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Tag Archives: Web 2.0

Cultural Institutions and Participation / Reading Summary

I have chosen this topic to combine a major ongoing topic of this class -participation- with my interest for cultural institutions. The Web is a challenge to institutions. This book demonstrates how Social Media could be the interface that turns museums into platforms dedicated to fruitful interactions.

THE PARTICIPATORY MUSEUM by Nina Simon

PREFACE

In the preface of her book Nina Simon explains the reasons that pushed her to focus on the development of a new strategy for museums.

She starts by making an objective statement: “Over the last twenty years, audiences for museums, galleries, and performing arts institutions have decreased, and the audiences that remain are older and whiter than the overall population.” In other words it seems to be pretty clear now that cultural institutions are no longer very good at fulfilling their educational mission.  They would have better to question their strategy and redesign it to attract a broader and more diverse audience.

If cultural institutions do not adapt their strategy they put themselves at risk to be supplanted by the Web: “increasingly people have turned to other sources for entertainment, learning, and dialogue. They share their artwork, music, and stories with each other on the Web.”

Obviously museums have lost their connection with the public. How to retrieve it? In Nina Simon perspective, the Web is not the enemy of cultural institutions, on the contrary she sees it as a great opportunity to “enhance cultural institutions”. Museums should recognize that people are no longer willing to be a passive audience: they expect to have their say in the learning process provided by museums. They want to actively participate.

Nina Simon strongly emphasize on the change in the visitor status: “Visitors expect access to a broad spectrum of information sources and cultural perspectives. They expect the ability to respond and be taken seriously. They expect the ability to discuss, share, and remix what they consume.” This point seems particularly interesting to me as I believe that this is the most challenging requirement, the one that is going to give the hardest time to cultural institutions. Cultural institutions are used to provide people with a discourse full of information and resources but they are not used to be open to question. In other words they are used to the one to many type of communication. They only work with experts and do not consider people’s insight. But this is not working anymore.

Museums have to change to become a place to SHARE.According to Simon it requires three changes in museums attitude:

  1. To be audience centered that is to say providing a place designed to meet visitors’ expectations
  2. To let visitors construct their own experience, respect their freedom
  3. To take into account users’ voice and allow them to provide information and to invigorate the place

As we can see, the main change lies in the role attributed to the visitors. To attract visitors, museums should include them in their activities.

So far so good but how to practically achieve this major change in cultural institutions  that are used to traditional practices?

Simon stands for a participatory strategy and argues that museums should rely on the Web to take on the challenge of redefining the role of their visitors. Implementing a participatory approach could help solving five forms of public dissatisfaction in experiencing cultural institutions:

  1. Museums are often said to be irrelevant in people’s daily lives.
  2. They are said to never change, to be kind of frozen
  3. A place where you only get one authoritative discourse
  4. Not a creative place
  5. Not a comfortable place to interact with people

Nina Simon explains that her goal with this book is to provide museums with practical tips that will enable them to organize this change.

CHAPTER 5: DEFINING PARTICIPATION AT YOUR INSTITUTION

I have chosen to provide you with an abstract of this chapter because it brings back to the ongoing tensions in the relationships between institutions and networks. The participatory Web has resulted in an increase in the development of diverse networks. Institutions used to be the only authority but now the situation has completely changed and the emergence of networks has generated a power of resistance. The knowledge that cultural institutions offer to people is not only likely to be analyzed but also questioned.

Nina Simon starts by establishing that a participatory strategy can only be successful if the institution stops rejecting the visitor’s input and accept to be open to establish a partnership. She stresses on 3 required principles:

  1. “Desire for the input and involvement of outside participants
  2. Trust in participants’ abilities
  3. Responsiveness to participants’ actions and contributions”

In other words, the institutions have to be in the right mindset. Once these 3 principles are secured within the institution, there is a lot of ways of implementing participation.

The question is: How to chose the best kind of participation for your institution?

  • Models for participation

To address the question Nina Simon aims at creating a typology of the different models of participation.

She relies on a comparison between science labs and refers to the scientist Rick Bonney. “In 1983 Bonney joined the staff at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and co-founded its Citizen Science program, the first program to professionalize the growing participatory practice. Over the course of several projects at the Lab, Bonney noted that different kinds of participation led to different outcomes for participants.” In 2008 Bonney and his team managed to defined three models of participation. In Simon’s perspective these models are applicable to museums as “like science labs, cultural institutions produce public-facing content under the guidance of authoritative experts.” Here are the different levels of participation established by Bonney and one added by Nina Simon:

  1. Contributory projects = Visitors collect data that are processed by the experts
  2. Collaborative projects = Visitors collect and analyze data together with experts in a kind of partnership
  3. Co-creative projects = Visitors are included in the development of the project from the very beginning. Visitors’ concerns are seriously taken into account.
  4. Hosted project = The institution provides a portion of its facilities to support project developed by visitors
  • Finding the right model for your institution

Which model of participation suit you the best?

The answer comes down to the culture of the institution. Is its staff very likely to actually involve participant in the development of the museum? “Institutional culture helps determine how much trust and responsibility the staff will grant to community members, and forcing an organization into an uncomfortable model rarely succeeds.” It is key to understand the institution’s culture and to adapt the participation model to it. To be able to determine which model will suit you the best Nina Simon recommends a set of questions:

× What kind of commitment does your institution have to community engagement?

× How much control do you want over the participatory process and product?

× How do you see the institution’s relationship with participants during the project?

× Who do you want to participate and what kind of commitment will you seek from participants?

× How much staff time will you commit to managing the project and working with participants?

× What kinds of skills do you want participants to gain from their activities during the project?

× What goals do you have for how non-participating visitors will perceive the project?

  • Participation and mission

Constantly refer to the mission of your institution and propose projects according to it. “Speaking the language of the institutional mission helps staff members and stakeholders understand the value of participatory projects and paves the way for experiments and innovation.” Be careful to design projects that remain consistent with your institution culture and identity.

  • The Unique educational value of participation

Education is the corner stone of museums. In this specific area, participatory techniques have proven to be the more efficient “to help visitors develop specific skills related to creativity, collaboration, and innovation.”

Nina Simon states that “participatory projects are uniquely suited to help visitors cultivate these skills when they encourage visitors to:

  1. Create their own stories, objects, or media products
  2. Adapt and reuse institutional content to create new products and meaning
  3. Engage in community projects with other visitors from different backgrounds
  4. Take on responsibilities as volunteers, whether during a single visit or for a longer duration”

  • The Value of giving participants a real work

While visitors develop their skills, museums can also benefit directly from participatory strategies if they entrust visitors with real projects.

