Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking

By E. Gabriella Coleman | Go to book overview
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EPILOGUE
How to Proliferate Distinctions,
Not Destroy Them

In 2006, Time magazine crowned social media and “you” as the person of the year. Typical of many mainstream media representations, Time not only latched on to the moniker Web 2.0 but celebrated it with breathless hyperbole too:

It’s a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen
before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia
and the million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online
metropolis MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the
few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only
change the world, but also change the way the world changes. (Gross-
man 2006)

This quote treats Wikipedia, YouTube, and Myspace not only as interchangeable examples of community and collaboration but also as moral solvents with the power to melt away existing power structures. Although the hype may be more pronounced in this piece, the simple conflation of these distinct digital domains is not unique to Time or even other journalistic pieces; it is simply one example of how Internet technologies between 2005 and the present have been imagined by academics, journalists, policymakers, and activists.

Starting in 2005, but continuing unabated today, many commentators and critics alike have placed a range of digital phenomenon, including free software, under the umbrella of Web 2.0. This term was first coined in 2005 by O’Reilly to differentiate contemporary technologies (wikis, blogs, and embedded videos) from their immediate predecessors, such as email and static Web pages. These second-generation technologies, he claimed, allowed for more interactivity, flexibility, and participation than the earlier ones. Since the term’s invention, it has not only become the governing metaphor by which to understand contemporary Internet technologies and the social practices that cluster around them. It also has been stretched so far

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