Web 2.0 and exploitation

March 11, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Hungry Namibian cheetahOver the last few weeks, there’s been a fur fight about exploitation of photos belonging to a member of a photography group I belong to on Flickr. This member’s photo was used by a company in an advertising brochure without permission from the member. Debate erupted over whether this was permissable, ethical, exploitative – you get the idea.

Which brings me to today’s post on Web 2.0. We’ve heard the mantra: Web 2.0 technologies bring us democratisation of media production; the opportunity to play with identity; the power of social networks; increased flow of information and so on. We rejoice in indulging our creative impulses. We tear down or blur the boundaries. We become empowered. Individual and collective social identity can be articulated.

But perhaps what we lose sight of is this – Web 2.0 technologies are dominated by media and telecommunications providers. And the unintended consequences of this domination is that they have the power to shape what enters the public discourse. They can exploit free labour for commercial gain. They can use surveillance tools to monitor our search habits. Recently, I read that this Web 2.0 dominance was referred to as the dictates of a neoliberal socio–political hegemony and that we only have contingent freedom.

We could argue maybe that Web 2.0 is an architecture of exploitation. Flickr and YouTube, for example, rely on you and me to post content, which could be exploited for commercial gain. We exploit each other – a young mother from South London was gang-raped by three youths whilst her two young children cried helplessly. The whole sordid affair was captured on a mobile phone cam and plastered all over YouTube. It was watched over 600 times before YouTube took it down.

Anyway, to avoid a rant coming on, I’m going to refer those of us interested in how Web 2.0 might have unintended social, political and ethical consequences to the online journal, First Monday. It contains a collection of articles that looks at the rhetoric surrounding Web 2.0. A good read!


Entry filed under: Privacy, Social media, Surveillance society, Useful resources, Web 2.0.

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