  • The strategic value of participation

Participation can enhance the value of your institution in its community. It can improve its image and gain credibility in the society. “Participatory projects can change an institution’s image in the eyes of local communities, increase involvement in fundraising, and make new partnership opportunities possible.” Nina Simon encourages cultural institutions to focus on local communities and be more relevant in people’s everyday lives.

New Media and The Digital Natives – Reading Summary

Born Digital – John Palfrey

If you have any interest in Digital Natives – this 1 hour talk is very informative about what a digital native is, and the godfather of this topic, John Palfrey goes into great detail on his definition and how this generation will change the nature of how we see the internet in the future. It is a population of young people who are will impact they we think, work, and function on a day to day basis.

The Digital Natives are a group of people who are comfortable with sharing their daily lives on the net (ie flick, twitter, facebook) and were exposed to these technologies at a very young age. This population is typically born after 1980, have never known life without a computer, TV without a remote control, and never dialed on a rotary phone (not true since I was born after 1980!).

Presentation by John Palfrey – “As part of the Google D.C. Talks series, and in partnership with Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Professor John Palfrey offers a sociological portrait of “digital natives” — children who were born into and raised in the digital world — with a particular focus on their conceptions of online privacy.”

There are a few points he clarifies in this video  -

  • This is a POPULATION, not a GENERATION
  • Born after 1980 – because this is when the advent of technology began
  • They have access to these technologies
  • 1 billion who have access (number is low due to digital divide)
  • This is not a DUMMY generation – they are very tech savvy.
  • Young people are INTERACTING, but in a different way – remixed, made in a different way.
  • We must teach digital media literacy

We are Digital Natives – Barrett Lyon

“A new class of person has emerged in the online world: Digital Natives. While living in San Francisco, I also live on the Internet. The Internet is now a place: a two dimensional world that has transcended the web; there is no government, and the citizens are Digital Natives.”

Lyon’s main point is that people are no longer citizens of the United States, or France, but also citizens of the internet. There are specialized groups within these digital natives such as game players, hackers, developers, and the social etiquette that is involved is much different than the physical reality we live in.

Some people choose to define themselves by the activities they take part in on the web – such as social online movements – ie Green Movement, Tea/Coffee Party, which are branches from physical political movements, but these started on the net.

“This scares the crap out of Governments all over the world, because they are ill prepared to deal with these situations. To government regimes that are comfortable asserting their control, this concept is terrifying. How do they counteract the changes online and the movements? Do they need to change their politics, defense, propaganda, and warfare?”

This statement displays that some of these online movements do have an affect on how governments think about the web. Many countries have harsh restrictions on what their citizens can view on the net, ie China, Iran, etc.

The Future of The Internet and How to Stop it – Jonathan Zittrain – Short Summary

This title is actually a book that JZ has wrote which is actually available on amazon if anyone would like to purchase. His main point is that collaboration is key in the survival of a productive internet and cites wikipedia as the main example. The first generation of products that have spear headed the internet have been Tivo, Ipods, and Xboxes, which are tethered appliances, meaning they are using net as their connection to their content/databases.

“The Internet’s current trajectory is one of lost opportunity. Its salvation, Zittrain argues, lies in the hands of its millions of users. Drawing on generative technologies like Wikipedia that have so far survived their own successes, this book shows how to develop new technologies and social structures that allow users to work creatively and collaboratively, participate in solutions, and become true ‘netizens.’

New Media and the Future of Journalism

Topic Overview: If this topic were assigned its own week, the readings would focus on the question surrounding the future of journalism and the reality that this may be one of the most pressing problems this country faces. The media landscape is changing dramatically; we see shifts in terms of how people access information, how information is produced and reported, and how it is distributed. Some observers point to the rapid decline in readers of the print-based news and the lack of quality TV journalism as evidence that the commercial media is dying. Many look to emerging and growing numbers of nonprofit organizations focused on investigative reporting, hyper-local blogging, and the use of citizen journalism and see a new golden era. The current discussion on the future of journalism extends beyond debating what the substance and funding of journalism should entail and also includes a discussion about what it will take to make the transition.

“How to Save Journalism” by John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney

In addressing potential solutions to the journalism crisis, McChesney and Nichols argue that in order to have an educated and informed public, we must firmly advocate for a functioning and independent press. They advocate the importance of advocating journalism subsidies and increasing support for public media, and they show that these efforts do not lead to censorship or threaten private and commercial media and that this country actually has a strong history in supporting these kinds of efforts.

The two also discuss more potential solutions to the crisis of journalism, including potential tax vouchers for independent and community oriented media, an AmeriCorps type program which would put thousands of young people to work, perhaps as journalists on start-up digital “publications” covering underserved communities nationwide, and the LC3 model (LC3 stands for low-profit limited liability model – a sort of hybrid for profit and non-profit model for newspapers). Shifting newspapers away from a high-profit commercially driven structure to low-profit or nonprofit ownership would potentially allow them to keep publishing as they complete the transit from old media to new.

The two don’t undermine the importance of digital technologies and do believe that the digital revolution “has the capacity to radically democratize and improve journalism”, but they do advocate for paid staff that interact with and provide material for the blogosphere, and argue for the continued professionalization of the press. The overarching theme of the book and this article is that the journalism crisis is solvable; there are solutions and they have mapped out a clear road of what it takes to get us there. McChesney and Nichols have turned their ideas into a book called “The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again” which was published in early 2010, where they discuss this issues more in-depth.

“Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable” by Clay Shirky

Shirky’s piece, written in March of 2009 discusses the nature of changes happening to society, newspapers and journalism. He argues that society doesn’t need newspapers, but it needs journalism. In that way, the crisis is more than just about the demise of newspapers or magazines etc, it’s more about the institution of journalism itself. He really argues to say that nothing will necessarily save old media, it’s dying and its business model is failing and nothing (pay walls etc) will “save it”.

His underlying point is that because basis for the conventional newspaper model has gone away, we need to experiment a lot more in order to understand what is going to replace it.
Shirky also explains that print media does a very important job, or as he calls it, “society’s heavy journalistic lifting” and that this kind of coverage creates benefits even for people who aren’t newspaper readers (mostly because the work of print journalists is used by everyone from politicians to district attorneys to talk radio hosts to bloggers). And while he may not have the answer as to who or what is going to replace it, he also points out like McChesney and Nichols that journalism has a long history of being subsidized.

This may not be so surprising to many people who have studied what is going on with respect to journalism, but in this piece Shirky articulates the crisis and what may come next very well, and puts the entire debate into some historical context. He concludes by arguing that we need to shift our attention away from “saving newspapers” into “saving society” and that by doing so, the imperative will change from preserving institutions that no longer are viable into doing whatever it takes to make sure journalism will survive.

