Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us
February 4, 2007 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Web 2.0 (2nd draft) A short film by Kansas State Cultural Anthropology Professor Mike Welsh. Find out what happens when content and structure finally break-up and structure gets a place of its own.
posted by Toekneesan (37 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I wonder how this works with the "message vs. the medium", which says the message (content) and the medium (structure) are the same.
posted by stbalbach at 9:11 AM on February 4, 2007


While "we've seen it all before" it's a pretty decent explanation of "Web 2.0" and I'll be sending it to some of my less-addic, er, less-Web-savvy friends.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:12 AM on February 4, 2007


What self-important blowhard pretension.

"We'll need to rethink love"?

WTF?
posted by Flunkie at 9:14 AM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


See also the MetaFilter related MetaBlast by Y0UNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES.
posted by loquacious at 9:18 AM on February 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


meh.
posted by koeselitz at 9:28 AM on February 4, 2007


This looks like an intro film for a class full of people who know nothing about technology. I suspect they didn't know much more at the end of the class.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:38 AM on February 4, 2007


I love this comment on the YouTube page:

Remarkable. Methodologically pegagogical archaeology of web text. You earned the bold utopic ending and the transhuman title. The synth-tech drives this history of use adding to a progressive linearity; an inevitablity; mildly technological determinisitic. Processual in the unfolding of data mining. Reflexive of writerly epiphany. Text and graphic movements are excellent. Priority put on pictures will slow it down nicely. My experience is less alphabetical and more optic.


I have no idea whether this is a student sucking up to the professor or someone reaching for a new level of sarcasm YouTube rarely experiences.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:00 AM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


AJAX will not lead to global enlightenment.
posted by phrontist at 10:08 AM on February 4, 2007


interesting presentation, but I still don't understand the dissociation between form and content...

it was said that bold and italic tags are examples of elements which are both structure and content - what the hell does this mean?
posted by spacediver at 10:09 AM on February 4, 2007


it was said that bold and italic tags are examples of elements which are both structure and content - what the hell does this mean?

Essentially, bold is something you can add to your text (structure) that changes its meaning (adding emphasis = content).
posted by Quartermass at 10:14 AM on February 4, 2007


interesting. put together well
posted by bmpetow at 10:22 AM on February 4, 2007


thanks quartermass.

Ok so lets say that in "web 1.0", you wanted to add an image to a post on a thread. So you use the image tag, and in between the image tags would be an http address of the actual image. sorta like: [img]http://www.a.com/a.jpg[/img]

How does web 2.0 fundamentally change this?

(forgive my crude terms - am a complete ignoramus when it comes to this sort of thing)
posted by spacediver at 10:32 AM on February 4, 2007


Well I enjoyed it...
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:32 AM on February 4, 2007


How does web 2.0 fundamentally change this?
With Web2.0, as you moused over the image link, you'd get a pop-up ad for image-editing software.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:35 AM on February 4, 2007 [4 favorites]


Wait, he's putting a text node directly inside an HTML node! You can't do that! Stop it! Stop iiiiiit! Shit, now he's doing it with XML! You MADMAAAAAAANnnnn.

Seriously, this is pretentious nooblejoobling from someone who just stumbled on the Wired-Wagon. You think all that shit is easy, Michael Welsh? Your revolution of breathless declaratives over minimalist techno is based on the too-serious work of the bastard sons of computer science, pinch-eyed and too self-congratulatory over triumphs won in the tiniest of computer sandboxes -- the web browser.
posted by boo_radley at 10:46 AM on February 4, 2007


Metablast skrunks my nunks.

This is similar somewhat: Program yourself happy
posted by MetaMonkey at 11:10 AM on February 4, 2007


thanks thorzdad - so basically it allows for more diverse content to be more directly incorporated into the main "body".
posted by spacediver at 11:29 AM on February 4, 2007


the best part of this thread is that I learned the word "nooblejoobling"
posted by skammer at 11:41 AM on February 4, 2007


I'm a sucker for techno-utopian babble of all kinds so I loved it.
posted by empath at 11:48 AM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


spacediver:

An image tag in a post is already a good example of separation between form and content. An image tag says exactly what it is, an image that is part of the message. You could have your browser render all images as links (to the images) rather than displaying them inline, or simply not display them at all.

