Today “Web 2.0″ is just mainstream and seems more or less boring as a subject of research. The prevailing question is how to realize practical and efficient Web 2.0 solutions, what to do and not to do with social networks, social media – as a user and in the business perspective. As a typical example see a lengthy blog post like this from Dion Hinchcliffe’s Web 2.0 blog – this is what a lot of people care about: 50 Essential Strategies For Creating A Successful Web 2.0 Product
But there is still the demand for critical assessment of the dynamics, the effects and side effects of the transformation (revolution, yep) of ICT and the media industry. Even politicians have come to understand the issue, lately when they realized the role of Web 2.0 in becoming the 44th president of the USA (BTW I have been blogging in last July: “Maybe Obama can win with swarm mobilisation effects in the internet – and is the first “user generated president” of the USA.”)
In the last year I had been asked to contribute some statement in the STOA report “Looking Forward in the ICT & Media Industries”. The acronym STOA means Science and Technology Options Assessment (for the European Parliament) and you are educated enough to enjoy the allusion to the ancient philosophy school.
Critical assessment of Web 2.0 and the user’s social capital
Don’t get me wrong – my attitude concerning Web 2.0 is rather affirmative (see my record) . But as with most technological innovations there are some downsides. To know them is just a necessity if you want to secure the acceptance and value of a technology in the long run. After the “BeaconGate” there was a second “Facebook scandal” (the terms of service thing) some days ago, which approved my “critical stance” concerning the privacy and value issue.
Schroll further explains: “The productivity of the users is manifested in user generated contents and thus becomes a part of the value chain too. Even the mere internet activity without intended ‘value creation’ results in a clickstream which can be used as a valuable source of market research, user pro-filing and highly specific ad targeting. The user’s social capital in the digital realm of Web 2.0 consists of three value sources: contacts, content contributes and clickstreams. In the participatory environment of Web 2.0 the risk of ‘triple exploitation’ is rising. The platform provider e.g. knows how to use the ‘social graph’ for viral marketing, how to use the user’s contents for free and how to ‘wiretap’ the user to enable behavioural targeting” … (p68)
Get the report here for free: STOA Report “Looking Forward in the ICT & Media Industries” (PDF) + Executive Summary
Of course the Web 2.0 issue is only one focus among others in the report. Here are some more facts about the report (text from summary page):
- Report prepared by: Knud Böhle, Michael Rader, Arnd Weber, Dirk Weber – Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS), Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe in the Helmholtz Association
- In its Introduction, the report clarifies the basic concepts of “networked electronic media”, “Web 2.0″ and “User Generated Content”.
- Chapter 2 deals with Technological Developments and Technology Visions and provides facts and figures about innovations of hardware, software and networks important for media industries and Web 2.0 media formats. It considers at some length semantic technologies and the vision of the “semantic Web”, and closes by looking at long term media technology visions.
- Chapter 3 positions European Media Industries in the global context, analysing the audio-visual sector, the gaming sector, and the mobile Internet in more depth.
- Chapter 4 is devoted to networked electronic media associated with Web 2.0 and User Generated Content. The basics of Web 2.0 media are explained in terms of the users’ media experience and in terms of Web 2.0 business models, before addressing UGC-Platforms as a specific type of media.
- The final Chapter 5 “About Exploitation, Remuneration and Copyright Policies in Web 2.0 environments” describes the new media business and outlines policy relevant insights. Implications and side effects of these new media focus on the possibility of hidden exploitation of the “prosumers” – consumers who also produce content -, potential impacts on the labour market in the media sector, with respect to privacy and with respect to more general transformations of the media industries due to automated or semi-automatic media production. There is then an extensive discussion of the appropriate (micro)payment infrastructure for the Web 2.0 environment. Last not least the issue of Digital Rights Management technologies is raised in the context of copyright policies in Web 2.0 environments.