“Saving the News: Towards a National Journalism Strategy”

This report, which can be downloaded in its entirety from http://www.freepress.net/media_issues/journalism is written by Victor Pickard, Josh Stearns and Craig Aaron, for the national media reform organization Free Press. In it, the authors lay out several ideas for saving the news, and address the crisis from a policy standpoint. The ideas include:

- nonprofit, low-profit and cooperative models
- community and municipal models for future journalism
- foundation and endowment support
- public and government models
- news commercial models
- public subsidies and policy intervention

In this paper they also discuss several short-term and long-term strategies that are necessary to move towards a national journalism strategy. Some of the short-term strategies include new ownership structures, incentives for divestiture, and a journalism jobs program. Longer-term strategies include research and development for journalistic innovation and exploring options for new public media.

It also includes several figures which detail the decline in newsroom employment by year (there’s a huge drop for 57,000 in 2007 to 46,700 in 2009; the 2009 figure is the lowest in history). They also illustrate the percent decline in daily and Sunday Newspaper circulations (it’s like a walking down a steep cliff) and the numbers of US Daily Newspapers.

“Old and New Media Go to Washington”, On the Media, hosted by Brooke Gladstone

In this piece from May 2009, Gladstone discusses recent hearings that a Senate committee held on the Future of Journalism, which illustrates that this issue has received national attention. John Kerry (who is the Committee Chariman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation which held the hearing says that the purpose of the hearing was to examine and figure out from people in the field where new media is going and what to do to help existing media), Jim Moroney publisher of The Dallas Morning News, and Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), who introduced the Newspaper Revitalization Act, and Arianna Huffington.

There are several issues mention in this piece that are of importance to the debate around journalism, including whether it’s possible and/or realistic to monetize online content (for example the now defunct New York Times “Times Select” option), the idea of the Kindle and other electronic readers as the “solution” that publisher’s should be going for (but really that’s not actually viable because of the split revenues they come down somewhere on the in of Amazon receiving 70%and publishers receiving 30%). There is relevance from that debate to the iPad as well, even though the iPad hadn’t been invented yet! The piece also discusses the emergence of new non-profit investigative journalism websites, like Voices of San Diego, which Huffington argues is having real impact investigative journalism.

New Media: An exciting opportunity for cultural institutions!

New media are pushing the boundaries of cultural institutions by providing them with new tools to play with.

But most of all, new media are the opportunity to reach a broader and younger audience.

  • Required viewings

Even though lots of museums have understood how interesting it is to embed their educational mission in new media, they remain a bit confused on how to use the technology on purpose.

Then why not starting by using new media to ask for people’s advice like the Smithsonian (“the world’s largest museum complex and research organization”) did:

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This interesting initiative generated great content! Look at that it’s really worth it!

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  • Required readings

Here is a guide based on a new book by Nina Simon providing advice on how the museums should work on their relationships with their community

The participatory museum

Nina Simon also feeds a blog: Museum 2.0 (you might like this recommendation that Harris gave to me)

  • To go further…

For those who would like to learn more I strongly recommend to look at the Brooklyn Museum who has become a reference in terms of new media strategy

Also the web site Museum and the Web 2010 has really great academic resources on the topic.

New Media and the (Uncertain) Future of Journalism

Potential Topic in New Media: “New Media and the (Uncertain) Future of Journalism.” We touched on this briefly in the beginning of the semester, but I think it is an area that is very rich and could benefit from a deeper discussion. How bad is the existing journalism “crisis”? What are potential solutions? What will it take to get us there? What is the appropriate role (if any) for government funded journalism? I tried to make these required and recommended readings reflective of the debate more generally, and what is happening currently in the field.

Required Reading/Viewing:

Recommended Reading/Watching:

Ice Cream Spy’s Conclusion…For Now…

This certainly isn’t the conclusion for the NYC Ice Cream Spy, but just of me formally keeping the class updated on its whereabouts. I definitely intend to keep carrying out this project and seeing how far I can take it throughout the Spring and into the Summer.

I’ve moved my “How-To” section on how I made the bot/website back to the WordPress blog, as to not clutter  the Blogger site, containing the map that I am hoping NYCers will use. Sorry for all the changing up!

Here’s my post on how the promotion of Ice Cream Spy has been going over this past week: http://icecreamspy.wordpress.com/

A quick look at the stats:

  • @IceCreamSpy – Following: 413 | Followers: 82 | Listed: 6
  • 7 ice cream trucks displaying sticker (Honieh & Ryan- thank you for the wonderful idea of making stickers/talking to ice cream truck owners; it seems to be working well!)
  • 24 geotagged ice cream trucks on map (on Blogger site)

Ice cream truck displaying sticker

Mmmm…It’s Almost Ice Cream Season!

Hey everyone! For my next travelogue, I want to try to actually make some of the new media that we discuss in class. You can read more about what I want to do on my Twitter account: @Leslie4IceCream. I’m working on hopefully getting a plugin installed to WordPress, so you won’t have to go directly to Twitter, but for now, Twitter will do! The two images below will take you to my Twitter account.

Twitter / Leslie4IceCream

Plugging into the Gaming Underground

“At this writing, there are 30,000 games for the iPhone and iPod touch. That’s more than the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii libraries combined. (And even then, you still have over 25,000 games to go.)”

And so starts the first ever list of “Top 25 iPhone Games” from gaming site IGN, posted just a month ago on January 29, 2010. Reset to today: games released on the iPhone are beginning to get much more sophisticated than those mentioned on IGN’s 1st iPhone gamining list, with games now resembling those that can be found on Sony’s PSP and Nintendon’s DS. Here’s the latest in iPhone & gaming news from this week:

Top-Grossing iPhone Game Apps Week of 3/2

Big gaming companies are continuing to support the iPhone in Apple’s venture to become a viable gaming platform. But, just because so says the “almighty powers that be within gaming,” doesn’t necessarily mean the gaming consumer community will oblige. Much to my surprise, though, as I’ve traversed the gaming world these past couple of weeks, I have found quite an array of answers, leaving me not only waiting for Apple’s next move, but the consumers’ next move, as well.

This week, I delved into the community of gaming, armed with a plethora of questions to pose to gamers. I embedded myself on popular gaming websites, specifically in their discussion forums and on the comments section of articles. Specifically, websites included: IGN, G4TV, Capcom-Unity, and NewGrounds. In addition to the gaming websites, I also used Twitter. I gathered some interesting input on what people’s barriers to interest were on the iPhone as a gaming platform.

