In defence of the Web 2.0 Democracy
I was interested to read a blog entry by Chris Wilson on Slate entitled ‘The Wisdom of the Chaperones – Digg, Wikipedia, and the myth of Web 2.0 democracy.’.
The entry looks at how sites like Wikipedia and Digg, which purport to be web democracies actually work more like an oligarchy, where a small segment of users are responsible for the majority of content and the sites general direction.
Where I find problems with Wilson’s view starts in his title. It is clear that there may be an argument to show that sites such as Digg and Wikipedia are in the control of a select bunch of users. However, these users have not been selected, appointed or employed but have risen through the ranks (so to speak) through active participation, knowledge and the support of other users.
The whole principle of the so called ‘Web 2.0’, Crowdsourcing and the Read / Write web is that it offers open access to the collective commons. It seems only natural to me that those who put the most in would naturally achieve a higher degree of ability to affect changes across those sites operating in this way.
As such the title used in Wilson’ s blog, describing ‘Web 2.0 democracy’ as a ‘myth’, does not really seem accurate or fair.
I believe that the Web 2.0 phenomenon may not be perfect and is in fact still at a relatively early stage. Where I see that it offers many advantages over the web as it existed until this time, is in the open ability for most, regardless of technical knowledge or ability to participate in a creative commons un-bound by mainstream corporate concerns, financial restrictions or censorship.
It is difficult to apply terms such as ‘democracy‘ to such a subject when countless sites struggle to provide an accurate definition of exactly what it is. If we take the literal meaning listed by About.com as ‘the will of the people’ then can anyone really argue that Web 2.0 is anything but democratic, after all, are we not all free to participate as we choose to do so.
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