Sunday, February 6, 2011

Week 5: Web 2.0

Some key terms we will discuss during this session:
web 2.0
network as platform

Required Readings: Tim O'Reilly, “What is Web 2.0?” Michael Wesch, “The Machine is Us/ing Us,”

Q1. How have new media technologies resulted in a more participatory media culture? Give examples of
audience participation and contrast with other theories of the role of the audience. You may refer with examples from your experience at work and at home as you respond to this question.
Q2. How does the shortened character usage (140) of Twitter affect narrative?
Q3. Can Facebook status updates be considered a new form of narrative? Why? Examples?
Q4. What would you say is the greatest impact of web 2.0 technologies on publishing?
Q5. Web 2.0 denotes a shift from “passive use” to “active participation.” If web 2.0 does away with roles of the producer, consumer and end user, where is the text? What is the product? Who is the author?


  1. I found the question about Facebook status as a new form of narrative a fascinating question. A narrative is story, typically structured, linear with a purpose , a middle, a beginning and an end. Narrative is storytelling, and often in oral cultures stories have a purpose, stories are a way of communicating something to someone for some reason.
    If I view Facebook as a narrative it can become an individual story. Facebook is a narrative that has a beginning but doesn't have an actual ending (generally),and your always in the middle of the story. It is linear and is the never-ending story of one character with a cast of millions. What is told in the story by the character is completely the choice of the individual.There would be many other facets of the character that you would never be exposed too or have knowledge of.Other characters we meet and perhaps see (thru the posted pictures) in the narrative, may appear frequently (thru responses and pictures) or very infrequently. The story is typically skewed as you rarely see people tell the negative side (or post negative posts) of their life on Facebook.
    But facebook can also be seen as a number of short stories of a person's life seen on the Facebook page.
    A very good friend mine communicated almost completely through Facebook in the last weeks of her mothers life as her mother was dying of breast cancer. She used Facebook to communicate on a daily basis to friends and family on how the day went who visited, news of her mother's condition, if they wanted company etc. And people 'tuned' in daily for the update and sent along messages of love, compassion and support. It was a very private, difficult time for a family , shared to some extent publicly, and the story was followed by many, many people who were connected to this family for a number of weeks.Until the story ended.
    I found a similar story at:

    The Washington Post built a story out of a Facebook feed about a young mother's life and death in a narrative - a story - through the mother's Facebook status updates.The story is extremely compelling because the narrator is the posts of the young woman in her own words and she becomes very personal and a 'character' that people became intimately involved in.The narrative was with the family's permission.

    " It is a heavy story, but it isn’t so much a story about death as it is love and loss. It’s a tough story, and we’re hearing from a lot of people that it hits them hard. We debated over quite some time whether to leave the death as a surprise in the narrative or to give it away at the very top, and we decided to let the story take its natural course, the way it had in real life, that that was truer to the story.

    There is an inherent power to this story, but I think what was equally appealing to us was the chance to talk about what Facebook means and to use this as a vehicle for getting people to think about what kinds of stories we tell on Facebook."

  2. Absolutely Facebook and Twitter both serve as a narrative, each having its own effect on how we view narratives in our web 2.0 reality. Status updates, pictures, likes, the addition of new friends, all serve as personal narratives of the Facebook profile. Within this large narrative of a Facebook profile lies many different stories. Some with a short life span (posting a status update with little substance) and others with a continuous narrative that often feels a little bit like a choose your own adventure book (seeing a status update change from single to in a relationship, then finding pictures of that relationship being shared on the profile, seeing comments on the wall related to the relationship). The choose your own adventure part comes from the person viewing the profile-in front of them lies a narrative which they can explore both to their own satisfaction and within the limits or narrative the author of that profile wants to publish.

    Facebook and Twitter can be seen as narratives when we accept that the whole aspect of a narrative has changed with the use of these platforms. A narrative will not necessarily have a start or end point and may very well be fragments of different stories all finding a possible way of interacting and overlapping. In our transliterate world, we use many different forms to tell our story. We may begin our narrative with a simple tweet which connects to our Facebook profile through a hyperlink, the profile then expands this story with providing further elements to enrich the plot, and we may very well end the narrative by sitting down with someone and speaking to them about your narrative.

    Perhaps one key element about today's narrative is that we may not be as concerned with how much we share at any given time but how often we share. Tweets are 140 characters long, limiting each 'sentence' within our narrative. However, tweet often, and those 140 characters all of a sudden become endless 'chapters' in our narrative.

  3. Perhaps one key element about today's narrative is that we may not be as concerned with how much we share at any given time but how often we share. Tweets are 140 characters long, limiting each 'sentence' within our narrative. However, tweet often, and those 140 characters all of a sudden become endless 'chapters' in our narrative.

    I agree with you both that Facebook and Twitter can be considered narratives. In both cases, an individual can select the narrative by clicking the friends of friends, their photos and updates. Following a path of links, an individual can create in their own minds what type of person the profile represents and begin to fill in the blanks. For example, if a friend has pictures from a wild concert they attended, one can make assumptions about what kind of person they are. From there, they may be more influenced to click the updates that relate to the lifestyle represented in previous photos.

    TKB – I like your point about how Tweets can be less about how much we share as opposed to how often. The shortened character usage, because it requires one to be concise, affects narrative by creating tonnes of chapters for readers to select and read.

    Twitter also effects narrative by forcing readers to learn new rules about digital literacy. For example, to understand Twitter, a person has to know the abbreviations and have experience with shortened links. Here is an example of a recent tweet from Zeynep Tufekci (!/techsoc) that required some advanced digital literacy.

    “About the 800 pound China in the room, no? RT @mathewi: Facebook still clearly conflicted -- RT @rmack: FB Keeps Quiet :”

    In this example, a reader must know how retweets (RT) work. One must also know how to determine what the tweeter, in this case @techsoc, is saying and what they are quoting or responding too. Additionally, the reader of this quote is left with determining who exactly wrote the article that links to this tweet. All of these new challenges change the way narratives work by creating new rules for readers.

  4. Web 2.0 Power

    Web 2.0 has created a new world order of participatory culture. The success of Wikipedia in comparison with other standard encyclopaedias (not forgetting the debate of quantity vs. quality) is an example of the collective will of web 2.0. The online chat options and Skype have created more participatory involvement within members of the family.

    The recent example of “political awakening” in Egypt, coordinated through digital media especially web 2.0 technology – twitter, blogs, chats etc., proved how powerful this participatory culture can become.

    The short narrative possibility on Twitter compels the creator to be thoughtful and succinct in description. It demands a punch in 140 words. As Sunil pointed out, the question is on periodicity rather than content. Here obviously the debate of quality vs. quantity will emerge, with both sides pointing out their benefits. One thing is for sure – the web 2.0 has created a new brand of authors, creators, and producers. It has created its own celebrities (You Tube celebs); publishers (Tech blogs turned into full time jobs) and a new brand of audience.

  5. Carolyn: you make a good point when you say: "The story is typically skewed as you rarely see people tell the negative side (or post negative posts) of their life on Facebook." - Perhaps we can read this as identity representation; we only share things (true or not) about ourselves (etc...) in order to create a certain kind of narrative of ourselves? This ability would form part of transliteracy as I see it, being critically literate about how one represents one's self online (privacy etc...).

    TKB - you highlight the aspect of the multimodality of transliteracy which of course, in itself can create challenges for readers.

    Sunil - you note that if one tweets often, slowly a story grows and there are sentences and chapters. I wonder, in the future, if we will still compare digital narratives to print, even if it is only via our choice of simile or metaphor.

    Paul - very timely to bring up the Egypt example of the power of harnessing social media.