Web 2.0: A Transformed Reality
Technology and culture have undoubtedly been cohesive in a societal shift that has emerged from the rise of the Internet. We continue to witness radical change in the overall ecosystem of information and communication triggering current mediums as obsolete. The economics of scarcity is what had historically presumed the significance of the mediums at hand. Today, we see an overabundance of platforms that provide everyday information through our everyday resources. Consequently, an ideology has been created around technology that creates a desire for the cultural shift/transformation that is promised by technology.
This ideology was exemplified over five centuries ago with the spread of the printing press, but is quickly becoming more evident today. The era of Web 2.0 has substantial differences than that of its predecessor known as Web 1.0. Clay Shirky elaborates on this shift, putting extensive emphasis on the discrepancy of professionalization, inherently leading society to mass amateurization. Web 1.0 provided the people with the ability to access the Internet, but still communicate and be informed through more traditional means. Although being slow to understand such an obvious change that challenged their business, the newspaper industry became one of the first major sufferers of this technological and cultural swing.
A limited supply, or scarcity, of ways that we could communicate and convey information, conceived a notion of credibility to media outlets that never seemed to be questioned and/or challenged. This “standard template of news” professionalized the position of journalists that made it more than just a job. The idea of a professional is to see the world through a lens created by other members of their profession. This aided the control of the media, keeping it within the hands of the professionals. The lack of being able to find like-minded people made each individual more valuable, making them experts and therefore, trustworthy.
Publishing had always been the way that media outlets could filter the flow of information. Now, the future presented by the Internet has created the mass amateurization of publishing capabilities. This changed the constitution of a news story being either events that are newsworthy or events covered by the press to now being able to break into public consciousness without the traditional press weighing in. This has led the news to follow a phenomenon referred to as “the long tail.”
Chris Anderson writes about the long tail in The Social Media Reader. This idea focuses on the relationship of the distribution of something having a large number of occurrences far from the integral part of the distribution. For example, a hollow news story that might get low ratings won’t be seen on major media outlets. But with publishing becoming so entitled, we see the rise of amateur information bringing some of these mundane stories mass popularity. This can quickly lead to news medias indubitably ending up providing coverage because something has broken into public consciousness through other means.
Today, professionalism in our technologically sophisticated society can be looked at as “so web 1.0”, turning the leaf to mass amateurization becoming the norm. This raises many questions about professionalization and the threats that are presented by the adoption of amateur material. Social expectations around journalism have changed dramatically with journalistic privilege being based on the previous scarcity of publishing. Through new communications capabilities, social definitions are no longer tied to professions. Computers are acting as a postmodern printing press creating the narrative of technological communications to mimic that of literacy. Shirky says “An individual with a camera or keyboard is now a non-profit of one, and self-publishing is now the normal case, This spread has been all the more remarkable because this technological story is not like the story of an automobile, where an invention moved from high cost to low cost, so that it went from being a luxury to being a commonplace possession. Rather, this technological story is like literacy, wherein a particular capability moves from a group of professionals to become embedded within society itself, ubiquitously, available to a majority of citizens” (Pg. 78).
This capability has enabled the amateurization of distribution, reproduction and categorization ultimately insinuating the loss of value regarding written word for new generations due to the loss of scarcity that made publishing such an earnest pursuit. The loss of scarcity is what has made the shift into web 2.0 so predominant. Scarcity of space, information, and time, among many other factors, is no longer an issue, best describing this cultural shift. Physical space has become obsolete in ways that nobody could have ever anticipated allowing us to be able to access what we want, when we want, from wherever we want. Life will be viewed through the many windows of the web, and as Robert Burnett says in the Web of Technology, “Twenty years from now, when you look out your window, what you see may be five thousand miles and six time zones away” (Pg. 7).