Monday, February 6, 2012

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've been mulling over Q3 for a couple of days now, and still am not sure about this. Facebook status updates CAN be narratives, in the sense of containing a story - e.g. an update like "Had best time ever at the mountain this weekend." Multiple narrators may become involved by joining in with comments like "Your wipeout was epic." So there seems to be room, through status updates and their resulting comments, to build narrative. The narrative may also become multilinear, depending on the nature of the comments.

    Does this mean that all status updates are narratives, though? Does using an update to share a link to a video, or to share a wry observation, qualify as narrative? I'd say not, because the crucial element of "story" is missing in such posts.

    However, when users create a series of updates, they are in effect telling a story about themselves - what they find interesting, and who and what they associate themselves with. So while their updates, looked at individually, don't meet the criterion for narrative, a series of updates might constitute a narrative. The whole may be greater than the sum of the parts.

    1. I think that idea, the whole greater than each individual part, holds true for many forms of narrative - a portion of a painting doesn't tell the whole story and neither does a glimpse of a sculpture's hand. Context as always is a driving force of narrative and maybe, with some new media work. It becomes more of a requisite on the reader's part, to pull those narrative threads together.

  2. Facebook is addressing the intermittent nature of status updates and helping people bring their world as reflected in Facebook into a narrative with its launch of Timeline. When you set up your timeline, Facebook aggregates your postings into a page that is like a Web 2.0 scrapbook page, if you were really, really good at scrapbooking. That it does this in seconds is almost scary.

    I set up my Timeline a few weeks ago and thought, “Hmmm, what good is that?” And then the other day I went back to it and played with it a bit, going back to 2010 and was blown away – there was my year with all the great holiday highlights, family updates and jokes I had shared. It was the story of 2010 that I would have told if I ever had organized my digital photos and written a Christmas letter.

    Timeline invites me to select the posts and photos I find most compelling and highlight them to further tell my story. Of course, when I do that, I will give Facebook information about my preferences that they will in turn sell to advertisers hoping to further customize their pitch. Ah well, a tiny fly buzzing in the marginalia.

    This illustrates so much of what O’Reilly says about Web 2.0 (What is Web 2.0, 2005):
    • The web is about participation.
    • The service gets better the more we use it.
    • The value of a service lies in its data, in this case, Facebook’s data about my life and ability to turn that into another valuable (to me) service.
    • Make sure the barriers to adoption are low – playing with Timeline is easy.

    1. Judith, your analysis of Facebook (even pre-timeline Facebook) helped me get closer, I think (it's hard to draw conclusions about how close you're getting to something when you just read and think and comment) to my understanding the Dan Bricklin sidebar, "The Architecture of Participation," in O'Reilly's section on bloggng and the wisdom of the crowds.

      There we read: "One of the key lessons of the Web 2.0 era is this: Users add value. But only a small percentage of users will go to the trouble of adding value to your application via explicit means. Therefore, Web 2.0 companies set inclusive defaults for aggregating user data and building value a side-effect of ordinary use of the application."

      Think about it. Who would agree to provide a database builder who called your home with the sole purpose of building up his database, who would agree to give that person information about your birth, marital status, favourite TV shows, names of friends, interests, likes, information about your place of residence, how much money you make (that is, which concerts you can afford to go to), travel plans, political views, religious affiliations, etc etc etc??

      A census taker who tried to get that information out of you would be pilloried by politicians.

      And yet, it is all handed over as part of your STORY to applications, including Facebook. It's remarkable, really.

      So, yes, Facebook and the rest give us a sense of empowerment as we trade in our former passive audience selves into active participation, but doesn't it appear that there is someone even more active than the former audience? And that would be the databasers?

    2. Thanks, Glenn. Follow the money is as true for social media as it was for Deep Throat (the informant, not the movie :).

    3. Glenn and Judith, interesting thoughts. I just wanted to draw attention to the idea that we "were" passive readers and now we are active readers - I think we have always been active readers (just think of reader response theory) but the current landscape of born digital narratives might make explicit the need for active reader engagement. Think of inanimate Alice or any of Dreaming Methods' texts - the story goes nowhere without our clicking, dragging and solving of puzzles but another kind of interactivity is required for print fiction like "Hopscotch" or "Garden of Forking Paths"

      Additionally those narrative devices like flashbacks, a story within a story, subplots etc all are apparent in offline fiction and require the reader to piece together different times and/or different elements of story.

  3. Q3: I’m not so sure Facebook statuses can be considered narratives so much as they can be considered fragments, or portions of a stream of consciousness.

    Whenever I update my Facebook status, it usually very long, and it may not even be in a narrative form. Like Linda says, we may just post an observation or a link – hardly a story with a narrative structure with the requisite beginning, middle and end.

