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What does Web 2.0 mean?

Updated Tuesday, 26th January 2010

Author and journalist Charles Leadbeater reveals why he believes Web 2.0 is different from the 'old' web. The Open University's Magnus Ramage agrees.

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For Charles Leadbeater, Web 2.0 offers the prospect of a democracy of creativity.




Web 2.0 I think is a step change because it’s about changing people’s roles and attitudes and position with regard to information and culture and meaning, because people move from being simply consumers or followers or readers or viewers to becoming contributors and participants as well.

They can add their voice, have their say, create their video. It means that there’s a sort of huge explosion and, in some ways, democratisation of creativity and voice that people who might simply have once listened can become active and participant. And that’s a huge change in our culture because it creates this kind of almost digital folk culture in which the means of expression become much more available to many more people rather than just been narrowly controlled.

Well Web 2.0 is a kind of name given to this set of phenomenon but underlying it is something very fundamental. There’s something very fundamental which is about economics, the means of production for culture meaning voice information has completely changed.

It’s become so much cheaper and that in turn has then created new possibilities, not just for people to have their say but to collaborate, to share and to come together. And these are real new opportunities. We can now be organised in ways together that weren’t possible before and it’s created a new menu of organisational opportunities for us to get things done in new ways, whether that’s write an encyclopaedia, play a game, watch television, create a video and what have you, we can do things together in ways that weren’t possible before.

Well I think the way that Web 2.0 has changed and the direction of travel will be more and more, if you like, individual creativity, easier and easier tools to create things requiring more and more forms of collaboration to organise it. And so I expect that the whole future will be for the web to become more personalised, for it to become more visual and for it to become more collaborative. And that’s the direction of travel; a more personal, a more visual and more collaborative web where we’ll achieve more together hopefully.

I would say that Web 2.0 is, and the web in general is just allowing us to do more of virtually anything. I mean if you want asynchronous and kind of forms of cooperation that don’t take place at the same time you can have it, but increasingly they’re going to be real time through instant messaging, Twitter and other forms of people doing stuff together.

So I just think if you look at science for instance, what’s happening in science is that collaboration of all kinds is increasing in science and the web is just a huge platform for people to find different ways to choose to collaborate. And that’s got to be good because at the end of the day collaboration is the source of most inspiration.

Magnus Ramage thinks a richer web proves that Web 2.0 is more than just marketing hype.


Copyright The Open University


Copyright The Open University


I think the thing that interview raises for me is these questions about whether Web 2.0 is a real phenomenon, whether it’s some fundamental change or whether what we’re hearing is just a kind of marketing hype?

I think it’s clear that for a very long time the web has been about creativity that – I mean when did I write - first write - a web page? Fifteen years ago?

You know, for a very long time people have been creating text and putting it on the web, and to some extent it’s had some support from video and images and links and so on.

But it was primitive and to do anything of any sophistication beyond text was either something that geeks did or it was something the professionals did, that you needed to have really quite specialist tools that the average person simply didn’t have available to them.

And I think the thing that has happened with Web 2.0 is that it’s created a much deeper sense of creativity.

It’s allowed many more people to do things that are much more interesting and to do them much more quickly.

So, the idea five years ago that you would have on your desk a set of tools that would allow you very quickly to create a video and then to upload that video to a website that the world could see, that would be very strange. It is it something, that is something that’s quite fundamental.

And I think the other thing that that suddenly has brought about is that it creates a blurring between what has been possible on the web historically (which was largely text), and what’s been possible in the mainstream media historically, and particularly what’s been possible in broadcast media, so that the way that you can create video or the way that you can have instantaneous communication through things like Twitter, that’s something that does feel quite innovative and quite new.

And I think that’s one of the reasons why the media has become so interested in this, that it’s partly going into their territory and so they’re interested in it, and it’s partly that they perceive it as a threat to what it is they’re doing. And so is there a point any more to the media, to the mainstream media in the world of blogging and YouTube and Twitter and all of these things.

And the answer is yes because they create a much – they still have the ability to filter and they still have the ability to edit, and they have a much greater level of professionalism to explore issues in depth and in news, in discussions, in current affairs and all these things.

But nonetheless, it’s a much more blurred world and it’s a much more complicated and rich world than it was five years ago, and that seems to me courtesy of Web 2.0.





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