First Monday has a great issue covering Critical Perspectives on Web 2.0. The articles look at Web 2.0 phenomena (user-generated content, interactivity, social networking, etc.) from a socio-political-economic perspective and bring up some interesting paradoxes inherent in the movement. So far I’ve read “Market Ideology and the Myths of Web 2.0” and “Loser Generated Content: From Participation to Exploitation” and I found their critiques really interesting. It’s good to see a questioning of a lot of the dogma coming out of the Web 2.0 movement, whether you agree with their criticisms or not.
I started with the two articles you mentioned. Like you, I found the critiques interesting and in some cases valid. However, Petersen’s double-edged sword metaphor puts it in a nutshell for me. Like so many technologies, it’s the method and context of application that determine whether technologies are beneficial or harmful. From the library’s perspective, Web 2.0 is a very useful collection of tools. What would make PennTags “better” (according to Petersen) than tags on Flickr or Amazon? The relationship of the entity to the user, I suppose. Free labor provided to a corporation is bad, you’re an economic loser, etc.? Free labor provided to academia (or non-profits) benefits the collective good? That could be an oversimplification. His assertion that we have to “keep an eye on capitalism’s ability to piggyback” is very important and openness about what is going on with data transfer is paramount. Only then can stakeholders make informed decisions in the marketplace. Ideally, users would be well informed enough to make intelligent decisions about where to draw the line between free labor (users’ efforts) and fair trade (experience the user receives).
There are a couple quotes that I just have to comment on in Petersen’s piece:
“If not directly recognized as related to capitalism, online practices can quickly be reterritorialized by capitalism. The subversive potential online is fostered by the same technical infrastructure and standards that make capitalism so easily piggyback on user generated content. The ease of copying and relocating content online as well as its network structure are both what enable distributing music and other digitalized culture products for free, hereby undermining the chain of value for entertainment and software corporations. However, it is also what makes it easy for capitalism to copy and reuse content produced by users into the sphere of a corporate site (reterritorialization).”
In other words, “Corporations would like to have your cake and eat it too. But you have to buy cake.”
“Besides the fact that people tend to work more and more at home, their use of different types of software, such as Flickr, Myspace, Facebook and blogging carries relations with it that often resemble work.”
We must also be honest here, that for knowledge workers (and I am one), work activities sometimes resemble recreation. Just the content is differs.
As for Scholz’s piece, it is also very interesting. Again, seeing it from the library’s perspective, it seems that Web 2.0 (regardless of whether it is evolutionary or revolutionary) is here and perhaps because of the hype, people are using its features extensively. Libraries can leverage that by meeting users where they are encouraging users to interact with us in ways that are beneficial to themselves. The library can be at least part of Scholze’s re-imagined “Social Web as a place for unmarketed, non-mainstream projects that caters to all needs of those who inhabit it.”