Is the iPhone the next portable in disguise?

During my time as a gaming girl, I received a spectrum of responses. It seemed that the gaming community was moderately split on the subject. There were those who were staunchly opposed, and these nay-sayers seemed to have a couple of recurring issues with the iPhone. One of these issues, as I expected, was the touch screen. Others were simply not inclined to accept a phone as a gaming handheld, and their attitude could be characterized as them thinking it to be a preposterous proposition: how can a PHONE (and a touch screen phone, at that) be a GAMING SYSTEM? (quote is below if can’t view from link- the tweet was protected.)

“I am sure it can handle, but it’s suppose to be a dam phone not a gaming system” -@drumerguy via Twitter

On the positive side of the community, gamers seemed to express a mixture of excitement and ambivalence, but generally an optimistic “wait and see” approach. Those that believed in the iPhone for gaming purposes seemed to have a more technical knowledge base of the device- they knew of the phone’s potential from a hardware standpoint.

I was surprised by how difficult it was to evoke dialogue within the gaming forums, which left me a little disappointed at times. But, when it came to commenting on articles posted on gaming websites, readers were very quick to comment and express their opinion (with one article I commented on having 2,539 comments!). While there were exceptions, it seemed like gamers were more inclined to criticize  articles written by website journalists than they were to provide their own insights to raw questions on forums.

People’s answers gave me some insight, but also raised questions about the sincerity of their statements. For example, did these gamers genuinely assess the iPhone and determined that it was an unacceptable means by which to play games, or were they biased by their blind loyalty to Nintendo and Sony? Furthermore, I’d like to know if these responses will be different in 6 months because of simply a passage of time or a potential introduction of a button peripheral.

Looking at the online gaming community as a whole also left me with a few questions. Namely, why is it that gamers were more quick to comment on articles than they were to comment on forums (it’s also important to note that on forums, the amount of people who viewed a post was always considerably higher than those who actually responded)? Is it because these articles gave gamers an opportunity to quickly vent about the topic at hand? If this is true, then it’s possible that the responses were biased towards those who felt strongly enough to complain.

From an overall, long-term perspective, a big question that kept recurring to me as I dug deeper and deeper into gaming was whether or not the iPhone would fuel gaming innovation. This comes not just from the standpoint of games being introduced to the device, but also from whether or not Apple will push Sony and Nintendo to come out with better, cheaper systems. For instance, while a representative from Nintendo stated in an interview this past Tuesday that they’re not afraid of Apple, the company will be releasing a cheaper, larger handheld (the DSi XL, possibly to be in competition with the iPad?) on March 28th. Seems like this news contradicts the Nintendo representative’s statement, to me!

“Sony Readying PSP Phone, iPad Killer?” -IGN

Last week, when I first started researching the portable gaming environment, one of the first places I started digging for information was at www.latestpatents.com, a site that lists out the latest patents of leading technology companies. While looking up Sony, I noticed that their list of patents from February 18th seemed to be dealing with a new phone. This, I did not think much of. What I did find particularly interesting, though, was a patent they had for a, “universal game console controller.” I thought that maybe they were making some sort of physical controller that could be used to play games on phones? But, in the end, thought that we wouldn’t be hearing too much information on these patents any time soon.

Today, while searching on IGN, it seems that I might have been mistaken. The gaming site posted an article stating that Sony might possibly be putting out a phone and tablet to rival the Apple iPhone and iPad. Furthermore, there is said to be a special Sony Online Service that is to be launched by the end of March. Could this be their version of the Apple App Store, but instead to be full of traditional games?

Here’s the Wall Street Journal article with more detailed information.

This will definitely be a telling story to watch unravel, and I’m interested to see if the device will match the patents listed on LatestPatents.com!

Two Heads are (Sometimes) Better Than One. The Individual and the Collective in the Web 2.0

Lanier- Digital Maoism

Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist, composer, visual artist and author, who popularized the term “Virtual Reality”. His latest book is “You are not a Gadget. A Manifesto“.

The basic tenets of Maoism include revolutionary struggle of the vast majority of people against the exploiting classes and their state structures, termed a People’s War. Usually involving peasants, its military strategies have involved guerrilla war tactics focused on surrounding the cities from the countryside, with a heavy emphasis on political transformation through the mass involvement of the basic people of the society. -Wikipedia

Anecdotal starter: Lanier directed an unsuccessful experimental short film about 10 years ago, and that data somehow crept into his Wikipedia entry. He would like that particular piece of information to be forgotten and has edited it many times but someone (or many) keep typing it back in. Media reporters (“the portion of the world that is attempting to remain real”) have asked him about his filmmaking career—based, of course, on that profile. In this essay, he uses Wikipedia as an example to analyze and criticize “online collectivism”.

He points out two ideas present now in the current online collective trend:

  1. The idea that the collective is all-wise.
  2. That it is desirable to have few coordinating actors: “to have influence concentrated in a bottleneck that can channel the collective with the most verity and force.” This concentration of power is not to be taken for representative democracy or meritocracy, rather he compares it with extremist politics, used both by the far Right and far Left in different historical moments and presently re-introduced by technologists.

He then argues against online collectivism:

  • Wikipedia is not as marvelous as it’s believed. It is not balanced to make a comparison between Britannica and Wikipedia encyclopedias. Wikipedia is strong in topics that change constantly, such as science, because the web is the place to find the right authors (young, “competent specialist graduate students”) that research and review this kind of knowledge.
  • “Sometimes loosely structured collective activities yield continuous improvements and sometimes they don’t.” The idea that problems in the wiki will correct themselves as the process unfolds is as imprecise as thinking that free market regulates itself. He believes that for a text to be desirable, it needs to offer more than just accurate data.
  • Most of the information in Wikipedia was already on the Web, but original texts lose value in the process of being modified for it.

  • W. lacks an editorial voice and it decontextualizes the content. For Lanier, Myspace is a better example of collectivism: the central idea is authorship and it doesn’t pretend to be objective or a trustworthy authority, as an encyclopedia.

Removing the scent of people

Aggregating sites started with the first site directories, such as Yahoo or AltaVista, and developed all the way to blogs and meta-blogs. According to Lanier, up to this point “real people were still in charge”—there was some form of identified authorship that allowed for interpretation of the source. Value was considered to come from connecting with real humans, not from faceless conglomerates. Google (this is 2006) is not a threat to authorship, because it provides “one layer of page ranking.” The problem comes with apparent objectivity—when the aim is to erase the trace of people to simulate that “content is emerging out of the web…as a supernatural oracle”.

