The next talk I saw was Marianne’s; a much more developed version of the research she presented at New Network Theory in Summer ’07. The title this time was “E-sociability metaphors:
From virtual community to social network and beyond,” and looked at the evolution of metaphors used to describe social relationships on the Internet.
The most interesting point for me was the really concrete way she identified ways that Web 2.0 platforms in their technical workings actually might be described as undermining the previous kinds of online communities that were so much glorified.
As she puts it, Internet communities were once like this:
- localized social aggregation on the Internet
- based on shared practice, interest, or value
- gathering at a collective place
- having a core of recurrent active users
- engaged in on ongoing group communication
- and so developing a common frame
- of reference
But, Web 2.0 technologies create this:
- the page is dissolved as unit for collective gathering
- on the fly aggregation and reassemblage of user enriched data
- interacting data entities rather than interacting users
- no common collective place of gathering
- no ongoing debate between a recurrent group of users
At least in part these changes occur because of technologies–scripts, usually–that allow dynamic html content to be generated, saving time and bandwidth by not serving page after static page or creating whole new pages from scratch. This means that users don’t have to interact with each other or with other real people (web-mistresses, sys-admins, site owners or whomever). Instead the system can answer most requests.
While this is true, in fact, fora still exist, and people often interact through blog comments, wall-posts on Facebook, etc. But it’s probably true that the focus is not any more on centralized “gathering places.” Insteadit seems more like visiting neighbours, to me. Occassionally you all get together socially, but most interactions are one to one. But that is often what we do in person too, isn’t it? Phone calls, meeting for coffee or lunch, sending email. Historically we might say that this is more typical, so I don’t know that we can really blame web 2.0. On the other hand, I haven’t researched the whole history of human intercation (yet!), so maybe this is so. SHould have asked about this at the talk, but I guess I can just send a message… 😉