Web 2.0: collaboration and oversharing
Posted by jripslinger
Sailors in the information warfare community, such as information systems technicians, intelligence specialists, or cryptologic technicians, generally live with the “nerd” stereotype, and most of us live up to it in different ways. My nerd outlets are academics and fitness tech. Others like anime and several of these Sailors play video games, especially World of Warcraft. (Although, I’m told the game isn’t as cool anymore and many have moved on to other games. Don’t ask me what’s cool now.)
So imagine my surprise when Howard Rheingold wrote in his book 2014 Net Smart: How to Thrive Online that World of Warcraft was cool. He said, “World of Warcraft is the new golf [in Silicon Valley]” (p. 158). Rheingold said World of Warcraft, as an interactive, multi-player game is a great example of collaboration online because players must form teams to complete quests (p. 158). He also cited a researcher who said it’s been estimated gamers have spent 5.93 million years playing World of Warcraft (p. 158). In some ways, I’m not surprised. My husband, feeling some nostalgia, spent the last year playing an older version of World of Warcraft on a Czech server. All I know is his “raid” schedule definitely cut into our social life. While annoying then, after reading Rheingold, I can appreciate the amount of collaboration it took to assemble 30-plus gamers (I think) from across the globe to play at a certain time.
Collaboration is important, according to Rheingold because it leads to “collective intelligence,” which is “a situation where nobody knows everything, everyone knows something, and what any given member knows is accessible to any other member upon request …” according to Henry Jenkins in his article “Collective Intelligence vs. the Wisdom of the World,” published in 2006 and cited by Rheingold (p.159). Collaborative efforts and crowdsourcing have created some of the web’s best resources including Wikipedia and the Linux operating system.
Rheingold says updating Wikipedia is a simple process: “All anybody has to do is click the ‘edit this page; link at the top of every Wikipedia page” (p. 181). Rheingold also wrote that Wikipedia’s founder’s first project, Nupedia, was a failure because the volunteer-written articles had to be vetted by an expert, which proved to be costly and time-consuming (p. 180). Wales dropped the expert vetting and Wikipedia took off (pp. 180-181).
However, Nicholas Proferes, author of “Web 2.0 user knowledge and the limits of individual and collective power,” published in 2016, argues Wikipedia isn’t the collaborative platform it claims to be because “only a small number of elite editors … contribute a significant amount of content to the platform.” Proferes added that “Getting new Wikipedia users to contribute has been a significant challenge” because the new users need training.”
To see who was right, I decided to make a small change to my alma mater’s Wikipedia page. I added the link to The Times-Delphic, Drake’s student newspaper, and it was almost as easy as adding a link to WordPress. The “link” icons were the same in Wikipedia’s visual editor. I opted to create an account, and when I did, I was given tips on a username. After I added the link, I was asked to describe my changes and enter a string of letters to let Wikipedia know I’m a person and not a bot, then I hit “save changes.”
While Rheingold and Proferes disagree on the ease of Wikipedia, they both agree that Facebook’s privacy settings are difficult to navigate through. Proferes cited Lorrie Cranor (2003), who said “read-ability experts have found that comprehending privacy policies typically requires college-level reading skills.” Rheingold cautioned Facebook users “it is crucial to always keep in mind that your control of what Facebook technology can do with, as well as to your information … is limited, plus subject to change at any minute” (p. 234).
Overall, Rheingold sticks to the positive sides of Web 2.0 technologies while Proferes explores some of their pitfalls, but men caution users that regardless of what platform they are using (especially Facebook), it is important to know how the service works and what information it is collecting and sharing about you. So, be a good citizen on the Web, share your insights, just don’t share your whole life.
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