The Hive Mind

There is a proliferation in the Web 2.0 of aggregating sites that function as “Consensus Web Filters” (Digg, Reddit, Populrs, Vivisimo, and social aggregating sites like SecondBrain, FriendFeed, profilactic and, of course, Feast and Buzz) which use algorithms to present data from other aggregating sites. The criterion is to present what is most popular, or more present in the Web, but that doesn’t mean they’re showing the most important or relevant information. According to Kevin Kelly (Wired) these sites show the hive mind—the opposite of the individual author or institution who takes responsibility for the information provided. The danger, Lanier argues, is that “people become uncritical and dim in order to make these Meta-aggregator sites become coherent.” According to him, this is how Artificial Inteligence technology is (or was) welcomed– “people are too willing to lower standards in order to make the purported newcomer appear smart.”

Collective thought is becoming mainstream

The Internet connects people; it’s not an entity in itself with a voice of its own. Lanier makes a strong distinction between the quality of writing professionally (“writing meant to last”) and blogging—he believes that “it’s easy to be loved as a blogger. All you have to do is play the crowd”. Still, he believes that the problem is that new business models for people who think and write haven’t appeared as quickly as hoped. Thus, the aggregators earn much more out of compiling than the reporters who create the content. This Meta-system is going beyond the Web and influencing other areas:

  • Elite organizations (government, universities, planning corporations, opinion leaders like The New York Times) that are attracted by the idea of the infallible collective.
  • There is a trend of privileging collective knowledge (such as surveys) over new ideas crafted by independent minds that are considered authorities in the field.
  • This is favored because in the current “liability phobia” it minimizes risks and responsibilities. It is safer to be the aggregator of the collective.

As a consultant for large institutions, Lanier has participated in elite Meta-surveys, finding these results: loss of insight and subtlety, disregard for the nuances of considered opinions, and a tendency to enshrine the beliefs of an organization [What would Google do?]

He believes that the lack of critical reaction the to this phenomenon is because “bad old ideas look confusingly fresh when they are packed as technology”.

For him, the main problem with collectivism is that it is becoming central and leading. If only what the majority likes has a chance at success, then the periphery is left outside. For example, American Idol is dictating the trends for new pop artists to thrive—but under the show’s standards, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan would’ve lost the competition.

The collective isn’t always stupid—and the individual isn’t always right.

The “Wisdom of Crowds” is a real, very useful phenomenon in certain situations. Google’s algorithms and Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” are valuable and successful tools that can’t be substituted by a single person’s knowledge.

On the other hand, there are cases “when intelligent thought really matters. In that case, the average idea can be quite wrong, and only the best ideas have lasting value. Science is like that”

Therefore, both kinds of intelligence are essential. The market is a good example of “the marriage of collective and individual intelligence”: The prices are determined by competition, but individual entrepreneurs come up with the products that are competing in the first place.

For him, clever individuals ask the questions and the collective behavior answers them.

The collective thought:

  • is more likely to be smart when it isn’t defining its own questions,
  • is better at solving problems which demand results that can be evaluated by uncontroversial parameters (such as hard data and numbers) but bad when taste and judgment matter.
  • needs its information to be filtered by a quality control mechanism that relies highly on individuals.

He compares aggregation sites with open source, like Linux:

  • They differ in authorship: open source programming is not anonymous, as personal glory is part of the motivational engine for collaboration.

  • They both lack a coherent design sensibility in an esthetic sense (i.e., if we compare Wikipedia or Linux with Apple applications)
  • Open source is very efficient in building hidden information plumbing layers, such as Web servers, but hopeless in producing fine user interfaces or user experiences. [Thinking back to Google Buzz and Mushon’s point: Google’s social applications are designed by engineers, not by sociologists—therefore, the whole social point is missed]

We must consider that there are certain things which are better done by individuals—such as design, lawmaking, and aesthetics–  but others that should be carried out by communities—such as official price setting and, of course, deciding who will rule a country. Still, the best examples of collective intelligence are those that are guided by well-meaning individuals (like democracies and scientific communities). Personality-based quality control can improve collective intelligence and prevent it from becoming stupid and unreliable. Such is the case of independent press and the academy, where opinion leaders are guides or shapers of collective thought.

Lanier acknowledges that no mechanism is perfect, of course, but that it’s important to learn the good stuff from the pre-Internet institutions and apply it to the new ways of knowledge formation. Likewise, the collectivity of the hive mind can help keep in check the doings of the like of the academy, the government, and the press, by maintaining strict observation of their doings.

The hive’s speed

Another thing to consider is the time and speed of collective work:it can move too quickly, fidgeting from one subject to the next without focusing enough to fully provide a working answer. (As THE THESIS warns against the mind-grazing tendency that takes the attention from one site to the other, leaving things unfinished.)

  • it can keep changing incessantly matters that need to be settled, such as law.
  • it might be moving in the right direction, but too slowly. Consensus takes time, and certain situations (such as national emergencies or problems like global warming) require immediate action taken by individuals.
  • rules help to speed up development. According to Lanier, technology took off in Modernity thanks to the structure and constraints that had developed by then. Therefore, excessive openness and flexibility can slow down the process.

The illusion that what we already have is close to good enough, or that it will fix itself, is a dangerous illusion.

Lanier ends on a strong note by warning against the dangers of an empowered hive mind that, according to him, historically has gone to extremes such as Maoism and Fascism.

Empowering the collective does not empower individuals—it works the other way around. The hive mind is a tool that can provide feedback to individuals, but it’s too chaotic to be fed back into itself. Therefore, it needs the individual thought to filter and guide it. Individuals should always be cherished first. There needs to be a humanistic and practical way to maximize value of the collective on the Web without “turning ourselves into idiots.”

Responses to Lanier’s Digital Maoism

Lanier’s essay, as you can imagine, generated Tsunami waves throughout the Web. Clay Shirky organized the very diverse responses to the text, from several authors.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF- Media Analyst; Documentary Writer; Author, Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out, award-winning Frontline documentary “The Merchants of Cool”, ex-professor at NYU’s ITP (Tisch).

Indeed, a poorly developed group mind is unpredictable and dangerous. Therefore, user-created database cannot be used with blind confidence.

Still, collective intelligences are not emerging in a vacuum. Specific media platforms are shaping their processes. Wikipedia isn’t throwing away the academic elite of thinkers: it is replacing it with the interactive media elite. This group has its own kind of credentials: (“just because [it] may include a 14-year-old with an internet connection doesn’t change the fact that he’s educated, techno-savvy, and [has] free time to research and post for no pay… he’s certainly in as good position as anyone to get there”)

A networked collaboration is not the Wild West: it is an ecology of interdependencies, with status and influence. In many cases, the filters are more fair and merit-based than those of grad school.

