I attended a few months ago a presentation on web 2.0. by the excellent Irish blogger Tom Raftery. First, I must say that the lecture was widely appreciated by my colleagues. Personally, I was disappointed by one thing: Tom started his presentation by telling the audience web 2.0 could hardly be defined. I must admit he’s right and the definition given by wikipedia is far from satisfying.
If web 2.0 is pretty hard to define it’s maybe because it doesn’t really exist. I mean most “definitions” of web 2.0 could apply to amazon user reviews, ebay, epinions.com, all the dating sites, some porn sites, msn or yahoo groups. I remember an old article (couldn’t retrieve the article but this one is as relevant) where Tim Berners-Lee expressed his doubts about the reality of web 2.0. Of course, the pace of innovation has never been bigger and adaptation is key.
In my presentations, I try to explain there’s no revolution but a fast evolution based on 3 elements: broadband growth, web technologies, non-web technologies (like digital photography or HDMI connections on televisions). Those elements lead to more consumer empowerment and impact again the demand for new technologies and more bandwidth that will lead to more empowerment, and so on…
To conceptualize what today’s internet is all about, I also found a little help in the study of philosophy. The French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari published in 1980 a book called “a thousand plateaus” (mille plateaux). A Thousand Plateaus is organized around the distinction between ‘arborescent’ and ‘rhizomatic’
(quoted from http://www.thing.net/~rdom/ecd/rhizomatic.html )
“Rhizomatic thought is non-linear, anarchic, and nomadic. Rhizomes create smooth space, and cut across boundaries imposed by vertical lines of hierarchicies and order. Rhizomatic thought is multiplicitous, moving in many directions and connected to many other lines of thinking, acting, and being. Rhizomatic thinking deterrorializes arbolic striated spaces and ways of being. Rhizomes are networks. Rhizomes cut across borders. Rhizomes build links between pre-existing gaps between nodes that are separated by categories and order of segmented thinking”
The rhizome has multiple entranceways, connects any point to any point and is non hierarchical. And today’s web looks more and more like this philosopher vision.
Nevertheless, I will continue to use the term web 2.0. It’s so convenient to use 5 signs to express a very complex reality. I guess some day, students in digital marketing may be forced to study chaos theory, nonlinear and dynamical systems to understand the web properly J