Eish!!: Is Web 2.0 really making us dumb?

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Is Web 2.0 really making us dumb?

Two weeks ago I wrote a post attempting to explain the Web 2.0 phenomenon. I stated then that this was a 'precursor to another article I have been formulating for a while.' That article is what follows in the next couple of paragraphs. Before you say 'ah, this is geeky' and click to another page, let me state that by being a blog reader, you are a Web 2.0 user. This is not geek talk, I promise. Please read on, I would love to hear your opinions.

About two months ago Andrew Keen started a debate about the effects of the web and ,web 2.0 on particular on the intelligence of the world's population. It was done essentially to promote his latest book “The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture.” Since then I have been pondering his point of view and taking in the counter arguments with interest.
Obviously there was a slew of articles, blog posts, podcasts, vidcasts etc attacking Andrew Keen, declaring him as the anti-christ. Heck, he was attacking something that has become many people's livelihood and an even larger population's way of life. It was to be expected, and probably desired by Mr Keen, that there would have been such a response.
I have decided to distance myself from both camps as a premise to this post and simply look at this from my simple point of view.

Which is a good starting point. Who actually cares what my point of view is? If there are those who do, should they? After all, on the top right of this web page, I openly declare that I am 'just a normal Joe Schmo.' Web 2.0 has essentially given the chance to anybody with internet access to be published, literally. The moment I finish this post, I will click a button that says 'Publish Post.' There are hundreds of journalists that have spent years studying their profession, their craft, that spend hours, days, weeks, months creating articles that get published in the various print media. Is it really prudent to let 'Joe Schmo' have such a platform? Obviously I sway towards the 'hell, yes' camp, but there is a side of me that says, there are a whole load of people that really should not be given any opportunity to publicise their points of view... But then, how does one weed out the good from the bad. Does one do what I do in my garden and rely on a third party to do the weeding or do I trust my instincts and 'the greater good' to force these elements to be overgrown by the better quality content?

But all this is just one part of the argument. There is a whole other avenue that needs to be explored. My statistics show that the fact that you are here @ Eish!! (nice to have you by the way, please pop around from time to time ;-) means there is a high likelyhood that you use Google. How many of you use Google to convert celsius to fahrenhiet(by typin g 'x celsius to fahrenheit' in the search box) or dollars to Rand('X dollar to rand')? How many times have I not bothered with the correct spelling in this post, knowing I can simply right-click and correct? (non-Firefox users you are missing out) Where do you go if you need to find out the capital city of Bulgaria? No longer do we need to learn the skill required to a) store this information in our brains and b) know how to find it when it is needed. The contrarian view says 'Hang on, do we not know a whole load more as a result of our web travels?' I am currently exploring Russia through I blog I stumbled upon the other day. I am not just reading about Russia ala Encyclopedia Brittanica. I am, in a way, experiencing the country. The same can be said for countless other countries and cities both on our continent and others. So sure some things are easier to find on the net than actually remember, but does that make me dumber?

Another argument I assume gets covered in Keet's book is the potential for the loss of culture. [Maybe at this point I should qualify that although I have every intention reading it, I have not. I have also purposefully decided to write this article before doing so.] Web 2.0 is not only bringing a mass of information to the masses, but allowing for easy interaction with both the producers and the audience. This means that geographical borders are being replaced by web communities. These communities are not formed around a race, culture or belief, necessarily, but around interests and 'like thinking-ness.' (excuse the made up phrase, I am an amateur after all) Age-old cultures are becoming forgotten as users create new identities for themselves in online communities, using their own jargon and interacting in ways particular to those communities. Even those not going to that extreme are perhaps becoming part of a global community. Those of you on Facebook, look at the groups you have joined for instance. How 'global' are these? If a 'global culture' is the inevitable result of the internet and Web 2.0 then I would have to side with Mr Keen on this point. However, I am not that convinced of this inevitability. Also I think the geographic migrations of all peoples to all corners of the earth would have more effect than those online anomalies mentioned in this paragraph.

So let me wrap this up by admitting I have probably asked more questions than I have answered. Then let me state that, therein lies the beauty of Web 2.0. You, the reader, can and hopefully will, have an opinion and spend a couple of seconds or maybe even a few minutes and type your thoughts as a comment. I, along with the other readers will read your comments ... and be the richer for it.

Is Web 2.0 really making is dumb?

[Come back tomorrow for something a whole lot lighter ... I promise]

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