Sunday, February 10, 2013

Week 6: What is Web 2.0?

Image from Website Boston.

What is Web 2.0.

A general background to web 2.0

Some key terms we will discuss during this  session:
★web 2.0
★network as platform

Required Readings: Tim O'Reilly, “What is Web 2.0?Michael Wesch, “The Machine is Us/ing Us

Although not a required reading, you might be interested in this recent article:

What was Web 2.0? Versions as the dominant mode of internet history by Matthew Allen. You can access it via our library.


    1. Q1. How have new media technologies resulted in a more participatory media culture? Give examples of audience participation and contrast with other theories of the role of the audience.

      In “What is Web 2.0” Tim O’Reilly’s key insight was that Web 2.0 was a platform on which companies like Google, Amazon, EBay and Wikipedia were creating value through a community of connected users. Five years later in a follow up “Web Squared: Web 2.0 Five Years on” new platforms including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter demonstrate the same insight in new ways “Web 2.0 is all about harnessing collective intelligence”( Prior to the internet and Web 2.0 the classic managed media environment, with its traditionally passive audience, is described by Clay Shirky in “Here Comes Everyone” as “filter and then publish” – but with the media ecology of Web 2.0 now anyone can publish and the job of the audience is to filter. The audience continues to be participatory as there are increasingly more options to do so on-- Pinterest, Instagram and the one Sylvia mentioned in her podcast – “Path” which I’d never heard of until then :-)

      Clay Shirky was the keynote speaker in December 2012 at the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions conference where he appropriately delivered his keynote on “The End of the Audience” as a result of the new and improving platforms ( Shirky always uses powerful examples to reinforce his points and engage his audience. I highly recommend viewing this video for its excellent examples of audience participation for collective intelligence. His talk really reinforces the human element that is introduced into today’s new media environment within which we produce, consume and share information. His examples demonstrate that even our commercial business environment is not quite as transactional as we might have thought – he refers to a “platform of human engagement” that Amazon has been successful with and uses the 6,021st review of the original Harry Potter book on their site as an example – where a book published last century still continues to be commented on. Amazon understands that adding value doesn’t necessarily need to involve a sale, but rather a participatory platform for their consumers to express themselves and engage as human beings. The new participatory audience is explained with the “Horowitz triangle” theory, a theory is also reinforced in the paper (R-)eDiscovering the Audience (p. 872) which finds that when you give people an opportunity to participate and not treat them not just as a passive audience that about 1% will dive in with social media tools and write or produce something – an about 10 times more people will “play along” by commenting, voting or responding and 10 times more than that will just read, watch or “lurk”.

      1. These are excellent points, Teresa. This is a natural continuation from the media-rich stories we were reading/watching last week, where audiences take on a vital role. One point O'Reilly makes in discussion Web 2.0 design patterns is to "involve users both implicitly and explicitly" to gain competitive advantage. New media technologies have mastered a multitude of techniques - actively in engaging people through conversations, newsletter signups, contest entries, comment sections, sharing buttons, instant messaging/chats, e-commerce, and follow-ups, and passively in tracking clicks, time spent on a page, etc. The audience speaks volumes, whether they are aware of it or not.

        Another key theme is around trust, which Shirkey has also written about in his work. When we bring media and audiences into one space, trust is required - it gives value and authority to the content. The most successful (which also translates to profitable for marketplaces like Amazon, Ebay, Yelp, Airbnb, etc.) relationships are those who have demonstrated listening, cooperation, quick response, intelligence, and empathy.

    2. The internet and particularly Web 2.0 has changed the traditional, passive audience. If I watch my 18 year old son and his friends downstairs in our “family room”, you will see “the audience” (usually at least 2 – 4 young men minimum) who are in various stages of Xbox 360 virtual gaming, concurrently they are on their Smartphones and are actively communicating with remote friends, also, whoever isn’t using the controller will likely be on their laptop or tablet exploring Facebook or in some form of chat. This is as far from a passive and traditional audience as you get. Whether watching a TV show -- which I notice is more and more a program they download versus tune into in a traditional manner – this multi-tasking, participative approach is the norm.

