Webometric Thoughts

March 25, 2008

Is a Web 2.0 future really so great?

Filed under: Leadbeater,Shirky,web 2.0 — admin @ 6:56 pm

One of the reasons that I haven’t posted much over the last few days (besides the fact it was Easter), was that I have been trying to catch up on my ever-rising pile of unread books. After finishing Leadbeater’s “We-Think” I followed up with Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody“. Whilst both are enjoyable enough quick reads, by the end I find myself dying for some cynicism about the social empowered future; not the capitalist-led cynicism of Keen whose opinions have a Thatcherite air to them (a distinctly bad thing), but rather a cynicism about the empowering of the masses. Whilst both Leadbeater and Shirky point out that the future will be turbulent, they believe that the likelihood is that the overall outcome will be positive. I am not so convinced.

My more cynical vision of the future is based on a lack of belief in the good of democracy. Whilst democracy would seem to have provided the best solution for establishing a government so far, it has primarily worked because of its limitations rather than in spite of them. The more abhorrent opinions of the majority are, more often than not, curtailed by the representatives of democracy. If the social tools that are available open the way for a more direct democracy then the flood gates are likely to be opened to man’s rather nastier side.

When direct democracy is possible, is it possible to defend representative democracy on the basis that the majority have repulsive views? It seems more likely that a government, which will become increasingly vulnerable to the masses, will have to embrace the majority. To misquote: “The voters are never wrong. Repulsive, maybe, but never wrong”.

It is too late to put the genie back in the bottle, and I don’t think I particularly want to. I would, however, like a bit of a less evangelised future.

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