Yes, many current websites have more aggregation that original work. But all of Western culture since post-modernism suffers the same problem. The cultural problem (as in American Idol and the NYT) is not caused by digital populism, but by a priority shift that replaces cultural values with consumer capitalism. The alienating effects of this shift is motivating today’s collective activity.

Authorship is a matter of ego and royalties. Science and technology’s greatest achievements are articulations of collective realizations. The collective is not good at artistic writing or composing—because the Web is aimed at connecting things, not creating them.

Therefore, let’s not dismiss the possibilities of a virtual community based solely on the early results of the technology. The internet may not produce a whole cooperative society, but it might help model new kinds of behaviors towards that goal. The “individual” is as much a social construction as “the collective”.

QUENTIN HARDY- Silicon Valley bureau chief of Forbes Magazine, Berkley School of Information.

Wikipedia might be the worst example of collective mind. It is only a great experiment. Unlike successful collectives, t is unbounded and ungoverned.

It is not desirable to eliminate all error. The process of mistakes is necessary in society and nature.

Definitions of the self and the crowd are ever changing. This new tool might be taking us away from individualism and back towards folk culture, but it’s possible that a third thing might be happening.

The discovery of new ways to be is not a new phenomenon: it’s typical of revolutionary advances in transport and communications.

What is considered successful filtering? Aggregation is just one more example of the problem of the excess of information and what is managed to be heard. Newspapers are filters, too.

Pop culture has always existed, and it has never thrown out endless great stuff. Carrie Underwood and Clay Aiken are not supposed to be Janis Joplin and John Lennon.

Existing hierarchies are not the best places to test the efficacy of the new communication tools. Lanier is testing meta-surveys as part of consulting work for institutions that prefer collective thought doesn’t grow, such as governments and corporations.

Yes, collectives need rules and are best when they don’t define their own questions.

YOCHAI BENKLER- Law professor at Yale, Author: The Wealth of Networks.

Yes, decentralized production can be effective at certain tasks, but that doesn’t mean “collective is always better”—rather, a system needs to be designed to guard against mediocre or malicious contributions through filters.

But there is no loss of individuality by the growth of the collective. Rather, Benkler sees markets, governments and general social relations as overlapping systems that enable and disable action for the individuals who inhabit them. “Because of constraints and organizational adaptations in the last 150 years, information, knowledge and cultural production system has taken on an industrial form to the exclusion of social and peer-production.” That is the cause of the Britney Spears and American Idols, and also of the decline of the NYT and traditional media. The mainstream media tends to uncritically repeat official information much more than the blogosphere does.

As for filters and aggregations, the Web allows for clusters, links and conversation around interesting topics. Those choices create a different path for determining what issues are relevant. This new system is imperfect but harder to corrupt than the advertising-supported media that dominated the 20th century.

Wikipedia is not faceless—its participants develop persistent identities and communities around the definitions. What is amazing is that ten years ago it would’ve been seen as impossible, and now the product of well-intentioned individuals is being compared to the gold standard of encyclopedias.

Network based social production offers new challenges and new opportunities. It is an alternative form of production than markets, firms and governments—with different motivations, accreditation and organization. And it’s the opposite of Maoism: it is based on enhanced individual capabilities, either solo or in loose voluntary associations.

CLAY SHIRKY-you know him.

Lanier reunites dissimilar kinds of group action to analyze the downsides of collective production. There are things wrong with each form of collective action, but the same mistakes are not made in each of them. Lanier misses the opportunity of a good critique by overgeneralizing Wikipedia, American Idol and RSS aggregators, and they work differently.

“Wikipedia is an engaged community that uses a large and growing number of regulatory mechanisms to manage a huge set of proposed edits. Anonymous additions are subjected to a higher degree of control. It is similar to Linux in that the motivations of the contributors are much the same.” Therefore, it has the filters and organization that Lanier considers to be lacking.

“Since social life involves a tension between individual freedom and group participation, the changes wrought by computers and networks are therefore in tension. To have a discussion about the plusses and minuses of various forms of group action requires discussing the current tools and services as they exist.”

CORY DOCTOROW- Science fiction novelist, blogger, activist, co-editor of boingboing.net

Historically, the best way to keep the important things around is to reduce the barriers to entry. It is impossible to predict what will be important in the future, and therefore the more things you have, the more important things you’ll have then. There is no reason to eliminate a new business model because it doesn’t look like today’s models.

Wikipedia was created in no time, for almost no cost, by people who had no access to the traditional cannon. It isn’t great because it’s like Britannica—B. is great at being authoritative, edited, expensive and monolithic. W. is great at being free, brawling, universal and instantaneous. B. tells you what white dead men agreed upon, W. tells you what live internet users are fighting over. Its “history” and “discuss” pages allow learning about the discussions that go under the task of defining “truth”—since truth is an illusion and there’s always more than one approach to any issue.

“Wikipedia is a noble experiment in defining a protocol for organizing the individual efforts of disparate authors with conflicting agendas.” The important thing about systems is not how they work, but how they fail. Fixing a Wikipedia article is simpler than participating in the discussion, but “that’s the price you pay for truth, and it’s still cheaper than starting up your own Britannica”.

KEVIN KELLY- Wired, Cool Tools, Out of Control.

Nor the Wikipedia, or any other collective entities, are pure hive mind. Wikipedia has an elite at is center, and a lot of deliberate design management going on. Evolution in these systems need to be hastened, that is why the hive mind needs to have intelligent design introduced. Top-down control is inserted to speed and direct a system toward its goals. Until this era, technology was primarily all control and design. Now it can be design and hive.

Because the hive mind is smart enough to care about, even if it is dumb. Its brute dumbness produces the raw material that design smarts can work on.

Is Wikipedia a template of other kinds of information of creative works? It might be that the 2006 model is not good for much more than writing universal encyclopedias, but the 2056 one will be.

Wikipedia (impossible in theory, possible in practice) is an example of the fact that the bottom-up hive mind will take us much further than it seems possible. At the same time, it proves that the hive mind by itself won’t ever take us to our goal. We are too impatient for it to evolve by itself, so we add design and top-down control to get where we want to go.

ESTHER DYSON- Editor at large, CNET Networks; Editor, Release 1.0; Director, PC Forum; Author, Release 2.0

The argument is between voting/aggregating (where anonymous people raise or lower averages) versus arguments by recognizable individuals that answer the arguments of other individuals.

The first is useful in coming up with numbers and trends, but it’s not creative in the way that evolution creates species (not by blind voting, but through structured logical changes consistent with the whole).