      Other audience theories I found in “Re-discovering the audience” (” (1) “Audience as recipients” where the audience are the sum of receivers of media content – receiving the institutionally selected and distributed content without the technological means to send back on the same scale (p. 869). This is classic broadcast media where there is either a one-way message from sender to many receivers (one-to-many) or Communications media such as phone calls, telegrams and faxes designed to facilitate two-way conversations. (2) “Audience as product” which asserts that the audience is produced by the media industry who rely on regimes of audience measurement – and who “manufacture the audience” through a set of measurement procedures that are shaped both by industry dynamics and the technological usage patterns of the media (think BBM and Nielsen media measurement tools for costing print or broadcast media audiences), or finally (3) the emerging audience theory which is the “Audience as an empowered network”. So, not a disperse mass of people engaging in the appropriation of media content or being appropriated but the media industry but rather actively and collaboratively producing and disseminating information with the help of networked digital media.

    3. Q2. How does the shortened character usage of Twitter affect narrative?

      The brevity in Twitter can make us more reliant on a “hive” narrative, where our collective intelligence and collaboration with blog posts sorts the story out for us. The Twitter effect comes in the form of snippets of narrative from our daily lives. The speed of Twitter also requires that we hone our critical thinking skills. Journalism professor Devin Harner noted that there is a need to function as human Twitter aggregators, and to extract the story from slivers of narrative – both literally from Twitter and figuratively from their lives and their live sources (

      A twitter post may create a comment or question from a follower that unfolds more of the narrative. It may be a one off post – or it may evolve into a conversation that expands the narrative. Sometimes people tweet on an event they are at – a meeting or speaker for example in a sports style “play by play” commentary. For example, Edmonton Journal reporter Paula Simmons recently tweeted the Edmonton Downtown Arena debate from Edmonton City Council chambers over many hours – noting human interest comments and non-verbal expressions of emotion from those present as well as their quotes. She apologized later to her Twitter followers saying that it might have been boring. I responded that I had found it an interesting perspective and that I felt like I was there (but able to miss all the boring bits by scanning through it quickly).

      Social networking theories enable the Twitter platform to make predictions on things such as breaking news --- for example the correct prediction of Osama Bin Laden’s death 4 hours ahead of Obama’s announcement ( – or even those who use the “mood” of Twitter to make stock market predictions.

    4. Q3. Can Facebook status updates be considered a new form of narrative? Why? Examples?

      In my opinion, yes, because they tell a story. Sometimes the updates tell a linear story, but sometimes we have to adjust our perspective in order to unveil the story by filling in the gaps. This is aided usually because we know the person who is providing us with the updates and we use this as context.

      Ruth Page’s research and resulting paper “Re-examining narrativity: small stories in status updates” explores this very question and the narrative potential of Facebook status updates ( She uses the genre of narrative described as “Small stories” by Georgakopoulou (2007) which are characterized by “fluidity, plasticity and open-endedness that usual occur in the small moments of talk” as a basis of comparison among others. She outlines the narrative factors that enable FB status updates to be interpreted as a specific sub genre of story telling.
      The ongoing network status updates are written and read by people who know each other so there is a sense of shared experience and intimacy, “It is the experience of producing and receiving status updates diachronically, coupled with the assumptions of ongoing human experience that enables readers and writers to infer a coherent life story behind the personal chronicle that emerges in the archive of updates (p. 441). Page says that key concepts of narrative structure and function should be revisited and reworked as a result of the range of narratives that digital media and social networking sites have introduced and which are only set to continue with the increasing trend to using mobile devices like Smartphones and tablets.

      The paper has some great examples of status update narratives which tend to reverse the trend of canonical narrative’s “past event” stories and focus on “breaking news” (our plane is about to take off – New York here we come!) or “projections” (I can’t wait for cocktails with the ladies tonight!). The author’s analysis found that the “Breaking News” genre was the most popular update on Facebook. I am not a highly active Facebook user – but my updates today – as I have been sitting at my computer for several hours might have told a little story:

      -Marking student papers – is it too early for a glass of wine?
      -Currently formulating my online post for Digital Narratives Masters class.
      -Over time my Facebook status updates could be a best seller – ha ha!
      -I love it when my Masters class readings for the week include videos.
      -I can’t wait for a romantic dinner tonight with my Valentine.


