You Are Not Web 2

May 25, 2010 · 9 comments

Every time I write a post, every time I tweet or leave a comment somewhere on the web I am aware that I’m digitalizing a small part of me. Consequently, digital bits and bytes of me are scattered all over the Internet. What If there were smart software (a contradiction in terms) that could pull all these parts together, everything I’ve ever said for the last 15 years, then aggregate it all into a book? You would still only know the image I’ve created. If you have not spent some of your life with me, in the real world, you don’t know me.

There are algorithms that attempt this of course; Amazon and Google, for example want to know my buying habits. Anyone with a little knowledge can find all sorts of information about me, from medical records to criminal behavior to what I watch on television. I am from a generation that remembers privacy, and the value of being left alone if that’s what I want. Until the day I die, I will always feel disconcerted that my private life died years before me.

What is Web 2?
For the uninitiated, Web 2 gives the impression that the Internet was upgraded from Web 1. Using implication terminology we are taught to think in terms of software upgrading, so the inference of a new version seems to be correct. The Internet makes us into an assumption machine with buzz words like Web 2. Key to all this is buzz.

Web 2 is
more of a move from passivity to interaction than a technological innovation. Through the Nineties into the this century and even now, most web sites are passive. We look, read and move on.

Conversely, blogs and other social media have changed the way we behave on the net. We don’t merely communicate as we did with email, Usenet or even IM. We become personalities, albeit created by us making this personality highly subjective, in some cases suspicious.

Granted, the Internet has always been a place of anonymity. Peter Steiner’s famous quote, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” still holds true. We have added to the dog a more complete picture, literally with avatars,  photos and video.

But I knew that…
The majority of the population doesn’t use the Internet for anything. If you’ve read this far and been on the net for a few years,  you know that Twitter is a way to interact, to communicate on another level, one that supersedes what was lacking in IRC or Usenet. We know the superficialities of social media, but do we know the implications of it, where it is going and our personal little part in this gigantic movement?

Life is more than an iPad
Having worked in IT for years, I tend to step back once in a while and look at technology philosophically. I want to know how it impacts my life. The iPad is a good example of collective acceptance of an appliance, a technology that is neither good or bad, not in the hands of ordinary people using it every day. Yet as of this writing, an estimated 6 million iPads will be sold in 2010. Google Buzz, another example, is new and would go unnoticed if not made by Google. I am astounded that so many people see the Internet as not much more than a place to beta test, be among the first and pay for untried gadgets.

I tend to step back once in a while and look at technology philosophically. I want to know how it impacts my life.

And The Point is?
Question. Question everything or go blindly into the collective cyberspace, broken into little parts. I use Twitter for social reasons. After a long period of resistance, I’ve discovered I can make connections and meet discrete people, maybe collaborate, offer and accept help and share a few things. However, Twitter does not define me. I am not the little avatar picture you see on Twitter, a blog or a comment. Until you meet me, talk with me, spend some time with me, shake my hand, feel that I am flesh and blood, you don’t even know what flavor of ice cream I like, and vice versa of course. We should never allow the fake world to become our only world. No matter, web 2, 3 or 42 its still virtual.

As I write this, I’m almost finished with a book that explores Web 2 from a philosophical point of view. “You Are Not A Gadget” by Jaron Lanier discusses how the Internet today pigeon-holes us into niches created by social media. This in turn affects how we see ourselves, and how the collective brain of Web 2 sees and creates us. This is not a light read. I believe everyone should read this book, social media user or not. It makes no difference whether anyone uses the Internet, the Internet uses everyone.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Randy Murray May 25, 2010 at 7:10 am

A great piece, Hal. I agree. Too many think they now someone because they interact with them on social media, just like fans think they know an actor because they see them on TV. Even people that interact directly with us, say in a business setting, can only know a side of us. Very few really know another.

