That’s Mrs. Web 2.0 to You Pal

Countless discussions debating the impact Web 2.0 communication has had, and continues to have, on our way of life actually has some of the best commentary lining the bottom of their own web pages. From the opinionated ‘big britches’ blogger to the relative arguments of acclaimed authors like Jaron Lanier or Andrew Keen, exploration into the second generation of online communication has led to the creation of this new global society. Early on, virtual gurus Lanier and Keen took similar stands in their belief that Web 2.0 would have a negative impact on communication.

As a reader with your own opinion and a free outlet at the bottom of basically every webpage, both yours and my stance on this is ironically applicable. Meanwhile, the belief that it has shaped the creative outlook of online culture is a point of divergence. The ramifications of open web accessibility are reshaping the level of education and critical thinking necessary to not only survive, but to succeed beyond the average mental capability.

902px-Jaron_lanierJaron Lanier is the computer scientist turned philosopher considered responsible for virtual reality. Back in 2010, The Independent referred to Lanier, both an artist and author is in his own right, as quite the:

“oxymoron personified. He is a hippy, but he agrees…that content should be paid for. He is one of the world’s leading intellectuals…yet he never managed to complete a university degree. He bashes big software firms, yet he provides consultancy services to them. His works include vivid looks into not only the technical aspect of the internet, but also the limits it places on individual growth due to the term, “online collectivism.”

It sounds to me like genius Papa Hippie realized his baby wasn’t the innocent infant he brought into the world. This “online collectivism” coins the emphasis on the ever-growing online communication channel consisting of wikis, social networks and the blogosphere. To this day he refuses social media.

Andrew Keen, on the other hand, is an author with equally strong views on our society’s impending demise coining Web 2.0 as a modern form of communism. Declaring its users “creative amateurs”, Keen demoralizes digital media from a bias yet justified standpoint.

andrew keenHe once told PBS New Hour how much he considers “democratization,” a term referring to the ability of anyone to add information, express their opinions and interpret other people’s views as legitimate and factual, to be “undermining reliable information and high-quality entertainment.” In a nut shell, letting idiots speak freely kills the brain cells of traditional information transmission.


What an incomprehensible burden technology innovators tote alongside their massive brainpower and intellectual integrity. I wonder if Richard Attenborough or James Cromwell studied said toting for their roles as John Hammond and Dr. Alfred Lanning, respectively.

Wait, is the internet ‘good’ or ‘bad’ then?

Here’s where I may lose you. Lanier is pleased with the vastness of the internet and its expressionism while Keen stays away from saying that. Keen told PBS that “the mainstream media is more diverse than the internet” and that mass media is depleting.

Both writers also find that the evolving freedom of online correspondence is causing the emergence of an alter personality.

  • Keen refers to it as a level of narcissism
  • Lanier focuses more on the individual’s loss of fear for the collectively more brazen, meaner peers.
  • Keen refers to it as an elevated perception of self.
  • Lanier believes the lack of consequence for the things people say is the main driver for the loss of credible individualism.

In an interview with Guardian UK, Lanier discusses the internal and external enemies of the “pack” mentality that forms of people on a Web 2.0 site. Some in the “pack” will elevate themselves over the lesser opinionated (internal) and any outsiders with opposing views (external). Clearly he has forgotten the number one place NOT online where that has occurred for generations. We call it middle school.

  • Keen believes the internet is a mirror of our society; of the good and bad aspects of self.
  • Lanier believes it is democracy itself that is countering the biological reasoning for why we act the way we do around other people. An “all holds barred” atmosphere freeing the biological meanness of the psyche

So what does that mean for the intellectual property of us “simple folk”?

It means the brains follow the buck. The most distinctive similarity in the arguments of Lanier and Keen, is the overwhelmingly typical belief that credible information and plausible expressions should be acknowledged and rewarded with compensation. Web 2.0 allows the open source expression of anyone with the access to not only spew information but to have it acknowledged as acceptable discussion matters. Moreover, even though there is the separation of credible material, many times requiring subscription fees, the use of excerpts and creative commons leads to the filtration of one’s thoughts into an entirely new context. This dissociation is causing a “user-generated content” influx that takes away from what pretentious traditionalists feel the internet can really offer. However, the real question lies in the moniker they had gold-plated for their own front doors. If you want a smarter, more valuable exchange of amateur intellectual property, then you had better educate effectively. As technology tends to do, it will continue to rebirth itself regardless of the common human intellect. Essentially, this means these innovative and highly impressive authors will not be chanting ‘All Online Voices Matter’ anytime soon.

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