    5. I thought that O'Reilly's reading, "What is Web 2.0" was really insightful, and helped me gain a clearer understanding of web 2.0 and how to categorize differences from web 1.0 and future applications. O'Reilly provides many examples of how new media technologies have resulted in a more participatory media culture. His brainstorming chart and "Web 2.0 Meme Map" provided a great visual to support his comment that "...Web 2.0 doesn't have a hard boundary, but rather a gravitational core.", separating it from web 1.0. It's a pretty good metaphor for the current functioning of the internet, where "space" is unlimited, uncharted, and expanding, not revolving. We can see this change as new media technologies of the web 2.0 era moved desktop applications of web 1.0 to cloud applications of web 2.0 allowing users to access applications remotely on multiple types of devices. O'Reilly's differences between Netscape and Google really show how a participatory culture was given a platform to emerge from internet practices of the '90's. The birth of Google significantly changed the way we interacted on line, with Google as an application, and not software, ultimately accessible to more people, and more useful because it required no licensing, or expensive updates, and focusing on open source operating systems. The shift from publishing to participation also reshaped the uses of the internet. Prior to this, corporate entities held a monopoly on software applications versus consumers and now simply users of the internet who are able to operate far outside software platforms. Audience participation is alive and thriving exponentially on line, allowing users such as me to contribute to this culture through a variety of Google apps, Limewire (and other music sharing sites), bit torrents, blogs, Youtube, Ted Talks, LinkedIn, Yahoo!, Amazon, and Facebook to name a few. The key feature in contrast to the role of the audience is the ability to contribute and share, not just use and apply tools. When looking at music sharing, I previously had to play music on a player like Window's Media Player, and burn the music to a CD, then share it with others physically. It limited the amount I could share, and the applications for the music. I had no options other than listening to the recorded music. Through centralized data base websites like Limewire, and Napster, music sharing was revolutionized. The capacity of shared music was unlimited, re-mixable, created databases, and allowed the down loader to become the server. Music was experienced globally, and immediately like never seen before.

    6. I share Teresa's view that Twitter can shape our narratives by guiding and categorizing our shared conversations. I think limited characters on Twitter allow followers to participate more often, both as the reader and publisher. Because the content is short, it reflects real "chunks" of conversation that we might otherwise share face to face. By contrast, email is sometimes to my demise because checking it requires a lengthier response, and more set up to read (although now most accounts are retrievable through smart phones). I think that Twitter's shortened character usage shapes both narratives and our behavior in communicating by creating a sort of "social grace" that allows it's users to be " exempt" from having to respond. The narrative can stand alone with no further contribution, or allow multiple people, in non private settings the opportunity to pass or respond. If responding, it can redirect the conversation, allowing each tweet to become a conversational stem, and all responses it's branches with unlimited opportunities for narratives to continue adding more publishers to the narrative along the way.

      1. I like your analogy of conversational stems, especially given the platform we're talking about. Thanks for the link to the PBS article, Teresa. There is the role of tweets and their contents - the 'hive narrative' offers that sound bite of a thought and expects the audience to organize and make sense of it if they so wish. It's almost like a micro narrative - there is often a bigger story behind the 140 characters, but it's up to the audience to hook into the rest, or leave it as a stand alone meme. In regards to the contents of the tweet that has shaped the way we digest narratives. The inverted pyramid or five W's, as Harner explains, is all readers have time for as they are scanning down their feed. On a related note, the hashtag convention has helped users organize, categorize, and fill in the blanks for specific conversation to piece together stories. This too has changed narratives - information is not in time sequence, from one angle, nor are they separated into fact/opinion.

