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People power

28/02/2010
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So much has happened since, it’s strange to look back at how I considered the netscape just over a year ago. Though already convinced of the long-term potential in the emergence of netizens, I was unsure whether Web 2.0 would be a power of 2 or just a fat 0.

My concerns about the economics seem justified. Online media outlets have been forced to put up paywalls. Journalists fret about their future and how the lack of resources and extra pressure are undermining the effectiveness and reliability of reporters. Advertising revenue is spread ever thinner over a growing array of platforms.

However I had overlooked the people factor. I was just a spectator. As I became a participant, I discovered that this matrix was also powered by the energy of individuals. Though occasionally entirely selfless, contributions are more often driven by the desire to be appreciated. However, in moderation, this motivation in no way undermines the value of what is being contributed.

Monetary rewards, if any, are mostly indirect. Contributors are paid primarily in the currency of attention, from the responses by interlocutors to the time accorded by their readers. Some leverage the attention they receive into professional, social or political capital. Others, though, seek no outcomes other than the pleasure of sharing.

Exponentially greater numbers of people are supplanting passive surrender to the exploitative dominance of TV with the interaction and volunteer culture of social media. There are downsides, notably the cost incurred by those who are tempted to trade the depth of analogue relationships for the breadth of digital interaction. But I’m increasingly convinced the overall balance is positive: people power!

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