Before Web 2.0, the vast majority of information available to the common person was that which had been disseminated to the masses by a select few. These few, these ‘information elite’ if you will, therefore had a huge, if indirect, influence on the way people thought and perceived the world around them – in other words, the few essentially dictated the worldview of the many. Now, to be fair, that puts a considerably more sinister spin to it than may be warranted by the reality of the situation. The information elite usually reached their position by virtue of their being especially qualified in their respective fields, and the information that they passed down to everyone else was, therefore, most likely completely reasonable, and not delivered with any kind of malicious intent at all. But still, the fact remains that the flow of information, no matter how accurate and reasonable said information may or may not have been, was extremely narrow and controlled.
Then, of course, came Web 2.0, and everyone, everyone, got a say. The flow of information was no longer a narrow, controlled stream, but had become a surging river of data, with every user able to contribute their knowledge, their opinions, their views, their two cents. Information had ceased to reside solely in the hands of the information elite. It lived now in the hearts and minds of millions of users, carried through seas of wire to live forever in this vast repository of humanity we call the Internet. Information would never be the same.
So what has this done for us? Well, that’s a question with a lot of answers. Information is more available, certainly. Oceans of opinions and views, complementing and opposing each other as they twist and dance across the Web are available in all of their nuance to any who care to look for them. Knowledge is available in multitudes unparalleled in human history. We form communities of like-minded individuals to share our experiences and views with, and together create wholes mightier than any one of us. To the thinking of some, we have also corrupted the integrity of knowledge and discourse by taking the reins from those most qualified to handle such things and handing them to anyone with a keyboard, qualified or not, and there is possibly merit to such a view. But to me, all of this can be summed up in one idea:
This is the Web of all of us. It belongs to me, and it belongs to you, and it belongs to everyone else. There are parts of it that I love, parts of it that I hate, parts of it that I’ve never seen and parts of it that I’ve seen too much. But it’s all mine. It’s all yours. It’s ours.
And I don’t know about you, but I’m going to put in my two cents.