At Picnic, September 26 I visited a Partner Event named Quality Time, organized by the Stimulerings Fonds where a presentation was given by the Stifo@Sandberg workshop. Stifo@Sandberg started six years ago when designers and filmmakers were paired up with the intention of influencing both artistic practices. In this demo session the best work from the series was showcased. The idea was to engage the audience in a discussion on the future of the media and for the international panel (including Frank Boyd, Katie Salen, Matt Adams, Ferhan Cook and Michel Mol) to give feedback on the presentations. Martijn de Waal moderated the morning.

The three cross media projects presented were (memorythings) van Boudewijn Koole en Ryan Oduber (produced by de Jongens van de Wit/VPRO), van Sunny Bergman en Debbie Mollenhagen (produced by Viewpoint Productions/VPRO) en Kika en Bob van Colette Bothof en Vincent Bal (produced by Submarine/NPS).

The most vulnerable project was Boudewijn Koole’s Herinnerdingen. This project was developed during the workshop and had no previous cinema form. The idea for this project came from a girl of 14, who asked Boudewijn to make a film about her deceased father because she missed him so much. Boudewijn loved the idea, made this one film but wanted to help other kids in similar circumstances too. While working on the project, Ryan and Boudewijn came up with the idea of a public memory shrine on the Internet where children could upload their pictures of deceased loved ones. This became Kids could put pictures and little stories online. It could only be pictures of things, no faces, and no portraits.
The intention was to make it as easy accessible for children so they could use it at home, they could add audio tracks themselves and send this multimedia slideshow to friends and family members by mail or just put it on the side.

The second project, Over the Hill by Sunny Bergman, is a spin off from her latest work. Over the Hill explores how photoshopped media influences women’s self image, citing vaginal rejuvenation for a young girl as a strong example.
Sunny and Debbie made a forum of the film online: The film attracted a lot attention in the media and the reactions were quite strong. With the site, they tried to build a community around the subject and wanted to continue the discussion. With this aim, they developed a petition accusing the cosmetic industry of making false claims on their products.
Additionally, both a tape and a logo, with the words “photoshop free” were made available on the site: allowing one to ‘tag’ their daily environment.

The last project presented, was merely the biggest one. Kika and Bob is an animation project, which was originally developed for interactive television but also had a spin-off on the Internet. On the television side, there were different points in time where the spectator had to their chosen what to do with the main characters. The cause/consequence of chosen action had no internal logic, so the spectator had to find out by trial and error what would came out of the choices. A wrong choice and the lead character died., the online part, tries to lure spectators by a narrative: one of the characters, Tiger the cat is trapped in London in a church tower, while Kika and Bob are stuck somewhere at the other end of the world. The spectator needs to keep Tiger alive by playing games catching fish to feed poor Tiger. Also can the sequels be watches at the site. Kika and Bob is an international co production witch will be distributed in many countries.

The panel discussion centered on how these kinds of cinema/television spin-offs and multimedia productions were located and financed in the changing broadcast landscape.
An issue of interest was the role of TV and especially digital TV as a podium and the continued importance of tv rather than the sole reliance on the Internet. Television seemed still to be the main generator of funding. Broadcasters, public or commercial, could invest the highest amounts of money. As Terry Flew mentioned in his book New Media, an introduction, television is a shared leisure, a lean back medium while computer is a lean forward medium. Funny thought is, while Media and advertisers are still in favor of the first, young people round 10 and 20 years old, an important target group, completely ignore television and are totally focused on the internet where they can be part of the ‘user generated content’. The latest development is clear: Instead of passive spectators, the new media consumer is becoming a user who starts producing content himself. These ‘produsers’ use the Internet to make a perfect persona to present themselves to the world.

One more interesting point brought up by was the difference in lifespan between a film and a site. For a film, once finished, the project is over and it needs no more financial support. A site with a vivid community however is different matter. Sometimes it’s hard to stop sustaining it because responsibilities are developed towards a community. How to finance the moderation and continuation of these kinds of sites and up to what level are the original initiators of the site are responsible for its continuation and content. Ferhan Cook noted that this responsibility could be considerable and also a concern when selling the site. Caring had priority over money, she stated.
This issue is particularly relevant to this problem is rising. Since so many children put on the pictures of their loved ones, how could anyone put it down? But maintaining it does cost money, and who is going to pay for this, and for how long? Matt Adams made it clear that he was in favor of the method that when a project became a society issue, simply tax money should be used and governmental organizations should take over. Where a television production ends at a certain point, the online spin-off can still be used by its community and causing traffic. For this problem there is not yet a format where and how to get the money.
Sunny Bergman asked specific advice from the panel in this matter and wanted to know what they would suggest to financially support her website. Earlier she had admitted turning down an offer from Dove who wanted to support Beperkt because Dove being concerned with both Unilever’s association with Dovee and possible lack of independence. Besides this, she suspected Dove’s underlying interest in publicity for commercial reasons.
Adams answer to her question was quiet straightforward: Go back to Dove. Despite the disadvantages, he thought this was the best shot. Another option given by the panel was to try to get the community involved.