    I believe Facebook creates a narrative in that it’s a continuous account of you and all of your online activity in that framework. While a link to a picture of your vacation down south may not be a narrative unto itself a series of photographs of your trips over time certainly is.

    From examining someone’s photographs, you can construct a narrative of what you believe their life to be – what they like to do, who the important people in their life and where they’ve been. All of this however, is conjecture. The image of this person you’ve created in your head may not necessarily be reflective of their reality. After all, we only post what we want people to see on Facebook – our activities on the site can’t even begin to stand in for our complete experience as human beings.

  4. Q2. Stories written inside Twitter’s limited space of 140 characters are an interesting developing of Web 2.0. Due to the space constraints, the writing must be clear, concise and effective in order to grab the reader’s attention among the continual posts in the Twitterverse. The stories I have read from Twitter have been designed in one of two ways: they offer readers a bite-sized version of the story that will be metered out through following tweets or they are written as an entire story of 140 characters.

    Here is an example of a story captured in 140 characters from the Huffington Post: “Ted eased the boat out of the slip. Betty was impressed. She hoped he maneuvered that well in bed, but even if he didn't, he had a boat”.

    I enjoyed the humour and honesty in this story and I would be interested in reading beyond the single tweet. However, that is not possible.

    In order to make money off these tweets, the author Sean Hill compiled 300 of them and repackaged them as a paperback for sale on as Very Short Stories: 300 Bite-Size Works of Fiction. Is this how authors can make money off Twitter? They create content, test it on their readers and then repackage the previously free information and sell it for $10.98 US? It’s interesting that the price was originally $14.95 but it is now on sale. In my opinion, the people who would read this type of book also know that this information is available for free elsewhere.


    Hill, S. (2011). Very short stories: #00 Bite-size works of fiction. Ulysses Press. Retrieved February 11, 2012 from

    Very short stories: Hilarious Twitter stories. (2012, January 17). The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 11, 2012 from

  5. Q5. In the Web 2.0, the roles of producer and consumer have become flexible and the division between the two has become less noticeable. During our chat on Friday, we discussed the idea of exploiting the work of users to profit as mentioned in Cornish Men are Fisherman from the blog: The Plashing Vole: y traethodydd. The blogger’s quote, “Instead of meaningful work, we've become the willing servants of the information economy: every time I blog, and every time you add something to Facebook, we're handing over a free product to be sold to advertisers and corporate interests,” warns web users that their information is valuable.

    But is the information actually valuable? Maybe. Let's consider Facebook posts. Advertisers are paying out big bucks to place their ads beside user profiles. But is it worth it? I doubt it. Facebook ads may just be the next hyped up commodity such as swampland in Florida.

    The Plashing Vole disagrees by saying, “they know that information is a commodity: we haven't yet caught on.” Is the content we produce valuable or is it our attention on their products and services advertised beside our content? Or is it both?

    I see the advertisements placed beside by Facebook profile, but I have not purchased the products or services. Although the ads may be tailored for me, it doesn’t mean I will open my wallet and purchase the items. I have been exposed to thousands of car commercials, print ads and billboards, but I have never purchased a car. Advertisers may have been sold the idea that Facebook ads will be the key to their success, but I wouldn't bet on it.


    The Plashing Vole. (2012). The Plashing Vole: y traethodydd. Retrieved February 11, 2012 from

    1. Hilary, perhaps you are an example of a transliterate reader, aware of advertising tries and ignoring them. However, most readers are not like that. Have a read of this:

  6. Q4. What would you say is the greatest impact of web 2.0 technologies on publishing?

    In the context of traditional “publishing” discussed by Sara Lloyd (2008) in a blog post, publishing is an industry, a product, and a means of distribution. Publishing online changes all that, where producer becomes the user and the distribution channel.

    As noted by Tim O’Reilly (2005), publishing in web 2.0 is characterized by participation. Along this line of thought, then the technologies that enable and encourage participation are making the greatest impact. I think that those that encourage the greatest ongoing contribution to online participation and publishing are the technologies that make the web most accessible and provide the place for publishing – blogging. As O’Reilly notes (2005), blogging is one of the most highly touted features of web 2.0 and its popularity has risen. Not only does it allow anyone who has access to the web to publish, but it allows others to participate and react, and through hyperlinking or retweeting, “republish” other works. In this grouping, if microblogging is also included then the hugely popular Facebook and Twitter applications (and I would include them) then the impact of these technologies on publishing is unarguable.

    In addition, smart phone technologies increase accessibility of the web and concurrently these microblogging applications.


    Lloyd, S. (2008, May 13). The digitalist:A blog by the digital team at Pan McMillan. Retrieved February 11, 2012, from

    O'Reilly, T. (2005, 09 30). What is Web 2.0. Retrieved 02 12, 12, from O'Reilly Network: