2.0 Ambivalence

February 19, 2008 at 12:50 pm 1 comment

I have a confession to make. For all the interest I take in Web 2.0 technologies (especially for their importance in the future of library and information science as well also society in general), I am not a big user of them. This is not so much of a secret, since links to my Delicious or Flickr accounts, for example, are conspicuous by their absence; but as a self-proclaimed ‘Librarian With an Avid Interest in Library 2.0’ in search of a job, I feel a need to put it out there that this is the case — and more, importantly, why.

In a word, I am not comfortable with the degree of transparency that is possible with these technologies — for myself. I’m not comfortable giving people a window into my world to the degree of placing my book and music collections on display to anyone who happens upon my profile, blog, or website. But of course I have control over this, and I don’t display such information– while still using Web 2.0 applications such as Facebook (though admittedly, not much). Blogging and RSS feed readers I do use. I consult wikis — though not as often as I might (except Wikipedia, which I use pretty often). I suppose trusting Wikipedia at all is rather “2.0” in itself, if you will.

Another 2.0 app I use is iGoogle. I have about 5 tabs with various news widgets and a main page with fish, an analog clock, and a color chooser. I have mixed feelings about this — about Google, that is — and am slightly embarrassed by the admission. I’m increasingly uncomfortable with the universality of Google’s aims. But their apps are so easy to use! and fun… Still, my enthusiasm is waning.

Some thoughts on ‘2.0 living’ by Jessamyn West at Librarian.net (Dec 20, 2007) seem apropos to this issue of embracing web 2.0. She speaks of the inefficiency of the supply-ordering process at her place of work. Here’s the crux, from her personal experience in buying printer cartridges:

The ink I need at Staples is $20. At my local office supply store it is $27. My angle is a price comparison site called dealink.com which lets me search competing ink prices. They told me I could get it for $18.50 shipped, HP brand ink, no knock-offs. That was pretty good. Then I headed over to my favorite coupon site, RetailMeNot to see if they had any online coupons for DataBazaar which had the lowest ink prices. They did. I hope you are noticing that I can link to all these things. I can’t link to the ink page at Staples.com. So, I got an extra $5 off if I bought three (I needed a few anyhow) making my total $48.85, delivered to my door, for three ink cartridges for my photo printer.

Web 2.0 is not a panacea of course. Community is not created just by typing in the box and clicking “publish” or “create wiki” or “start networking.” Building communities requires the same processes — connecting and communicating and sharing — only we have new means to accomplish these ends.

The societal conventions and safeguards of a Web 2.0 world (of the Google Generation) are not yet in place in this territory — the Digital Society is still nascent in many ways — and until it is less so, I can’t help holding back a bit — or a lot — putting myself out there for all to see, kinks and all. Privacy and security are the things that make much of our technology necessary. In rural communities people don’t always lock their doors. We’re all still figuring out when and – more importantly, how to lock our digital doors.

This is certainly a theme many people recognize. One of John Blyberg‘s “Top Tech Trends” (Jan 18 post) truly resonated for me:

Privacy is Dead

Yep, no such thing if you’re a netizen. We basically have the choice to connect or live out our lives in quiet and total obscurity. This merits an entire write-up on its own, but needless to say, our approach to individual privacy needs to be dragged into the twenty-first century. Almost all of the trends I mentioned this time around have profound privacy implications.

As Blyberg suggests, there is much more to be said about this.  My point is that we do have control over how much we put out there explicitly using Web 2.0 tools.  “Explicitly” is the operative word.  The fact is that even without embracing these new tools/media, our privacy is not what it used to be, to say the least.  And I suppose it’s not just about Google by any means, but that’s what’s got my goat lately.  I really don’t think that Google employees are interested explicitly in what I’m emailing or looking at on iGoogle — but the fact that they have a private database in which my actions are catalogued is unnerving.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. jessamyn  |  February 19, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    I think one of the weirdest things about the 2.0 bandwagon stuff is how, for librarians thinking about these technologies, there’s a real difference btween how we use them professionally and how we use them personally… or is there? For me it’s easy my life is sort of an open book, but I’m totally understanding that other people may not want to be that way. So maybe you have del.icio.us links for your work, how do they interact wiht the ones you might have for home, or should they?

    I think for people who don’t use the technologies much, the instinct is to dive right in, without reflecting on the fact that the professional use of this tool might be a lot dofferent than a personal use for it. I talk about 2.0 ideas sometimes and one of the things I think is an advancement for libraries is having staff be individual and contactable — I often point to web pages that have photos of smiling staff as a very open thing to do. However, that has to balance with having staff who feel that they are a little *too* accessible if their contact information is online.

    At one public library I worked with, female staff didn’t want to wear name tags because male patrons would be creepy about knowing their name and a little verfamiliar. I’m not totally sure what to do about things like that, but I think their concerns are real and need to be addressed in this post-privacy world we keep talking about. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    Reply

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