The main point was, since the new 360˚ broadcasting there was not yet a new, fitted funding system. Public broadcasters have to prove they are still worth maintaining; money is to be found in different directions. One solution, for example for the Kika and Bob project was, to keep making parts for television and for an international market as a way of generating money. Katie Salem, who said the opposite, gave another solution and suggested that it could be worthwhile to make smaller productions on smaller scale so the financing would not be such a big issue. Cook mentioned the example of Sophia’s Diary http://miss– This is a small online diary project with television spin-off. The concept is developed in Portugal and is sold to many countries. They can adjust it, as they need to for implementation in their own environment. In this apparently contradictory movement, where we see productions getting more global and local at the same time, we find an interesting area to research within the media landscape.

Media productions (as in television, documentaries, artworks, animation films, online projects) are in a state of flux and there are no single solutions for its new problems. The panel was concluded it was better to first generate an audience, create a platform, and work out the problems later. Getting attention for the mobile screens is hard without getting the Youtube eyeballs first. So start online and move on later.
Business models need to be discovered. Solutions for the moment seem to be, to work with small scale, locally based projects and a “do it yourself” mentality, that includes blogs and moderation.
Besides this discussion about business models and funding problems, I like to articulate that to me the main gain of these new media projects is the chance to be involved in society criticism and bypass the top down system of the major broadcasters and governmental organizations. Not leaning back but leaning forward is the new attitude towards the media and despite the digital divide; this is more and more accessible for larger parts of the world.

28 & 29 september were two days full of ‘big urban games’. Together with the Picnic festival several games from all over the world were played on the Westergasterrein and other places in the city of Amsterdam. Luckily I was there for two whole days and had my share in all the fun. Two games definately stood out for me and one other just needs to be cited :)

/ Collectic

Imagine people running around with a PSP in their hands, pushing all the buttons as fast as they can and not really noticing what happens around them. This could be players of the Collectic game :) The players need to collect several different ‘objects’ that appear on their screen because of local wi-fi points. While being busy collecting the objects, at the same time a game of tictactoe needs to be played with the collected objects, to earn points. It is too complicated to explain the whole game, but it is definately the best version of tictactoe I’ve ever played. More information can be found on: Also on the maker Jonas Hielscher, whom all the credits go to!


With every major city in Europe calling itself ‘creative capitol’ these days, the question raises how creative these cities really are and in what way they distinct themselves from others. In a ‘creative race’ between Asia, the US and Europe in mobile services and locative media, the latter seems to be a step behind.
Without going focusing too much on the question why (which I think is very useful!), Living Labs is an initiative that offers a method in improving the ‘creative power’ of Europe in mobile applications/ services. Their own description:

Living Labs Europe opens up the potentials of innovative mobile applications and technologies to European citizens, companies, researchers and investors for the purpose of pioneering mobile applications for European end-users and markets, enhance Attractiveness for visitors, residents, business and to provide a European platform for collaboration and opening innovative markets.

If we take this text through the management-talk-filter, what living labs is actually about is to take research and development from the dusty attics into the streets. Pinpointing some european regions with unique qualities and rapid adaptation towards new technologies, Living Labs is trying to enhance these regions by linking academic research, business, creative industry and end-user, but moreover, by linking different regions within Europe to share knowledge and spread innovation.

As part of Open-Search, I was invited to participate in the Forum on Quaero at the Jan van Eyck Acadamie in Maastricht, September 29 and 30, 2007. The purpose of the forum was to question and investigate the European intentions to build a search engine and, broader, to investigate the cultural, political, and philosophical issues related to information search and access. It turned out to be a critique on centralized search engines and a plea for systems like Open-Search: decentralized, open and privacy respecting. My elaborate report and impression of the two day forum on Quaero can be read at the Open-Search Blog.

