Blog Post

The brands that define Web 2.0


While HASTAC's Duke contingent was holding our Web 2.0 workshop last week (which Cathy Davidson summed up well in her blog), NetSquared held their second conference, N2Y2, in San Jose, focusing on 21 projects that the social web can help to solve. The attendees then voted for their favorite projects, and the top vote-getters shared $100,000 in NetSquared Innovation Awards. The winners are listed here (link has spoilers, of a sort). Any reports from HASTACers who were in attendance at the conference?

I mention NetSquared because the projects they support are positioned to do great good, from education to the environment to politics. Two groups I chose at random from the list of 21 featured at N2Y2, FamilyFarmed and Global Women's Leadership Network, can give you an idea of their scope. Can't get any better than that, right?

Well, the problem is that most Web 2.0 users are not using these technologies for such things. Though they are becoming closely integrated into our everyday lives, there is not much thought about how that gives power to the owners and operators of the web's social networking tools. Indeed, Kate Raynes-Goldie says that most people aren't thinking about the downsides of Web 2.0 at all. Particularly the fact that, as Kate notes, "most web 2.0 services (save wikipedia) are for-profits." Everyone with an internet connection can certainly have a MySpace profile, but Rupert Murdoch still owns it. If you're reading this, you can Google anything I'm talking about and find more information, but some of Google's 8,000 employees can see it (and possibly your cat too).

So, while the good of projects like those presented at N2Y2 are realized, I hope that we also consider critically what our participation in Web 2.0 means for the world. How good or bad is it that the companies and groups in the icon above manage so much of my online experience?


3 comments That's the url for Katie Raynes-Goldie's excellent blog entry "The Touble with Web 2.0." This is what I mean by humanists needing to get really busy with critical theories of this generation of technology. My favorite moment at the HASTAC conference was when Nicole S. of UCSB told us, bright gleam in her eye, about how, in high school, she played this game called "Imperialism" through which she learned how to move around various crops--tobacco, sugar, rice, I imagine--and how that migration of crops came with a migration of people, the seafaring trades, the revolutions and laws passed around the world. She went to her high school teacher to complain that there was this whole hidden story that she was learning in computer games that they hadn't even touched on in her high school history class. You could feel the self-satisfied digital smile spread across the audience, then Nicole delivered her punchline: "Then, I went on to university, and learned that imperialism was a bad thing." Pause. And then it sunk in and all of us in the audience laughed and applauded. Right. You learn a lot on the web-----but you do not learn critical thinking, how to make an argument, how to evaluate critically and skeptically and intelligently all the tricks and the tools and the pleasures, their hidden costs and subtle choices. Web 2.1, at least . . . with .1% critique as part of our many-to-many interactions


Picking up mostly on Jonathan's point, I was reminded of Nicholas Carr's comments about the dual-economy nature of Web 2.0, in which the few profit from the many:


Thank you for the link; Cathy mentioned the sharecropping theory before I got back to my blog. Nice to get some more perspective on this!