I’m of the conviction that the term “Web 2.0″ is inherently problematic. There are many who maintain that the nomenclature provides a needed context for the changing nature of the web. I would maintain it does much more to deter understanding than provide any functional enlightenment.
Proponents of the term state that the nature of the web has evolved in an organic fashion, and thus, we must qualify that new nature. The web is now interactive, collaborative, and dynamic instead of static, nonreciprocal, and isolated. While I certainly acknowledge the fact that the web has evolved over the past ten years, it remains, at its very core, still the web. The addition of the 2.0 on the term only serves to confuse.
I heard, on quite a few occasions, teachers at a recent technology conference utter their confusion at the term. One teacher asked where the url was for the web 2.0. Another teacher stopped a panel discussion focused entirely on “Web 2.0″ tools to ask “what in the world” the term meant. I think that is the rule, rather than the exception in the circles of general educators. It’s a problem that the term immediately confuses and alienates the very people who would be best served to make use of the tools and concepts the new nature of the web presents. If we used terminology that is exponentially more clear from the outset, such as “Interactive Web” or “Social Learning Web”, we would effectively make more headway and likely allow more students access to these experiences in their everyday learning opportunities.
I think the naming is likened to the naming conventions of cars. Hear me out on this. Cars have changed dramatically over the last 100+ years they’ve been around, yet they remain, at their very nature, still cars. If at every iteration of change, we added the requisite 2.0, 3.0, and so on, what number would we be up to today? When I’m going to go out and get something out of my car, I seldom yell out to my wife, “I’m going to run out to the mid-sized Japanese import car 10.0 and get the baby’s blanket.” I just say car. Because that’s what it is. Yes, there are different kinds of cars. There are Fords, Chevys, Hondas, Toyotas, Bugattis, and hosts of others. There are even different types of cars beyond a manufacturer’s name. We have SUVs, hybirds, pickup trucks, sports cars, minivans, and the like, but those naming conventions make sense. They call the cars what they are. We already have the equivalent in our web naming structure. We have blogs, wikis, content management sites, social networking, learning networks, and so on. All of these, at their nature, remain aspects of the web- a changing web, yes, but still simply the web.
A term like web 2.0 begets the notion that there will imminently be a 3.0, 4.0, and beyond. The convention serves those within a specific group much more than it does those who need to understand the concept the most. The term serves as a layer- an immediately unnecessary layer at that. The convention allows those inside the realm of understanding to point to those outside and express how much the outsiders need the insiders in order to understand and be enlightened. I’d rather we just all moved forward together in a way that makes sense and promotes progress rather than bifurcates.
And I really don’t take this issue as another instance of “let’s fight over the name of something” as much as that might appear what this post is all about. Okay, so maybe it sort of is, but it isn’t just about the name. It’s about what happens as a result of the name. The web is, in my opinion, the greatest development in modern history. And unfortunately, too many aren’t using it as such.
I know this one post won’t serve to change the way most people use the Web 2.0 term, but I hope it will give cause for some consideration. The English language is a precise language. I truly believe if we used it as such here, we would see one roadblock removed from the progress we should be making in engaging our students in dynamic learning. And I’m entirely in favor of doing that which removes roadblocks and moves progress forward.
And now I’m stating such- on the web.
Thanks to xxxtoff for the use of the Flickr image.