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A belated response to Web 2.0 storytelling #assignment3

Ok, I admit, I’m a bit late in submitting assignment 3 – and even then, I haven’t had a chance to complete Part B (to follow!)- but better later than never.

A response to Tim O’Reilly’s “What is Web 2.0?” and Bryan Alexander and Alan Levine’s “Web 2.0 Storytelling The Emergence of a new genre.”

Perhaps 3 years ago, I would have still felt enthused to use the term, it was still a term which could be used a rebellious slant in media studies, something that was a threat or avoidable to those who were focusing on other aspects of internet research. It is was an ideal which was tacked on at the end of a history of the web. Going back a few more years to 2006, I was looking for approval to be able to use the term in my undergraduate dissertation, something that I could never imagine to be able to use about 4-5 years studying cinema, film making and television theory. It was my gateway into being able to justify studying the internet in an academic context. It presented me a door in which to step through and, in the end, attempt to disprove. Web 2.0 was just not enough to describe what was going on. Now, in the thrusts of a PhD, I have to dedicate chunks of my writing time to trying to unpick and critique a term which was made famous by marketing and internet ‘gurus’ – I’ve went full circle.

Nevertheless, I’ve attended conferences in the last 12 months where I’ve been explicitly told that web 2.0 was not ‘established’ enough to be considered an area to perform in depth research. We are expected to just sit and wait until the gods of academia catch up with the rest of the online world. Until then, only few definitions are allowed to cross into mainstream media studies – mostly around social networking websites, perhaps a little about fan fiction and participatory cultures, but not anything to do with using complicated technology – or simply experimenting with the increasing amount of information and knowledge organising resources (as well as an untapped flood of people who are just fascinating to follow, discussion and potentially collaborate with). This is why, when tasked with presenting a short 10-15 minutes paper to a communication/media research audiences, which contains information about twitter – or social media as a research tool (for an example) – at least 40 percent of the paper must be spend contextualising the ream of new words and structures and formats that us ‘internet people’ take for granted. This is all very well – and perhaps I would have a bit more sympathy for their cause if it weren’t for the counter argument of the assumption position of other subjects. Broadly sharing a discipline with television experts, cinema geeks and news junkies – who don’t necessary require to spend time talking about how images are projected on to a screen. There is a desire for web 2.0 skills – shown by the emerging backlash of 2011 (the narrative of this year) but until Universities just start doing it, instead of asking those who research it to sit and wait until it is a priority subject (yeah right…) then we are going to be revisiting the terminology of web 2.0 for the next however many years.

The 2.0 is supposed to signify progress, an end of one epoch and the beginning of another – almost instantly since the dawn of the 2.0, have people been desperate to define the 3.0 or joke about the 4.0 – but realistically, nothing has really changed in a dramatic way. This is not a revolution – we’ve got to contend with mass adoption (thanks to ‘better’ broadband, ‘cheaper’ techonlogy and growing use of mobile devices) – secondly the back bone of the internet (code and stuff) is still very much like the code before we starting talking with decimal points. This is not to say that people aren’t getting better at creating platforms which are easier to use, more pervasive in their structure and sharing techniques and fixes to make the experience a much lighter and brighter world. The essense of ds106, therefore, is one where we are actually asking to strip back this interface of free web platforms and one click visual editors – but instead, encourage participates to unpick and break the softer world of web 2.0 with its ready made rounded corners and freebie publishing platforms. It recognises that having your own server, with your own domain – and understanding the backend of that space is an important skill to master, which in turn makes its users more critical about the online platforms which they occupy. This combined with a growing and organic user base of those participating in the course, there is something much more exciting happening than those usual 8-7 points about semantic and collaboration 2.0. Even on a basic level, it’s much easier to feel comfortable create and play in a ready made community, rather than testing and throwing things out there into a public ether.

And now I’ve (just about) caught up, it’s time to try and do just that… onwards with Assignment 4 and daily shooting!

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