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What Is Web 2.0 and How Is It Changing Our World, Both for the Good and for the Bad?

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What is Web 2.0 and how is it changing our world, both for the good and for the bad? Most people may not be familiar with this term, but nearly every person living today is familiar with the internet and the extraordinary changes that have been brought about due to its existence. However, many people also use Web 2.0 every day without even realizing that they do. Blogs, forums, and other user generated content are all considered Web 2.0 and have become increasingly popular in the last few years. Web 2.0 is not without its controversy and Andrew Keen's 2007 PBS interview juxtaposed with Jaron Lanier's 2006 opinion piece in Time, reveal two perspectives on the phenomenon. At first glance, their viewpoints appear as comparable as fire is to ice, but key similarities, such as acknowledging that some individual's become inclined to initiate viscous cyber-attacks, emerge regarding the internet's anonymous nature. In fact, Keen and Lanier's viewpoints on Web 2.0 expose the reality that dangers occur along with the web's creative potential. Both men see significant problems when people hide behind anonymity's veil, problems about which all users should be aware.

Andrew Keen takes a harsh, intolerant stance on Web 2.0. Tech Crunch (n.d.) identifies him as "an Anglo-American entrepreneur, writer, broadcaster and public speaker". Despite his entrepreneurial background, Keen believes that Web 2.0's innovations lead to a watered down society of inaccurate and incoherent web pages which users should be wary of trusting. Keen almost despises any websites which support and/or are built from user generated content. He firmly believes that mainstream mass media is what the web should be built upon and by straying away from it; we are heading into a direction of chaos. Keen delves deeper into this belief by stating that: "Traditional mainstream media, with its gatekeepers, actually brings significant value, not only in terms of our understanding of the world, but in terms of our civic identity and understanding and interaction" (Brown & Keen, 2007). These strong opinions towards Web 2.0 have sparked much debate as to the direction in which American society is heading.

Jaron Lanier has a slightly less harsh attitude towards Web 2.0 and sees some good in its existence. "A computer scientist, composer, visual artist, and author", as noted on Lanier's own web site (n.d.), he termed the phrase "virtual reality". Lanier's multifaceted background and appetite for creativity may explain why he is fond of some the user generated content out there. However, he has taken notice to the issues surrounding anonymity. Like Keen, Lanier believes that when people have the opportunity to keep their true identity a secret, they tend to behave in a way in which they would not normally act in a face to face scenario. Such behavior can also bring about a mob mentality where more and more individuals join in and behave irrationally and even violently towards others. Aside from this mentality, both men have also brought to light their complementing views about how the internet is creating a collective and bland society with minimal choices. Keen refers to the environment as an "echo chamber" and claims it has become "a place where we go to confirm our own views; it's a place where we go to interact with people like us" (Brown & Keen, 2007). Lanier compliments Keen's idea by stating: "Along with all the sites that encourage individual expression, we are seeing a flood of schemes that celebrate collective action by huge numbers of bland, anonymous people" (Lanier, 2009, p. 733). As much creativity as there is behind Web 2.0, there may be a greater amount of useless and wasteful content destroying society, or at least dumbing it down.

Similarities between Lanier and Keen's viewpoints can get overshadowed by the conflicting specifics of their ideas and solutions. As noted earlier, Keen is a staunch proponent of self-expression on the internet. He believes it to be both wasteful and destructive to the online community. Lanier, however, feels that self-expression is what makes the



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