    7. I really appreciate what Teresa is saying about Facebook status updates being a narrative form, however, I see it differently. Narratives to me are defined by the characteristics of story telling, where a status update is similar to a declaration. Paul Ford wrote an article called "Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings", that articulated my thoughts on this saying that, "... Facebook is generated by algorithms without feelings. It's not a narrative". In absence of a true narrative he also writes' " [There are] No beginnings, and no endings". It can be said that tweets also have no true ending, however as mentioned before, tweets appear to have a stem from which a narrative emerges; a story unfolding. James Coupe has a really interesting compilation of what is described as site-specific artwork that auto-generates narrative films based upon data collected from Facebook users, using a combination of status updates, YouTube uploads and video portraits I see that belonging in the narrative family as it follows a more traditional structure of story telling using Facebook status'.

      1. Hi Gail, thanks for sharing this link, I checked it out and it was interesting - the author certainly makes it clear where he stands on FB. Just for fun, I google searched and found Ernest Hemingway is attributed with creating the shortest story (on a bet which he won) with 3 only words: For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

        This particular question on FB updates caused me to look back at my Communications 502 course notes on Communications theories and review the Narrative Paradigm theory of Walter Fisher (1984) and Jerome Bruner’s article “The Narrative Construction of Reality” (1984) which I think would help support an academic argument that FB updates, are a narrative. I believe updates are, as you suggest, closest to a “chronicle” in their form, but updates do not exist in isolation – they are part of an ongoing archive which unfolds over time – the author is sharing a story. Facebook even time stamps these updates, and enables others to "like" and comment on them.

    8. I believe one of the greatest impacts of web 2.0 technologies on publishing is algorithmic data management and an archtecture of participation that O'Reilly describes specifically through Christopher Alexander's third format where users contribute to the content. I think that publishing has unlimited opportunities through this format as it emphasizes evolution, and relevance. Users dictate the most useful content, recorded and cached, and then algorithmically linked to other useful sites and applications. The publishers of the content and sites is open ended, and not necessarily driven by big business and profit. It gives users of the internet options to select how they can participate online.

    9. I see the shift from passive use to active participation producing more dynamic text and products by harnessing collective intelligence as O'Reilly puts it. The future of text and product rests in collaboration, re-mixing, and mash-ups, it's not static and involves constant evolution. The authors are made up of collective contributors that improve the product. O'Reilly provides a great example in his section on Akamai vs BitTorrent where he talks about " implicit "architecture of participation", a built-in ethic of cooperation, in which the service acts primarily as an intelligent broker, connecting the edges to each other and harnessing the power of the users themselves.". Web users contributing to sites like Wikipedia, music file sharing, Google, eBay, and Amazon, all based on collective activity creates a new version of publishers as they contribute not only through text, but also by their recorded use and engagement.

    10. Gail, I like your insights in terms of the impact of web 2.0 technologies on publishing.
      Without question the increasing options available to express ourselves and "publish" continues to engage new people in multiple ways or those who have never created content before. Anyone with access to the basic technology can publish now. With all the stats available to show how many people are blogging and participating - it was interesting for me to read about "the audience" in Shirky's video that reinforced just how many people are reading and lurking as opposed to initiating content.

      Another impact on the publishing industry of Web 2.0 include the innovation in revenue and business models as well. For example, Instagram which is in rapid growth stage has no means of generating revenue yet but is exploring ideas ( including considering the ability to resell the photos shared on their network. Ideas like these may make some users of Instagram uncomfortable going forward and elect not to use the service and others will not care at all. It is just interesting from a business perspective to see these new platforms develop and then sustain themselves.

      There are traditional and new revenue models – from subscription-based services, to pay-per-answer and pay-per-view to things like “freemiums” where basic access and features are free but then for advanced features we pay more. I noticed that in order to record over 3 minute podcasts on Audioboo I had to pay a premium. Also, on my WordPress blog, different templates and functionality for sharing videos for example requires an upgrade which will cost more money.

    11. After reading O'Reilly's article, I had a conversation about it with a friend, and noted that it was written in 2005, which is eight years ago now. The concept of Web 2.0 was coined in 1999, which makes it 14 years old! I'm just curious if you think that Web 2.0 is still in its infancy, or if we've clearly transitioned out of that now, and into the next 3.0 phase.