Posted by: Richard Chennault | March 11, 2008

Mocking myself or Web 2.0?

“The numerical versioning of human organizational clusters is an example of reverse anthropomorphosis.”

What the hell? I’m trying to parse this gibberish and I wrote it. Lance would give this as a perfect example of how we need to revert back to simple english or whatever he calls it. I may even have to agree that the above sentence is full of meaning without a clear point.

I know the definition of the words, I actually understand it. But reading it just makes my head hurt in absentia for others who would read it.

Why did I write that particular piece of gobbledygook? I am writing a paper on Web 2.0/Social Media. I am attempting to point out that Web 2.0 is a point in time mark of web interaction behaviors and technology states. It is a convenient label selected at an arbitrary point in time. However the behaviors and even the technology is different than what it was when the label was given. I believe the attraction of Web 2.0 is not in the inanimate allure of new technology but in the sense of community it fosters. And communities are human social arrangements thus Web 2.0 is a description of human communication on a particular medium. Adding a version number to a human behavior is thus reverse anthropomorphism. Perhaps a good example is that of the english language. If we were to encounter a U.S. citizen of the late 1700’s their english would be markedly different than the english we use today. The medium is the same (that of language) but it is also evolutionarily different from its predecessor. Yet do we call what we speak english 2.0? Certainly not because we understand that language is a living organism that is reflective of the society to which it is employed.

Is then the web any different? The medium has not fundamentally changed but the style of interactions of improved and increased. The web is a way in which humans interact with one another. So why call it Web 2.0? Really why?

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Responses

  1. You are trying to define that which has already been defined.

    http://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html

    Plain English is the campaign that you reference.

    http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/index.htm

  2. Attempted rewrite:

    The fact that we label or version social clusters reduces people to mere numbers, removing any hint of individuality or humanity.

    No need for jargon here. While “Reverse Antrhoporphism” might make you sound smart, it does nothing to further the ultimate goal of conveying the message to the reader.

    Don’t name. Describe.

  3. Thank you Lance for both comments. I’ll have to incorporate your feedback into the paper. I could call it paper 2.0

  4. I ended going with the following:

    The application of a version number suffix (i.e. 2.0) to a noun has become the word de jour of the digerati when describing next iterations of technologies that primarily serve human communications. Thus Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 and etc. is an attempt to label or version social clusters to mere numbers and to apply a clumsy linguistic trick to over simplify human information cultures. A more technical term would be reverse anthropomorphism which is a process where complex human interactions are described through computer technology interactions. The goal is to highlight the advantages of the technology while masking the complexities of communications.


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