by Heather Kallevig
The Machine is Us/ing Us
Without any background knowledge this phrase can elicit a variety of responses, fear, questioning, incredulity, acquiescence, enthusiasm. To be honest, I experienced a milieu of these feelings myself when I first saw the phrase prior to watching “The Machine is Us/ing Us” posted on Youtube by Michael Wesch. Though this film does not have Web 2.0 in the title, it is essentially a description of the way Web 2.0 has changed how the Internet is used today.
The Age of Taxonomy
The Internet is no longer a tool, created and operated through the labors of a few for the use of many. This is a description of the past world I visualize when I consider Web 1.0. This is a relegated idea, where web creators had the sole ability to change a web page, alter content, add information, and tag data. This is the Age of the Taxonomy. Experts tried to visualize what web users wanted and worked to meet those demands. They created tags, were in charge of changing and updating web pages, and users primarily looked at the information. The ideas, pages, and tags of these experts inhibited users. They were boxed in by the taxonomy. Today we see a very different world.
The Age of Folksonomy, User-Generated Content, & Harnessing Collective Intelligence
With the ushering in of the Web 2.0 era, we have seen a dramatic change. Today it is no longer the few, but the many who are updating the web, and we are doing it a thousand miles a minute. Web 2.0 tools need regularly updated ideas, photos, and experiences to succeed. Thus they depend on user-generated content to grow. Wikipedia is one of the most effective examples of Web 2.0 success. When the platform was first presented, most people scoffed, saying it was impossible to maintain an academic page where anyone and everyone could contribute. “They will virtual-vandalize it and add inaccurate information, accidentally or on purpose.” Ignoring these critics, succeed it did, and proved that Web 2.0 tools were not only possible, but very effective. Today we have a regularly updated massive encyclopedia that all may access for research or to contribute facts. Mind you, it is still necessary to have those few – moderators who can monitor user-generated content – but it is more effective to have a small group of moderators than it is to have a small group of creators.
Harnessing collective intelligence is one of the seven necessary components of Web 2.0 tools outlined by Tim O’Reilly, a supporter of the Web 2.0 movement and an expert on the subject (O’Reilly, 2005). Collective intelligence is the result of having umpteen users working on a tool. With Web 2.0, we can have people from all over the world exploring one idea at the same time. The contribution possibilities are greater, the information more varied and valuable.
We are in a world where authorship is allowed and everyone has the opportunity to contribute his or her ideas. The more ideas shared, the stronger a program becomes. The goal of Web 2.0 is to “harness collective intelligence,” to employ the ideas of many contributors. A good example of this is Tripadvisor. This website relies entirely on its members to update their profiles with reviews of the different places they visit on their travels. Without these users, they would have a barebones website, full of the opinions of a small group of travel writers. By harnessing collective intelligience, however, they are able to source a much larger crowd and meet the needs of a massive group of readers. Today Tripadvisor has more than 4 million members exceeding 170 million reviews (Tripadvisor.com). I would know, I am one of them and find the service both a valuable travel tool and a fun form of authorship.
One of the greatest offerings of Web 2.0 tools is the opportunity for authoring. This can occur in Wikipedia and Tripadvisor listed above, or in many other forms of social media, blogs, facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, etc. According to Andrew McAfee in Enterprise 2.0, the inventor of wiki blogs, Ward Cunningham, wanted blogs to allow that authoring opportunity.
“Most people have something to contribute whether it’s knowledge, insight, experience, a fact, an edit, a link, and so on, and authorship is a way to elicit these contributions” (McAfee, 2006)
The Machine is Us/ing Us
Web 2.0 is a power tool that needs that interaction and contribution of its users. It is using us – we make it smarter, more powerful, and the web is developed based on our information. By virtue of doing what we do, the machine becomes smarter. The beauty of web 2.0 is it brings us together, gives us ownership, and learns from us. People are sharing, trading, collaborating. Web 2.0 has opened a wonderful world where everyone’s contribution is important.
McAfee, A. (2006). Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn Of Emergent Collaboration. IEEE Engineering Management Review, 47(3), 38-38.
O’Reilly, T. (2005). What is Web 2.0: Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. O’Reilly.