Thursday, May 3, 2007

By the power of... Me.

This article neatly describes the implications of what happened to Digg this week. In the world of social media, the balance of power is squarely in the hands of the users. Social media business models are dependent upon users, well, using -- and everyone knows it, from the users to the smart execs like those at Digg, who clearly recognize that to kowtow to legal precedent in this matter means death to their business.

Maybe it's my commune upbringing, but I can't help but see parallels with political theory, specifically the rise of Communism in 1917 and the peace movement of the 70s. One famous slogan of that movement is "what if they gave a war and nobody came?" (I think my hippie parents may have had a bumper sticker to that effect.) My anarchist husband would no doubt explain more eloquently than I can that governments need citizens just as social media platforms need users. The significant difference being, of course, that most governments (excluding those that are new and therefore highly susceptible to coups d'etat) have elaborate systems in place to force citizens to put the interests of the government ahead of their own.

Will this ever happen to Web 2.0? Will access to these platforms become so ingrained and essential that the idea of effecting radical change upon them becomes anathema to the users? Or will the reverse happen, with users calling the shots and businesses changing their models to keep the masses loyal?

In political theory, there's usually one catalystic event that triggers mass uprising and revolt, one "we're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore" moment that forces change. There's already an undercurrent of resentment against DRM and the ongoing Google/YouTube copyright debacle. Maybe that issue will be the focus of the next tipping point for change. Gosh, I hope so.

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