A better example of this in the context of mefi would be an RSS (or Atom) feed of the comments to a particular thread. This would enable you to easily track new comments to a thread on mefi that you had posted to, perhaps in some software known as a feed reader, or perhaps using one of the many services that will email you with any new content when a feed is updated. In general, it would make it much easier to repurpose the content because all of the work of separating out each comment and all of the data for it (author, date posted, etc.) is already done.

This was obviously possible before RSS and the like, but it required specialized work for each web site that you wanted to get the data from, and if the layout of the site changed, the code to extract the info from the page would likely break. For this and other reasons, this sort of thing was rarely done.

Most web mashups and other examples of interoperability between sites use XML and this separation between form and content.
posted by Rictic at 12:03 PM on February 4, 2007


What a pile of wank.
posted by mr. strange at 12:15 PM on February 4, 2007


Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.
--John Perry Barlow, 1996
posted by ftrain at 12:17 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


spacedriver: Images are content in the same way a paragraph of text is content. The difference is in how the data is displayed. In older html, you'd see a lot of

<font color="red" size="5">Some Text</font>

This would display "Some Text" in large, red text. It says how to show the text but not what the text is. This displays content correctly in a web browser but is useless is other scenarios when the meaning of the text is required. Think about how you'd parse a page with <font> tags strewn about. Large, red text might mean the text is a header, or a footer, or just meaningless large, red text.

Now suppose we wanted to separate display from structure and suppose large, red text was how we wanted a certain type of data displayed (say, "movie titles" on our movie website). Instead of putting

<font color="red" size="5">

around every movie title, we could create a "class" of tags that we would wrap around the text:

<span class="movie_title">Some Text</span>

Then in a separate document we can tell the browser to display all text with the class "movie_title" in large, red text. This has three advantages--1) all movie titles on a page can be changed by changing the separate, "style" document. 2) A program can parse the page without caring about what the text actually looks like ("movie_title" will be the class regardless of the color or size of the text, which can be changed later arbitrarily by the designer. 3) The page can work natively in different devices. Since instructions on how to display the page is separate from the page structure, different devices can be supported by simply switching the page that describes the styles that each class should have. A pda could read the exact same page with different layout information.

If you think of each of these pages that describe how different classes of text should be displayed as "sheets" and realize that text can be nested and that applying a rule to a class also applies it to text nested inside that class, you could call these set of rules "Cascading Style Sheets", which is exactly what CSS is.

The CSS Zen Garden is a perfect example of this (every page on that site is the same--it is only the CSS that is changing).

Microformats are a way of standardizing class names to allow easy machines to parse similar structures of text on different websites.
posted by null terminated at 12:18 PM on February 4, 2007


He lost me at "Most early websites were written in HTML".
posted by the jam at 12:22 PM on February 4, 2007


Nice. I liked this.

I'll show this to my other programmer friends and some will cry,"lawl lam3zor!!oneone."

And I'll cringe a bit thinking, here's this anthopologist, ostensibly just an observer of technology, and he's waving his arms to the rest of the world, pointing at the programmer saying,"Hey! What's happening here might be really important in ways you didn't think of!" That's pretty cool.
posted by Loser at 1:03 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Loser:
I really like that idea. Sometimes participants aren't the best at seeing the ramifications of what they are doing. It takes a thoughtful outsider to see the bigger picture.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:39 PM on February 4, 2007


He misspelled "stylistic."

Also, I'm really, really sick of "Web 2.0" and the only place I ever see it is here on MetaFilter. I can't imagine how sick you webgeeks must be of it.
posted by languagehat at 2:24 PM on February 4, 2007


I wouldn't say I'm sick of it, but my patience is bolstered by the understanding that "Web 2.0" represents a confluence of ideas. Some of those ideas are eye candy, some represent intractable problems, but they're all interesting to a degree.

I'm just happy that we're back in a phase when working in technology isn't so goddamn depressing; there's a rejuvenation of ideas and enthusiasm I haven't seen in a long while.
posted by Loser at 3:10 PM on February 4, 2007


Um, Loser, weren't we already talking about this shit 10 years ago, and 15 years ago, (and for that matter, 20 years ago)?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:10 PM on February 4, 2007


All I could think is "He's not closing his tags!"
posted by hjo3 at 6:31 PM on February 4, 2007


I thought people in kansas didn't believe in technology or science.
posted by mrnutty at 8:17 PM on February 4, 2007


I liked this.
posted by pruner at 9:23 PM on February 4, 2007


thanks so much loquacious for that metabomb link. i drool.
posted by localhuman at 9:33 PM on February 4, 2007


And I'll cringe a bit thinking, here's this anthopologist, ostensibly just an observer of technology, and he's waving his arms to the rest of the world, pointing at the programmer saying,"Hey! What's happening here might be really important in ways you didn't think of!" That's pretty cool.

