That Web 2.0 Video

By now, you’ve probably seen Michael Wesch‘s Web 2.0 video. Normally sober people are linking it and the designated cheerleaders are loving it. Me, I’m kinda disappointed. I expect some critical thinking from professors, not just a valentine to the latest buzzword.

The beginning of the vid is OK, basically defining terms and some exposition, with decent visual storytelling. The initial bit about digital text being non-linear isn’t convincing, since it is described in a linear medium, and the “writing as animation” trick was done so much better in “Why Man Creates” by Saul Bass in 1968.

Then we get a tour of RSS readers and blog posting, though I expect that part only makes sense to people who already understand it.

Around 2:55, we see, “Who will organize all this data? We will. You will.” Well, I don’t need Web 2.0 to give me more unorganized data. Not a real step forward. The great benefit of blogs and Wikipedia is the return of the human editor. I can subscribe to an organizer that I trust. I don’t have to organize it myself.

Right around 3:20, it starts quoting Wired and goes off the rails with rampant anthropomorphism. Four fragments are butted together to read, “When we post or tag pictures […] we are teaching the machine […] Each time we forge a link […] we teach it an idea.” Wow. That is some heavy-duty mythology, something I’d expect an anthro prof to analyze, not parrot.

Let’s get this straight. We don’t “teach the machine” and it doesn’t “learn”. We write and link. People write programs to read the text and images and links and to make measurements from them. People write algorithms to pull some information out of those measurements, information useful to other people. The people learn. The people teach each other. The machines are machines and the people are people.

Finally, the vid ends up with “We’ll need to rethink love/family/ourselves.” Really. I think not. I’ve been on the Internet for nearly twenty-five years, I was IM’ing my girlfriend in 1984, and I’ve needed to rethink each of those words, but not because of mail(1) or Usenet or Mosaic or Movable Type. It was because of people that I love and that love me.

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