Brian Alexander spoke to the I-School at South Hall here in Berkeley about Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning?

Bryan Alexander

The lecture was given to a group of older techie looking guys at a very fast pace, and with the expectation that they were currently actively participating in some form of web centered work. He did communicate the vastness of the web and the fact that it is advancing throughout the world, and not just in Silicon Valley. In fact in many ways the US is years behind the rest of the world especially Japan. But people elsewhere are actively involved using, not so much computers, but high end cell phones. These cell phones are available in other countries with much better bandwidth quality and with many more web ready functions.

It now seems that the Web 1.0 of only a few years ago—perhaps I should say months ago— seems like a static thing. A very powerful thing compared to the past but based on fixed sites doling out fixed information. Now the Web 2.0 is a more vibrant interactive thing where the current user isn’t just a recipient of information, but a participant in the creation of new information and of new ideas. Some examples of this are Second Life and World of Warcraft which are set up as games, but are much broader in their impact on their users’ lives.

When he asked the audience how many of you have edited a Wikipedia page more than half reluctantly held up their hands. This was a good question, and one that I wanted to ask last year when I was at a huge audience lecture in Edinburgh, Scotland entitled The Scottish Enlightenment – Can it happen here again? At that lecture I felt that of the several hundred people that no more than a few could have answered yes to that question. In this case holding up your hand was taking a great risk because Bryan was likely to call on you with very rapid fire questions, which happened to me several times, somewhat to my chagrin. Partly this comes from paying close attention to what he is saying, which deprives my talking brain of much blood, or whatever, and it is a bit difficult getting started. One time he asked me what my blog server was, and it took me about a second to start saying it, WordPress. It felt like an embarrassing eternity.

One of the things which bothered me a bit was the talk about the various problems of the Internet. For example: the trustworthiness of Wikipedia, or the various legal problems with copying other people’s material, or kids seeing things you would hope to never see in your entire lifetime. I made a comment to the effect that all of those problems will evaporate in a year or so. That Wikipedia is much better than last year and that with a few more cycles of size and clarification it will be thought of as remarkably complete and definitive and accurate. The legal problems will also evaporate because unless you have made a lot of money off of something, and therefore should pay the previous creator, that there is no sense in suing someone for promoting your work. Most of the time a simple I’m sorry for inadvertently using your material will do, and then simply pasting in something either entirely new or clipped from some open source material such as Flickr. And, the porn and violence become boring for most people as well as kids very quickly if it isn’t somehow related to their life.