Don’t Talk to Strangers online? But that’s the point!

With the introduction of Web 2.0 came an Internet revolution. Suddenly, the playing field was leveled, consumers became producers, and you and I were just as valid on the Internet as any elite individual, and the Internet was no longer an exclusive place. Above all, users began to collaborate, to communicate, and form groups that grew into bigger groups, which grew into networks, which led to the social media explosion that we see today.

In a 2008 paper Linda S.L. Lai and Efraim Turbain analyze the way that groups formed online as a result of the availability of Web 2.0 technology and the driving factors behind these group formations. In their paper, Lai and Turbain explain that Web 2.0 made “data available in never ending ways” (Lai 387), giving users the ability to group together, forming communities centered around topics that interested them. Web 2.0 technologies brought the formation of online communities to the mainstream as we have discussed extensively in lectures, and we saw in Lai and Turbain’s paper (Lai). Members of these online social networks that began to form were all organized into different “categories” (Lai), all of which would have different characteristics of operation (Lai).

However, the formations of these groups, regardless of how the groups operated whether it be formal or informal all came together under a common denominator of the fact that the main benefit users reaped from networking, was a satisfaction of social desires (Lai).

Lai and Turbain clearly laid out the different features of group formations in social networking sites, and all of the evidence that they presented can be clearly seen in the various modes of social media that we use every day. While we may not log into Facebook thinking it’s time for me to collaborate with my fellow online community members, it’s why we log on all the same. One of the main values that Lai and Turbain present for social groups online is that of cooperation and collaboration (Lai). Web 2.0 paved a path for social media to so thoroughly take over our lives, and for online collaboration to become such a huge part of it, that it could be seen as creating an age of what someone like Howard Rheingold may see as a Utopia, with his main argument being that an influx of Information Technology is evidence of our desire to collaborate (Rheingold).

This very point is what we can see as the basic take away from this paper. Web 2.0 did not introduce social networking as something that humans somehow had to wrap their heads around. When we open Twitter, scrolling through our newsfeed and distastefully un-follow someone with the audacity to post something we don’t like, we can probably agree that collaborating and forming groups around things we like is something we’ve always been inclined to, but Web 2.0 and social networking gave us a way to do it easily.

Works Cited

Lai, Linda and Turbain, Efraim. “Groups Formation and Operations in the Web 2.0 Environment and Social Networks”. Springer Science+Business Media, 2008, pp. 387–402.

Rheingold, Howard. “The New Power of Collaboration”. TED. Feb. 2005. Lecture

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