From September 2005 to June 2006 a team of thirteen scholars at the The University of Southern California's Annenberg Center for Communication explored how new and maturing networking technologies are transforming the way in which we interact with content, media sources, other individuals and groups, and the world that surrounds us.

This site documents the process and the results.

Reply to comment

Thoughts On Web 2.0

This week some 800 developers are in San Francisco at the sold out Web 2.0 conference, paying $2,800 each to hear pundits and programmers discuss the emerging radical transformation of the web from static, fixed pages to dynamic interfaces of interactive content, often generated by users not big media outlets. Already, skeptics have emerged to question Web 2.0's true potential, but whether or not this is a new commercial boom for the Internet or merely a reprise of the Internet Bubble, I am convinced that things are indeed changing. Web applications are becoming more accessible to users. A group of academics—even an admittedly computer savvy group of academics—can put together a web site that we can all post content too without the need for a large support staff. Flickr, the Google Map APIs, blogs, all make the Internet of the 1990s seem profoundly dated. If the first generation of the Web was still largely dominated by large media outlets—be they Yahoo! or CNN.comWeb 2.0 is a vision of the Web in which media is spread into a myriad of microcontent units. In this model, aggregators that can help users assemble these units from little building blocks into more sophisticated wholes become more and more important. Web 2.0 does help us realize the hypertextual dream of the 1990s, allowing the web to finally realize its potential as an authoring tool. With Web 2.0 based around the model of consumers becoming active producers, not only creating their own content but actively remixing content themselves, Web 2.0 splendidly embodies 's concept of the writerly text replacing the readerly text. Depending on your epistemological paradigm, the web has moved from the classical era to the modern era, or from the modern to the postmodern. Sites such as Flickr, Google video and permit users to upload, categorize, manipulate, manage, share, and aggregate information. Sites with freely accessible Application Programming Interfaces or APIs such as Google maps, Flickr, or, allow users to create their own interfaces to web services. New generation browsers like Flock aim to be more active tools in creating content than first generation browsers such as Netscape and Explorer. Web 2.0 also moves away from earlier models of sites as—in Richard MacManus and Joshua Porter's succinct and biting description—"brochure-ware (static HTML pages with insipid content) or ... interactive in a flashy, animated, Javascript kind of way." Instead, Web 2.0 is based on semantic content, markup that describes the content on a page effectively so that aggregators and other web services can effectively interface with it. This is ultimately Web 2.0's strength:Web 2.0 content can be reused endlessly, RSS feeds outputing the hard work of RSS aggregators parsing other RSS feeds which in turn are produced by other aggregators in a near endless cycle. To give an example, a few weeks ago I read an item on a project at MIT on Archinect, forwarded it to Marc Tuters who in turn posted it on the USC Interactive Media Division blog from where it was reblogged to, and Alt_Imagen and doubtless other venues (you can read it on this site too). But what of the broader social consequences beyond digital authorship and this heady embrace of intertextuality In her recent article Why Web 2.0 Matters: Preparing for Glocalization for her blog Apophenia, danah boyd's argument is that Web 2.0 will enable people to manipulate global information in a locally meaningful fashion. By local, boyd suggests that she is referring not only to geographical groups but also to interest and lifestyle communities united telematically. While it's true that Web 2.0 will enable glocalization to a degree by providing powerful services that can be wrapped to the needs of local communities, I'd like to suggest that it will also spawn ever more effective ways of disconnecting from the social localities that surround us physically. Anecdotally speaking, I see far less locally-oriented online communities today per hour of browsing than I did in the early days of the web or prior to that in the era of the BBS. Our desires to connect to those like us seem to exceed our desires to connect to those near us. If the era of Web 2.0 is defined by microcontent, we have to recognize a downside to that as well: microcontent is not, as currently figured, geographically local. It tends to be much broader in scope and opportunistic. Web 2.0 may be a new heyday for national and international discussions—we don't have to take the CBS newscaster's word for what is happening in New Orleans or Iraq, we can go out to search for ourselves—but newspapers did provide coverage of local issues at a level of depth that has not yet emerged online. I know plenty of people who read Apophenia or Daily Kos but few who read blogs about political issues in their neighborhood. Indeed, earlier tonight I struggled in vain to find any real sources of information as to what is happening in my neighborhood, besides the sites of local politicians and, of course, that relic of old media, the LA Times. If the predictions of some pundits are correct and newspapers are seemingly poised for a disasterous death spiral, what will become of local information? It's commonly said that Web 2.0 moves away from place to services or experience. No longer is the web a set of places to visit such as online shopping malls or portals—literally figured as pseudo-3d entities in some early and abortive attempts to build the web. As MacManus and Porter suggest, Web 2.0 moves toward a model of Web Services. The familiar Froogle interface is an example of this idea. For web retailers, being part of an easy to navigate system that aggregates large numbers of storefronts to huge numbers of customers may be more effective as a business model than building an elaborate place. But this isn't just a question of simulated environments. Far from it, Web 2.0 continues a process of turning our lives toward a clustered world of networked but dispersed communites. Intense localisms may thrive, connected to other like localisms. But this intense networked localism may also border on xenophobia towards physically proximate neighbors. If we spend our time in the clutered world of the Web 2.0, what of our physical communities? As new global publics are born, geographically local politics could well be left atomised into micro-constituencies, more homeowners groups and neighborhood associations than publics. I make this argument not out of a lament for a lost Habermasian 'Golden Age'—surely that never existed, even though the last four years have seemed unbearably dark—but to ask if, a decade after New Media first emerged in academe, the polarization of our readings of digital culture into technophile and technoskeptic isn't in need of complication in order to allow us to move forward critically?

Submitted by kvarnelis on October 6, 2005 - 6:34pm


  • Allowed HTML tags: <p></p><br> <br /><a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <img> <div> <blockquote>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options