PolisPandit
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PolisPandit

The Importance of Web3 to Digital Culture & Society

Why it could fix the sociocultural shortcomings of Web 2.0.

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

When the hippies set to work creating what would be today’s internet, the ideal was a place for the people, by the people. Messy and human. It is not that. That was Web 1.0. While Web 2.0 was the idea of a two-way, participatory experience, which it was, but within the confines of the dictates and many failures of the Tech Giants. Web 2.0 enabled great progress, but as a sociocultural experiment, it has failed miserably.

Rampant cyberbullying, extreme misogyny, geopolitical information warfare, cybercrime on an epic scale, corporate manipulation of people’s data, no charter of rights and freedoms for netizens, the rise of surveillance capitalism and the twisting of good capitalism where people and product come first to bad capitalism where shareholders come first and the customer be damned. It is, in short, a right kerfuffle. Our children are being hurt, we’re more connected but more socially isolated. It isn’t working, Big Tech is starting to realize this, so are governments and most definitely, citizens as netizens. It’s broken. Web3, in its ideal, could fix it.

The ideal and theories of Web3 are about people having more of a say than corporations. Through the use of technology like blockchain, decentralization of data and digital products can be realized. There will always be some degree of centralization and some decentralized tools and services like NFT’s may be decentralized for a while, but they will, as has always happened, centralize to some degree.

If you’re wondering what Web3 is all about, well, it’s a good question. Right now it’s a largely amorphous idea or bunch of ideas. Web 2.0 was fairly easy to define, Web3 is proving less so. Jack Dorsey, co-founder and former CEO of Twitter created a new company called Block, which includes Stripe. He seems to see Web3 as largely decentralized and the common technology thread through Web3 seems to be Blockchain (not cryptocurrency, although crypto plays a part.) But opinions are diverse with some saying it’s the metaverse (it is not.)

But what Web3 truly offers is a chance to fix the bad direction capitalism has taken, to bring it back to being good capitalism, which is an integral part of a healthy, working democracy and good culture. Web3 means participatory governance, requiring less onerous government overreach and giving people the power to set rules by a majority.

When governments are autocratic, such as China and Russia, cultures are oppressed as much as people. China’s staunch and authoritarian control of the internet and citizens reflects it’s dictatorship in real-life. Look at what’s happened in Hong Kong. And what Russia is threatening to Ukraine.

When citizens, also acting as consumers, in democratic societies have a say in their government and how industry is expected to behave, culture and society is the richer for it. Web3 takes this from the real-world in Western democracies and applies it to the digital world. Web3 is the necessary balance between the real-world and the digital world, finally enabling a more participatory internet the way the hippies and dreamers of the early internet, such as Stuart Brand and Time Berners-Lee, Steve Wozniak and others dreamt it could be.

While we can’t fully define what Web3 is today, key tenets such as personal control of data, more democratic processes and citizen participation in a democratic way are consistent across the multitude of opinions. However it plays out, the internet is undergoing a seismic shift and because authoritarian systems and oppressive systems always fail in the end, the internet will be, I believe, a much better place. We just have to go through some pains first. The internet has become invisible and when technologies become invisible, interesting things happen, and with communications technologies, revolutions often follow. But keep in mind, revolutions take a long time and aren’t always seen until they come to fruition or are very violent, but violence3 isn’t necessary and likely won’t be in regard to Web3, but it will be socioculturally shifting in nature. And that’s good. What do you think?

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Giles Crouch | Digital Anthropologist

Giles Crouch | Digital Anthropologist

Digital / Cultural Anthropologist | Featured in Wired, National Geographic & Forbes | Celt | Explorer | Intensely Curious