly explains, “the Web [is] geting smart enough to understand some things without us having to tell it explicitly.” At first glance a process like this may seem extremely useful to a user, but taking a step back and considering the implications of functioning like this on a daily basis raises some scary questions. Is the Web making us less human? If we no longer need to think for ourselves, have we completely succumb to the power of technology? As Siva Vaidyanathan explains in The Googlization of Everything, people no longer need to remember phone number or address. What’s next, will soon humans not even need to remember names or images because they have become so absurdly reliant upon the Web? These are some extreme dangers that essentially could occur due to Web 2.0, but I doubt we will see such any time soon. On the positive side of things, Web 2.0 may be bringing users closer to Vaidynathan’s hypothetical Human Knowledge project. Due to the nature of the Web, users across the world can exchange nearly limitless amouns of information. The more the community works towards positive collaboration and innovation, the better Web 2.0 will be.

For those like myself who never really experienced Web 1.0, it is difficult to fathom just how big of a change and saviour Web 2.0 has been. Web 2.0 revitalized the Internet during a time when it needed it most. It has turned the internet into a collaborative community who can exchange information at the click of a button. It has helping politicians, charities and many other types of real world issues. Like anything, too much of Web 2.0 will have negative reprucussions. As users must understand this and not let the Web turn us into robots. Insead, we should try our best to fulfill Siva Vaidynathan’s dream of The Human Knowledge Project. Web 2.0 really urges the user to question, what has the Web become? Users should also be asking themselves…

What Have We Turned Into?

– Ian McDougald

Photo:  http://www.catehuston.com/blog/2009/10/29/how-web-2-0-is-changing-the-way-we-communicate/

Works Cited

O’Reilly, Tim, and John Battelle. “Web Squared: Web 2.0 Five Years On.” O’Reilly Media, Inc. Web. 31 Mar. 2012. http://assets.en.oreilly.com/1/event/28/web2009_websquared-whitepaper.pdf.

Vaidhyanathan, Siva. The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry). Berkeley: University of California, 2011. Print.

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