I think the issue isn't so much the recognition that things are changing so much as the creepy technoutopian angle he seems to be going for. Everything, from the uplifting electronica to the "We'll have to rethink ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H" conclusion, screams "Look at this incredibly exciting thing that's totally awesome and new and ohmigod where did it come from and WE ARE THE MACHINE AND THE MACHINE IS US!!!!!" as if we'd just invented a benign version of Skynet. Well, no.

Part of me still balks at anyone who uses the term "Web 2.0" seriously because it's basically stupid-person marketing-droid speak. For example, "Web 2.0" implies some threshold where the paradigm suddenly shifted from "static website" to "crazy social networking orgy." But anyone who's been following this at all knows that's not really true; there are plenty of precursors, prior tech and failed startups that attest to the fact that none of this is really new.

And we've seen all the techno-evangelists before, too. Remember when companies like Pyra and Deepleap were hot shit? Remember when blogging was the next big thing—but only warblogs? Remember when blogging was the next big thing—but only for teenage diaries? Remember when chatrooms and forums were allowing people to reimagine their personal identities like never before? Not every single advancement can be the revolution.

We've all been here before, and taken as a whole the evolution of the internet has been a fairly big change. Lots of neat effects fall out of it, like Sherry Turkle's theories about the elasticity of virtual personas on the internet—we can be who we want to be without boundaries, and indeed feel free to make up multiple personalities in ways that far exceed how we present ourselves in real life to different people. Or how social networking sites lead children to different expectations of privacy and public life. But to focus on "Web 2.0" as the major catalyst of change is silly and shortsighted. It'd be like hailing the development of the screw and giving it all the credit for the screw press and the development of printing. Well, no.

(And besides which, strictly speaking "Web 2.0" was supposed to refer to the brave new world of XMLHttpRequest, and yet very few of the popular sites labelled as "Web 2.0" rely on Ajax, certainly not places like flickr or MySpace.)
posted by chrominance at 11:10 PM on February 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


Hey, chrominance -- way lucid.

One of the things that really bothered me as I was learning the ropes of being a corporate webmaster c. 1997 was the degree of narcissistic nihilism that was lurking right below the surface. Nothing that came before was regarded as worthy of attention. All the old stuff was broken, and could safely be ignored.

So we were saddled with absurdities like Active Desktop and whatever the hell Netscape's version of that was, and the idea that the UI of an OS should "work like a browser" (as though that were a good thing). And we had to put up with absurd sentiments like Barlow's quoted up-thread. ("Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather." John: Piper? Tune? Pay??? The web's world's not a Dead tour, dude, and the Woodstock Nation Embassy closed in 1976 so everybody could go snort coke at Studio 54.)

That got even more intense as dotcom fever heated up. If you "got it", you were in, you were cool, and you got the money. "Got it" usually meant that you believed there was a magic money-portal you could open up that sucked wealth in from another dimension, with zero consequences (a la The Gods Themselves); often as an aside or afterthought, it meant that there was some fundamental change in the nature of human society that was Now Being Birthed; and usually it was underscored by that assumption, again, that everything that was old, everything that came before, could safely be ignored.

There's a good deal of that sentiment floating around now, with regard to "web 2.0."
posted by lodurr at 6:34 AM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


chrominance: For example, "Web 2.0" implies some threshold where the paradigm suddenly shifted from "static website" to "crazy social networking orgy." But anyone who's been following this at all knows that's not really true; there are plenty of precursors, prior tech and failed startups that attest to the fact that none of this is really new.

The easiest way to take the wind out of the sales (pun intended) of a Web 2.0 advocate is to point out that most of the sites claimed as heralds of the movement were prototyped and implemented back when HTML was still being defined in the mid '90s.

lodurr: One of the things that really bothered me as I was learning the ropes of being a corporate webmaster c. 1997 was the degree of narcissistic nihilism that was lurking right below the surface. Nothing that came before was regarded as worthy of attention. All the old stuff was broken, and could safely be ignored.

I've taken to calling Web 2.0 advocates out for their straw-man attacks on "Web 1.0."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:43 AM on February 5, 2007


This should be interesting
posted by ivanston at 11:49 PM on February 5, 2007


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