Paper by Teresa Harrison in latest issue of the Journal “Participations“: “From a purely technical perspective, no one, including Tim Berners-Lee, has ever been able to pinpoint exactly what makes Web 2.0 unique. What may be most accurate to say, is that the enormous popularity of social networking and other social media technologies hinges on a radical reconceptualisation of the audience, now routinely incorporated into ICT applications. Once treated as passive consumers of content created by others, designers of these applications now appreciate and exploit, the fact that new media users (formerly known as the “audience”) actively create content online to serve their own goals, frequently as they interact with others. Users of Web 2.0 applications display and tinker with their identities, express themselves on all kinds of topics, invent new products and ideas, and, as Don Tapscott, Tim O’Reilly and legions of other business gurus hasten to remind us, are willing, so far at least, to lend their problem solving, creative efforts and intellectual products to businesses seeking to innovate, or just looking for free marketing. Hoping to harness this largely uncompensated labour, organisations of all types (both commercial and non-profit) have been quick to find ways to attract these “producers” to their projects.
Governments have not been the swiftest in this regard, however, they may present the most ambitious and optimistic agenda for involving internet users. Nations around the world now hope to use new media to engage their citizens in some variation of participatory governance. Where once the prospects for “town hall style democracy,” were doomed by the limitations and inefficiencies of one-way media transactions, the networked interactivity of social media now makes it technically feasible to invite citizen participation on a routine basis. What is not yet clear is how citizens will react over the long term to these invitations and what kinds of social issues and software applications will best attract and immerse them into new citizenship practices.”