That’s why there’s representative government: they are the individual experts that design coherent strategies, and collective action (voters) select them.

So, to get the best results, we have people sharpening their ideas against one another rather than simply editing someone’s contribution and replacing it with another (Wikipedia). And we also have a world where the contributors have identities (like politicians or journalists) and are accountable for their words.

LARRY SANGER- Co-founder of Wikipedia; Director of Collaborative Projects, Digital Universe Foundation; Director, Text Outline Project.

The collectivism that Lanier describes is a terrible thing, but no one would admit believing that the collective is “all wise”. Sanger criticized Wikipedia in 2004 for not properly respecting expertise, and got replies saying that Wikipedia has shown that experts are no longer needed, and a wide-ranging description of everyone’s opinions is more valuable than what an expert thinks.

For Sanger, this speaks about an epistemological shift: “Positive epistemic status” is a term that refers to the positive features that can attach to beliefs: i.e. truth, knowledge, justification, evidence, etc.

According to the existing tendency of validating the collective thought over expertise opinion, he sees that the traditional kinds of positive epidemic status are being replaced of whatever it is that the collective believes or endorses. Sanger calls this “epistemic collectivism”.

Epistemic collectivism is a real phenomenon: a lot of people do place the views of the collective uppermost. The phenomenon is rooted in relativism: if there is no objective truth, if there is no reality “out there” that we can be wrong or right about, then there is no way to make sense of expertise or intellectual authority. If you are an epistemic collectivist, then it’s natural to think that the experts can be overruled by the rest of us.

Sanger rejects epistemic collectivism, but promotes strong collaboration because:

  • Wikipedia does not produce an averaged view that is better than an authoritative statement by experts. It organizes enormous amounts of labor for a single intellectual purpose.
  • The virtue of strong collaboration is that it represents a new kind of “industrial revolution” for mental effort.
  • What is great is the sheer efficiency of these systems, not their ability to produce The Truth. That is another problem.

Lanier’s negative collectivism does exist, but is not inherent in tools, such as wikis, nor in methods, such as collaboration and aggregation.

FERNANDA VIEGAS & MARTIN WATTENBERG- Visual Communication Lab, IBM Research

It is hard to claim that Wikipedia is built by an anonymous, mindless mob engaged in foolish collectivism. It provides the transparency that almost no other system offers, by giving full context of the discussion on any entry in the “talk pages”. “This kind of debate doubtless happens in the NYT and Britannica as well, but behind the scenes. Wikipedia readers can see it all, and understand how choices were made…That is not exactly a Maoist mob.” Wikipedia’s uniqueness also resides in its shared policy, providing guidelines to the situations that emerge in editing.

The hive mind is hard to find in Wikipedia—crowd editing usually comes with current events, and plummets after the event loses media exposure. Once that happens, the core group of editors takes over the page maintenance.

As long as critiques of Wikipedia’s processes stop at the article level, they will continue to miss the point. The collective will makes mistakes but also attempts to keep itself in check through emerging policies and guidelines. This publicly available context distinguishes W from algorithmic or market-based aggregation.

JIMMY WALES- Founder and Chair of the Board of the Wikimedia Foundation.

“A core belief of the wiki world is that whatever problems exist in the wiki will be incrementally corrected as the process unfolds”. To that, Wales argues that this “core belief” is not held by him or any important or prominent Wikimedians—nor do they have any particular faith in collectives or collectivism as a mode of writing. Authoring at Wikipedia, as everywhere, is done by individuals exercising the judgment of their own minds.

GEORGE DYSON- Science historian; author, Project Orion

All intelligence is collective. Lanier’s own intelligence was formed by meta levels of information processing language, symbols and meanings throughout his childhood…

The important part of his message is a warning to respect, and preserve, our own intelligence. The dangers of relinquishing individual intelligence are real.

“Real artificial intelligence (if and when) will be unfathomable to us. At our level, it may appear as dumb as American Idol, or as pointless as [the endless corrections of Lanier’s Wikipedia entry.]”

DAN GILLMOR-Founder & director, Center for Citizen Media. Columnist and author.

Lanier’s unfortunate title undermines his essay, to say the least.

The issue is more about a community than a collective. Like with any task, you need experts and novices to chip in. Leaders emerge to steer the process and the goal is reached. “It is also about persistence—and celebrating the reality that knowledge is not a static end-point but rather an ongoing process.” Mistakes were committed in old journalism and research, too—and those articles are now there, never to be updated because they are in print. The flaws in Wikipedia are real, but they’re worth enduring because we can watch the community operates around individual articles and the project as a whole.

The debate does demonstrate that we need to update our media literacy in a digital, distributed era. Our critical thinking is there, but it’s fallen into a low level of use in the old media world. People tend to believe everything they read, or to disbelief everything. Too few apply proper skepticism and do the additional work that true media literacy requires.

More than popularity, we need better tools to help the community gauge the reliability and authenticity of what we find online. “Reputation has to become part of the mix in systems that combine human and machine intelligence in novel ways” [Reputation is still a tricky tool. How about the critique to the NYT?]

HOWARD RHEINGOLD- Communications expert; Author, Smart Mobs

  • Collective action is not the same as collectivism.
  • Commons-based peer production in Wikipedia, open source software, and prediction markets is collective action, not collectivism.
  • Collective action involves freely chosen self-election and distributed coordination.
  • Collectivism involves coercion and centralized control; treating the internet as commons doesn’t mean it’s communist.

World Wide Mush- Jaron Lanier

Four years after Digital Maoism,  Lanier critically analyzes the collective nature of the online world and the existing framework that organizes the Web 2.0. This was published in the Wall Street Journal on January 8, as a preview for his book “You Are Not a Gadget”.

Lanier considers that “a new kind of collectivism” dictates the way many (or most) people participate in the online world. From Wikipedia to Google Wave to music sites like Pandora, the most easily available information on the web is put together, directly or indirectly, by millions of authors.

This is a shift from more passive ways of cultural consuming that were the norm back in the 80’s (such as watching TV). In a way, this collective production is actually what the pioneers of the Internet dreamt of back in its early years—a participative community replacing the inactive one.

But Lanier points to the darker consequences on the other side of the coin:

He questions the utopist idea of the Web 2.0 as a forum where everybody’s voice can be heard, because too many voices “can pile on, ending drowning one another out”.

The global mush: These millions of voices (or collaborators) sharing their ideas and projects on the Web form a huge mixture that Lanier calls the global mush. He points out that collectivism lets everyone know what the rest is working on, and eventually aims at consensus, lowering both innovation and diversity. Collectivism eliminates competition, which (as with everything else in the market) forces people to find better alternatives and fosters creativity “When you have everyone collaborate on everything, you generate a dull, average outcome in all things”.

