I’ve mentioned before that this blog is part of my graduate coursework for Design and Implementation of Web-Based Information Services. This class focuses on Web 2.0 and by extension library 2.0 and all the other 2.0s out there. The real change from web 1.0 to web 2.0 is the move from static, authoritative content to dynamic, collaborative content with no clear authority. One example of web 2.0 is Wikipedia which is a collaboratively edited encyclopaedia with no clear authority control, but which produces surprisingly authoritative content. Foksonomies are another interesting web 2.0 phenomenon. I see this same phenomenon in OSS development where the community drives a project. That is, the community of programmers and users influence the direction of the project and if a project goes in a direction that some don’t like, it branches. This is the exact opposite of the proprietary model where software is created and controlled by a company – an authority and can live or die under that authority.
Web 2.0 is not magical, it is not utopian, it is really just an evolution in the way we connect and communicate. We are empowered by tiny things like posting a comment on a blog or forum and we feel heard when we post a review of a product. Web 2.0 gives us a sense of participation. It may give us a forum to share our particular knowledge or a blog to express our opinions. It also allows for something else: organic authority – a kind of wisdom of the masses. So what does this mean for things like political movements or citizen action? One possibility is that we are heading or evolving toward a time of a leaderless society – that communities may organically move together without a clear authority or leader.
This really seems impossible to me, but I think the paradigm of a generation raised on the Internet may be different than mine. At the ALA (American Library Association) Conference this year, I heard the term “information agnostic” to describe teens and tweens who did not see any particular information as more authoritative than another. For example, something in an email was just as valid as something seen on the news. At first, I was horrified by this idea, but with more thought, it seems to be reflective of a move away from authority. Add to this the 2004 Pew study that found that a high percentage of these young people preferred to get their news from Jon Stewart’s Daily Show on Comedy Central and you find yourself scratching your head more. But, is the parody program actually a good source of information? A more recent Pew study prompted this headline on Think Progress: SURVEY: Daily Show/Colbert Viewers Most Knowledgeable, Fox News Viewers Rank Lowest. Perhaps this reflex of a younger generation reflects the ability to adapt and change quickly based on the flow of information, or a natural skepticism about what they are being told by any authority.
This really brings me to the title of this piece and an excerpt from a discussion in the Guardian with Naomi Klein about the nebulous nature of what she hesitates to label as the anti-corporate movement.
The movement, with its hubs and spokes and hotlinks, its emphasis on information rather than ideology, reflects the tool it uses – it is the “internet come to life”. This is why it doesn’t work well on television, unlike the anti-Vietnam protests of the 60s with their leaders, their slogans, their single-issue politics.
When people say that the movement lacks vision, believes Klein, what they really mean is that it is different from anything that’s gone before, that it is a completely new kind of movement – just as the internet is a completely new kind of medium. “What critics are really saying is that the movement lacks an overarching revolutionary philosophy…” But the movement should not, says Klein, be in a hurry to define itself. “Before they sign on to anyone’s 10-point plan, they deserve the chance to see if, out of the movement’s chaotic, decentralized, multi-headed webs, something new, something entirely its own, can emerge.”