We Have Never Been Social: Web 2.0 and What Went Wrong




Let’s return to 2003 and the web that appeared to be emerging then. LiveJournal and Blogger had been around for about four years, and GeoCities for another five, an anarchic set of tools and spaces that allowed users to build out online forms of self-representation and relationship. I’d been blogging for about a year, using MovableType, and had found my way into a group of early literary and media studies bloggers, all of whom were writing and thinking together in engaging and productive ways, lifting one another’s ideas up and making them better along the way.

But alongside those creative spaces on the web were a few other developments: 2003 saw the launch of Friendster and MySpace, and then – fairly quietly, at first – this thing called FaceMash. And with them came the platformization of ostensibly social networking, in which the accumulation of connections (and, not incidentally, venture capital) rather than the building of relationships became the point. By the time FaceMash turned into Facebook and started moving beyond Harvard’s gates, the writing was on the wall (so to speak) for thoughtful sociality on the web; Twitter was only the final nail in the coffin.

This talk will look at the web that was both for what it could have been and for what it turned into, in order to think through where we are today and the possibilities that we might consider in working toward the web of tomorrow.

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