I will take up one point with you. The iPad is not a beta test on a grand scale. Apple has been testing the hardware, software, and interactivity approach for years. The iPod Touch, iPhone, even the glass components of the iMacs and Macbooks have all been tests and development steps to the iPad. My experience using the device shows it to be remarkably market ready. My estimates for sales this year are closer to 10 million.
.-= Randy Murray´s last blog ..Coming Into Your Own – Embracing Your Own Best Destiny =-.

Hal Brown May 25, 2010 at 11:59 am

Hi Randy,

I didn’t mean to imply/say the iPad was in beta. In fact, when the next version comes out I will probably buy one. I merely used this as an example – I hardly ever buy the first software or gadget that comes out. Obviously others have a different view.

Mari May 25, 2010 at 11:43 am

Thoroughly thought-provoking and filled with the insight of a veteran, your article’s revelations are worth heeding, especially for those who do not stop to think about their narrowly dimensional e-presence.
Your final comment is an appropriately stellar conclusion.

Hal Brown May 25, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Thanks Mari. I get nothing for the book I recommended – no conflict of interest. I finished it on vacation. In a way its sad; the Internet has not turned out the way the movers and shakers originally wanted it to.

missy May 26, 2010 at 6:45 am

Curious – how did the movers and shakers want it to turn out? Is that in the book?
.-= missy´s last blog ..My Happiness Project – The Lost Edition =-.

Hal Brown May 26, 2010 at 7:15 am

Yes, that’s what the book is about. Here is an excerpt from a Q & A interview.
Amazon – Jaron Lanier

Jaron Lanier: On one level, the Internet has become anti-intellectual because Web 2.0 collectivism has killed the individual voice. It is increasingly disheartening to write about any topic in depth these days, because people will only read what the first link from a search engine directs them to, and that will typically be the collective expression of the Wikipedia. Or, if the issue is contentious, people will congregate into partisan online bubbles in which their views are reinforced. I don’t think a collective voice can be effective for many topics, such as history–and neither can a partisan mob. Collectives have a power to distort history in a way that damages minority viewpoints and calcifies the art of interpretation. Only the quirkiness of considered individual expression can cut through the nonsense of mob–and that is the reason intellectual activity is important.

On another level, when someone does try to be expressive in a collective, Web 2.0 context, she must prioritize standing out from the crowd. To do anything else is to be invisible. Therefore, people become artificially caustic, flattering, or otherwise manipulative.

Web 2.0 adherents might respond to these objections by claiming that I have confused individual expression with intellectual achievement. This is where we find our greatest point of disagreement. I am amazed by the power of the collective to enthrall people to the point of blindness. Collectivists adore a computer operating system called LINUX, for instance, but it is really only one example of a descendant of a 1970s technology called UNIX. If it weren’t produced by a collective, there would be nothing remarkable about it at all.

Meanwhile, the truly remarkable designs that couldn’t have existed 30 years ago, like the iPhone, all come out of “closed” shops where individuals create something and polish it before it is released to the public. Collectivists confuse ideology with achievement.

Ileane @ Ms. Ileane Speaks May 27, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Hi Hal, thanks for the link to the book. It sounds interesting. For me, blogging is giving me a voice that I never knew I had before. Social media has helped me connect with people that have more influence in some arenas than I would on my own. Certainly something to think about.
.-= Ileane @ Ms. Ileane Speaks´s last blog ..A Growing List of Top Google Buzz Tips =-.

Hal Brown May 27, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Hi Ileane,
I’m not saying social media is a bad thing – I believe we need to keep things in perspective. I am your friend, online. Other than how you present yourself, I don’t really know you, and vice versa. As long as we keep that in mind we can certainly help each other.
Would we invite each other over for a cook-out? Maybe. Maybe not. Until we meet, we will never know.
Networking is not new, not a result of social media. Real clubs have existed for years, and people who do meet are still (in my opinion) the primary source of interacting with those having a different expertise.
Thanks for you comment.

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