Social Networks seem to be neither

I have spent the last few months trying to get my head around the effects of the new kids in town, the big social networks, the Web 2.0 darlings, the perceived shift of “ownership” of the web from companies to users and how companies relate to all this. My week at the Web 2.0 conference, while not exactly an overwhelming experience, nevertheless seems to have pushed my brain over a steep ridge where the shadows aren’t so deep.

If you read this by Nick Carr, you can pick up on the various camps, exagerated as they may be, to prove his point. I mostly agree with what Nick is saying here about MySpace and other high volume social sites. The game is up, it’s time to accept the fact that this is a mass media show run by the media companies now. I did my best to stomach my own profile experiment on MySpace and was amazed that people could even think of the connections they made there and the word “friend” in the same sentence. Popularity contest is probably more like it with friend described in only the most cynical, one sided fashion. Still, my own kids at one time were making connections they felt stronger about in LiveJournal and DeviantArt not so many years ago. Today, none of those relationships have survived.

I am probably by my nature more on the side of Esther Dyson described in Nick’s post. While at the same Web 2.0 show I had dinner with an old San Francisco designer who like me was around at the very early stages of the web. We reminisced about our heady visions, utopian values and outright excitement that pushed us on at least as much as the steadily rising paychecks. At least the paychecks have been steady. There is another side to the discussion though. It’s not just the utopian view vs the crassly commercial view.

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