Wednesday, November 11, 2009

More ideas on Web 2.0 and Changing the World

Now that the Stand Up End Poverty Now! event is over, I am taking another look at the potential impact that the World Wide Web and Web 2.0 tools can have on the world. My latest source is the Fast Company article Can Social Networking Change Our Political Consciousness?

Twitter, Facebook and the many other social networks that have emerged are reminding us exactly how small the planet is, and how seemingly mundane or personal issues (where you live, what you feel) have all kinds of ramifications.

The question of the veracity of this statement has its greatest challenge from Evgeny Morozov. I previously blogged about his Foreign Policy article. This time it is the TED Talk that he gave on the same subject.

TED Fellow and journalist Evgeny Morozov punctures what he calls "iPod liberalism" -- the assumption that tech innovation always promotes freedom, democracy -- with chilling examples of ways the Internet helps oppressive regimes stifle dissent.

This slideshow on How the Net aids dictatorships is also from the TED Talk. First off, everything Morozov says in the talk is in my view could be and often is correct, but I still disagree with his overall argument. In it, Morozov provides his own version of the Maslow hierarchy hierarchy for Internet involvement on slide 21 going from Have Fun, Talk, Share, Learn, and finally at the apex Campaign.

This can also be compared to the Groundswell Web 2.0 usage taxonomy. The difference is that the Morozov hierarchy is basically group-defined and the Groundswell is individual-defined. The top of Morosov's heirarchy is campaign - a group of people working on a common cause. The top of the Groundswell hierarchy is creator - which on the Internet can become collective creation.

Both also have important differences between the Maslow hierarchy in that both, especially Morozov's hierarchy, though he does not make the point, can be re-iterating. Morosov's Campaigners can use the lower levels of Learn, Talk, and Share. Those at the Learner stage have the potential of moving to the Campaigner stage.

Morozov speaks of KGB in the former USSR using torture to find out the means of communication between rebels. Now, Morozov complains that it is made instantaneously apparent on the Web. It is also, however, ubiquitous and there is nobody to torture or everybody to torture. When one person or a few hold to key to an entire organization that organization it is far easier to stop despite romantic ideas of the activist bravely standing up to the secret police. While it is true that dictators will try to find ways to stop dissidents using Web 2.0 tools, this does not mean that they have become ineffective.

A far more effective argument on this issue is made by Clay Shirkey the author of Here Comes Everybody.

Clay Shirky: Social Media vs. the Dictator
Clay Shirky - Clay Shirky is a professor of Interactive Telecommunications Program at the Tisch School of the Arts of New York University, where he teaches courses on the interrelated effects of social and technological network topology.
Full Program

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