He makes an argument of proprietary development still being the most successful way of creating innovative products. To prove that, he points at booming examples, such as the iPhone and Adobe’s Flash, which are definitely not built by collectives.

But the problem does not reside solely on the ideological level. He explains that on the last third of the 20th century, the US shifted its economic and industrial structure from physical labor to intellectual activities. Instead of internally taking care of manufacture, those tasks were outsourced to the developing countries while Americans focused on generating design, entertainment, and other types of intellectual property. But at the same time, there was a general championing of information flow and sharing; the Web 2.0 was becoming more and more open and free—free music, free videos, and free info.

For Lanier, this equation “leaves no way … to earn a living in the long term”. Aiming at making a living from intellectual property contradicts opening the doors for free culture.

Unlike capitalism, in collectivism money is not the ideal earning. “The open paradigm rests on the assumption that the way to get ahead is to give away your brain’s work … and earn kudos instead of money.”

For him, this framework just isn’t working:

  • Intellectual work is produced for free, which gives the author some recognition in response, creating a personal brand which he can cash in by doing some other kind of physical work. But as technology is getting better, all jobs, even those, are threatened.
  • Only a tiny handful of writers and musicians are actually making a good living out of their collective labor.
  • The big players in the Internet (like Google) will keep on making money out of data and advertising for quite a long time. The rest will be forced to keep on working in exchange of pure recognition (such as “Likes”, ratings, comments, or any other rating scale).
  • Furthermore, these anonymous contributions “rob people of dignity”—by not fairly paying them back for their time and intellectual labor.

On the contrary, improved technology should be creating better jobs for people (more comfortable and cerebral).

In general, he considers collectivism to be a fallacy, linked to youthful and naïve utopian views of fairness. He warns about pointless aggregation substituting active, productive energy. “I want [young people] to develop as fierce individuals…when they work together, I hope they’ll do so in competitive, genuinely distinctive teams so that they can get hones feedback and create big-time innovations that earn royalties, instead of spending all their time on crowd-pleasing[activities]…or become a mob”.

He believes the actual framework to be so entrenched that it’s hard to make people challenge it and consider other alternatives. He seems to argue that the market allows for more benefits than collective work does.

The Digital Given—10 Web 2.0 Theses. by Ippolita, Geert Lovink & Ned Rossiter

On 2009, media scholars Geert Lovink, Ned Rossiter (who came to NYU last Fall to the Internet as Playground conference) , and the Ippolita Collective published this manifesto on the status of Web 2.0.   I consider that Lanier’s texts are related to several of the theses, particularly No. 2 , 3 & 4.

0. Internet is an indifferent bystander to the global financial crisis. If we consider that the digital is given—the everyday—it’s possible to rethink the political, emotional and social involvement in internet culture over the next few years.

1. In the middle of the economic crisis, the internet is not an essential actor—it’s out of the guilt. Even more so, it’s still growing madly. Web 2.0 applications remain new, but get lost fast amongst the stressful and uncertain working lives of the connected users.

2. Networking sites are social drugs for those in need of the human that is located elsewhere. They lure us with the promise of distraction from the present moment, and situate us all in a comfortable middle ground where social antagonisms are diluted and softened into the organized mainstream. Alternative and diversity are erased from the Web, and the same old opinions and cultural patterns prevail. The network becomes the language itself. They are all data-mined, designed to be exploited and trap us in the illusion of not working, while in reality we are laboring without producing.

3. Social networking sites do not fill the need for sustainable social relations. They respond to fashion and demonstrate the “enculturalisation of software”— people move from one to the next site in an “impulsive grazing mentality” without developing true attachment for a common goal. Sustainability is connected with scaleability. Unlike the big social transformations of the past decades, they do not promote true political change in any substantial way, even if they are as massive as these social movements were.

4. What are the collective concepts of the social networked masses? The networked activity (tag, link, share, tweet) is engineered from the top-down by the corporate programmers and is not a signal of any form of collective intelligence. [but, according to Clay Shirky, isn’t it sharing definitely ahead of consuming? Is social networking a form of corporativism?] Better social networks are organized networks involving better individuals – it’s your responsibility, it’s your time. We need imagination, but only if it illuminates concepts that transform concrete conditions. What is needed is an invention of social network software where everybody is a concept designer.

5. Web 2.0 provides a much better forum for “positive” emphatic linkage than for antagonism. The applications function as a structure that shape social relations in the web under certain rules—actual physical specifications determine the relationships between users and are zones of exclusion, but they also exclude the conflict of the border. Where is the enemy? Not on Facebook, where you can only have “friends”. Formats need to be transformed if they are going to accommodate the plurality of expression of networked life. The virus is the closest thing to conflict online [and they do not allow dialogue].

6. There is nothing false about the virtuality of social networking sites. There is absolute reality to them—managing your online life takes time, energy and strategy. There is an ongoing dynamic that requires attention and has true impact on your life: you do or don’t get the users’ attention, feel accepted or rejected, belong to a relationship and therefore have to nurture it. That is a huge distractor.

7. The network will not be revolutionized. There is no fertile ground for real social transformation in the Web. Indymedia.org, (an attempt of independent media that would give a voice to the stories that don’t make the top news) failed and did not further develop into an active and open social networking site. Transnational social-political networks seem to need face-to-face interactions.

8. Open does not equal free. There is nothing free about the free activities on the Web. Free culture has also an “underlying parasitic economy and deprofessionalization of cultural work.” The inescapable cost of social networking is to provide consumer information. Online activity does not equal social change. So what if you have an anti-whatever Facebook group? What does it change other than expanding your number of friends? Deleting can’t be the radical online gesture—there must be a more subversive and funny way of action.

9. The Web is fueled at the core by the never ending growth of consumerism. It is based on the “endless growth principle” that guided the dotcom model: nonstop growth = healthy systems. But we can learn from natural resource exploitation and pollution that infinite growth brings serious collateral effects. If the Web 2.0 follows the insane capitalist model, we can expect similar crisis. A good end cannot justify a bad means. We have to start elaborating appropriate technologies for a limited world. Collective freedom should be the common goal to be reached through technology.

10. “Better a complex identity than an identity complex”. There is an obsession with the virtual identity, with our and others’ personal profile, a ‘digital narcissism’. Digital identities need to both answer to individual desires and satisfy multiple needs. They should go beyond anonymity as a form of outsmarting the control society. One strategy could be to make the one (real) identity more complex and, when possible, contradictory. If identity is always being harvested by the powerful data corporations, why give them the real you?