[and office workers]go to kill time and-in the digital equivalent of a hello- ‘poke’ their friends, just for fun.”
Facebook is just one very current example of Web 2.0, the term coined by O’Reilly Media in 2004 to describe the new wave of web platforms. Commonly cited examples of web 2.0 are Youtube, Wikipedia, and Myspace. Facebook, Twitter and virtual world Second Life are other examples. Basically anything with user-generated content and providing new modes of interaction count as Web 2.0.
Harkin goes on to describe the phenomenon as a repository of “exhibitionism and voyeurism.” and “a headless monster, prone to ill-considered flurries of enthusiasm and dangerous stampedes.” Clearly he’s not a fan. And he’s not alone: author Andrew Keen has an upcoming book called ‘Cult of the Amateur’ arguing that web 2.0 is full of idiotic ramblings and inanities. And it’d be impossible to argue that that isn’t true. Go to Youtube and see for yourself. Of course you can also go to youtube and see alot of things that you might want to see, such as hockey highlights, old stand-up routines, music videos and so on..
Harkin makes passing reference to Marshall McLuhan’s concept of a ‘global village’ in his article. McLuhans prophetic and cryptic writings made him a public figure in the late 1960s through to his death in 1980. His works are a cornerstone of media theory and he was named patron saint of Wired magazine. Not bad for a guy who died before Al Gore invented the internet. McLuhans utopic ‘global village’, argues Harkin, is instead a “sordid cauldron” and a “headless monster”. I disagree.
Could the global village that McLuhan prophesied be anything other than so-called Web 2.0? I don’t think so. Mcluhan was speaking about electronic mass media, and the term became a kind of catch-all for the triple-double-u, but when you think about the ways people can interact and stay connected using these new platforms eg. Facebook, Youtube, Second Life and so on, it’s clear that McLuhan was spot on. I can refer specifically to my Myspace account that gives me access to bands and comedians and political groups I might be interested in, and vice versa based on my profile (i didn’t ask for that. Or maybe I did.)
But on a more personal level, Facebook has put me in touch with friends from high school, college and times and experiences before and after. They are spread out all around the world and many of them I haven’t talked to for 5 years or more. I wouldn’t call them, I wouldn’t email them, but we can stay connected and have that feeling of community thanks to this technology.
A dumping ground for self-glorifying idiocy? Yes, it certainly is that.
A realization of ‘the global village’? It is that too. And like any village, you can choose with whom to associate.