Photo by Pierre Tourigny
One of the goals of some of the topics that I've been discussing in this blog is to debate the role of technology in our society, especially the role of what is called Web 2.0. For professional reasons, I have been spending some time researching the Internet about it and some things have become obvious.
It's wrong to assume that social networks, such as Facebook, Orkut, Hi5, MySpace, and websites like YouTube or even blogs turn, in a universal and democratic way, each person into an author, instantaneously creative and original. Thus, a new culture was created, the "remix" culture, where originality is in the remix of what has been already created, not in the creation of something new.
It's equally wrong to assume that democracy and freedom of expression are necessarily bound together with economic liberalism and the market forces. Let's look at China, for example, where freedom of expression is still hidden behind an out-of-control, exploding liberalist economy. In other words, you don't need to be able to say what's on your mind to to buy whatever you want.
Considering these two misunderstandings, I begin to think that Web 2.0 is not so much a network of self-expression and self-creation, as much as a network of self-presentation and communication. There is a difference.
Those who want to express themselves do so because they have something to say, something of themselves to show the world. It might not be particularly innovative or original, it might only be (re)creation, but it comes from a need to express, to create, to transform themselves into a work that is distict from themselves, because it's an object of creation.
In the Web 2.0, however, no one has, in general, much to say, but a whole lot to show: pictures, thoughts, phrases, videos, (other people's) music, templates. They desperately ask other people to "comment on their photos", they thank strangers for adding them in their friends list, they comment on other strangers, even. This isn't creating, much less democracy, it is... a brand's construction.
The so-called "Generation Y" yearns for celebrity, be it on a television or planetary scale or even the microcelebrity of many bloggers, more or less the same as the one "famous people" enjoyed in the school yard, years ago. In the Internet we can, each of us, build ourselves as a brand and wait for success.