Web Squared

I’m a little bit confused as to why Nicholas Carr sounds so fearful and afraid of the future of the Web in his article entitled The Amorality of Web 2.0. I mean a lot of what he speaks about I totally agree with but I’m not sure why he’s making it sound like these changes are bad. Let me explain what I mean.

The Internet is changing the economics of creative work – or, to put it more broadly, the economics of culture – and it’s doing it in a way that may well restrict rather than expand our choices.

Hooray, someone finally agrees with me and says the ‘C’ word! Culture is what the Internet and the Web are changing here, right now, at this very moment. The more that people are online and immersed in these environments, the more they will be influenced by its culture and expect the offline world to have this same culture.

Expand our choices? You mean you want more than 50 different types of shampoos to choose from? That not enough for you? Or more than god knows how many different job search sites are out there right now? Uh, no thank you. We don’t need more choices, we need simpler technologies that enable everyone to connect and collaborate directly in new and innovative ways so that these myriad of “choices”, as he calls them, disappear to be replaced by us communicating with each other on our own blogs, so that I can find the job that’s right for me on someone else’s site with just a simple decentralized search instead of having to navigate through a confusing maze of centralized sites. And in doing so, in losing these “choices” of job search engines to go to, I can finally break free and connect with everyone instead of just a select group of people who may be on that centralized site or service. Now given the choice, which route would you rather take?

Wikipedia might be a pale shadow of the Britannica, but because it’s created by amateurs rather than professionals, it’s free. And free trumps quality all the time. So what happens to those poor saps who write encyclopedias for a living? They wither and die. The same thing happens when blogs and other free on-line content go up against old-fashioned newspapers and magazines. Of course the mainstream media sees the blogosphere as a competitor. It is a competitor. And, given the economics of the competition, it may well turn out to be a superior competitor. The layoffs we’ve recently seen at major newspapers may just be the beginning, and those layoffs should be cause not for self-satisfied snickering but for despair. Implicit in the ecstatic visions of Web 2.0 is the hegemony of the amateur. I for one can’t imagine anything more frightening.

Um, boohoo. Who was crying for all of these communities that couldn’t support themselves and eventually died while the corporate sites thrived during the dot com craze period. No one cared for these communities who were trying to survive, most especially the corporate companies themselves who these communities continually supported by drawing attention to their products or services. If these communities had received funding for their support equaling what these companies paid other businesses for a cost per click ad campaign they could have survived no problem. Did the companies decide to help support these communities in any way in gratitude for their ongoing selfless support? No, of course not. Why give money to someone when they are already giving you support for free? Why? It’s easy. It’s called sustainability. If you benefit from others, give back to the community around you so that you can continue to benefit from their support. I mentioned this years ago but most corporate executives just laughed when hearing this. “What? Support them? Whatever for? We don’t really need their support anyways. Its just a pittance anyway!” Ya, laugh it up monkey boy! Stop looking at each little site as a pittance and instead look at the collective communities of sites as a network supporting you. Your time will come for your petty arrogance and sure enough the Reaper is here.

In “We Are the Web,” Kelly writes that “because of the ease of creation and dissemination, online culture is the culture.” I hope he’s wrong, but I fear he’s right – or will come to be right.

When do you normally feel fear? Do you feel it when you are comfy and safe? Or do you feel it when you are doing something radically different than everyone else and taking a risk that no one else wants to take? Yes, we fear the unknown but we also crave it as well. What lies beyond the horizon? There be dragons that way!

As for culture, yes he’s right but it’s “worse” than he thinks. You see culture is the answer. This new culture, or this change of thinking, is what we need to embrace, albeit fearfully as with all new things, to go into the future and bring it into the present. This new culture is the DNA formula or idea virus that we need to start using now, and injecting within all of us, especially if we want to change the world.

Like it or not, Web 2.0, like Web 1.0, is amoral. It’s a set of technologies – a machine, not a Machine – that alters the forms and economics of production and consumption. It doesn’t care whether its consequences are good or bad. It doesn’t care whether it brings us to a higher consciousness or a lower one. It doesn’t care whether it burnishes our culture or dulls it. It doesn’t care whether it leads us into a golden age or a dark one. So let’s can the millenialist rhetoric and see the thing for what it is, not what we wish it would be.

Why does he make it sound like being amoral is a bad thing? Nature is amoral. It cares not if it is moral or immoral. Instead it just focuses on surviving. Yet what does nature see that so many of us do not. Again, the importance of sustainability, of not only itself but for those around it. You don’t see lions going off on a rampage and slaughtering every bit of prey they can find and consuming it all in a gorgefest all at once. They know, without even having to think about it, that their survival depends upon living as an integral element within an ecosystem. Because if they don’t ensure the survivability of their prey within the ecosystem, they themselves will have a much lower chance of survival. Therefore sustainability for everything in the ecosystem is essential for everything within it to survive. I mean do you honestly think nature is run by some big centralized hidden factory underground or something? No, instead it is run by a collective effort of all things upon the earth that are interdependent upon one another for the survival and ongoing sustainability of the entire ecosystem.

But the most important reason of all why the Web being amoral is not a bad thing is because it allows us to choose our own morality within it. We are the missing ingredient, the catalyst of this DNA formula or virus. Technology is not our salvation, we are our own salvation. We ourselves can “cultivate” this technology and make it work similar to our own new culture which is already in turn influencing us. If you’re an avid reader of news online, you have already probably heard these cultural values being spoken. Just look for words like “open”, “honest”, trusting”, and “transparent”. I don’t know about you but I’m seeing them used more and more every day.

In closing, I just want to repeat what I believe this new cultural DNA formula or virus looks like (from a future company’s standpoint), as I’ve already mentioned it before in my post entitled I Work For The Web. I’m not sure if I’ve got all of the right component elements perfectly but, as for right now, it just seems like a good fit for me.

I work for a daring, imaginative, adventurous, sharing, caring, diverse, open, trusting, honest, flexible, responsible, and connected company.