Together with Erik, I’m working on a Digital Methods project called ‘Repurposing the Wikiscanner‘, where we try to adopt the infamous tool for uses other than scandal hunting. We’re still working on it, but here’s a nice preview. So far it seems that, compared to other universities, we at the UvA still support a ‘Great Man’ view of history – and the present, for that matter. Here’s the cloud with emphasis added (click the image for the large version):

Recently we at Masters of Media have been creating a bit of a stir when it comes to the moderation of new Wikipedia entries, and the premises it builds upon. As we have seen, the existence or public relevance of a certain subject has in certain cases been contested by a simple Google search. Conclusions were drawn pretty much at the same moment: We can’t have Google decide whether or not our entry should be deleted. Apart from valid criticism, part of this reaction seems to be fueled by a general negative stance towards Google. Its slogan “Don’t Be Evil” has lately been questioned in the light of China’s censorship and the prolonged storage of user data. By combining Google’s alleged evilness with Nietzsche’s views on the slave-morality, I hope to provide a critical view on the subject.

Slave morality refers to the externalizing of the causes of ones (perceived) inferiority. This external other is regarded as “evil”, whereas those instances that make the oppressed feel less inferior or promote their position in society are regarded as “good”. Now how does this morality apply to an institution as Google, as soon as it receives the predicate ‘evil’?

It is safe to say that the common Google user probably does not think in terms of good and evil. He would perhaps complain about not finding the information he was looking for, or on the other hand praise the search engine for its efficiency. To criticize Google would mean having basic knowledge of its ideals, practices and internals: A black box makes an easy scapegoat, but at the same time shields itself from the educated critic. However, there is much to Google that is not out in the open. Far from being an open system, it represents an ideal; a promise for universal and instant data archival and retrieval, cast into a convenient interface. What lies beneath the surface is an invisible, pervasive force. In losing control over its presence, a fundamental sense of insecurity arises.

This insecurity works on a multitude of levels. First, we perceive Google’s pervasiveness as a breach of security. It not only intrudes our sense of privacy, it also threatens our identity. Why is this so frightening? By subscribing to all kinds of services as Gmail, YouTube and Hyves (Orkut, anyone?), we lent our identity to a second party, so to speak. At the time it seemed like the natural thing to do, perhaps even a safe act in all its naivety. Immersed in an environment which claimed to encourage decentralization and individualism, no-one really was to blame. Temporarily freed from the structures of everyday life we set back and relaxed, only to find out our borrowed identities were being gathered and reclaimed by centralized forces. As with Microsoft – the former Face of Evil – the irony reigns in our relationship to Google. We attach ourselves voluntarily to their strings. Searching for Evil in the womb of Evil itself, the dependency proves hard to shake off.

Now does criticizing Google equal subjecting to the masses of the weak? When we say: “Google is Evil”, do we admit to our suffering? There is no easy answer to this issue, primarily because it is a battleground where philosophy, psychology and technology collide. Before pursuing this path we should perhaps first ask ourselves:

Are we really oppressed?

Nietzsche: “Evil men have no songs”

Is Nietzsche’s Madman not a parable that is still appliable to the world of today? Let’s have a look and see for ourselves;

—-Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I found God! I found God!”—As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Did you search? asked one. Or were you feeling lucky? asked another. —Thus they yelled and laughed. The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have Googled him—you and I. All of us are his finders. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God was lost, but has now been Googled.


Washmountain AKA together in my freezer.
Music made by Extraboy.
Video by Rosa Menkman.

This video was made the night before we went to The Video Vortex conference in Brussels.

To see the video!

but it only works when you click on the post first.

This week’s assignment made us compare new media issues to Nietzsche quotes. I came across the following quote:

This quote immediately triggered the post-modern idea of differance, that all meaning gets postponed and that one will never get to the original intended meaning of a message. When you transfer this derridian idea to the internet, you will find that because of the intertextual behaviour of the web makes it really hard, if not impossible, to trace texts back to their original source. If you takes this fact as a given, it will theoretically devaluate all hypertext to interpretations, unless they cite their original non-digital (thus verifiable) sources.


The current web 2.0 and the participatory culture are seen as the next big thing. Still, even after the participatory culture has proven to be able to build great things, Wikipedia amongst others, not everybody seems convinced of its value.

An interesting question would be to ask how philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche would have felt about our participatory culture. At first glance, he doesn’t seem too impressed with the ability of the masses to create anything, except for chaos:

“In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”[1]


No one talks more passionately about his rights than he who in the depths of his soul doubts whether he has any. By enlisting passion on his side he wants to stifle his reason and its doubts: thus he will acquire a good conscience and with it success among his fellow men. (Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, 1878)

Internet activism is having a profound impact on how we perceive and conceive of social and political relations on local and global scales. Growing communities bring their views online with them. The internet can sustain counterhegemonic discourses; people who are swimming against the tide of public opinion. Because of the all the online community networks who are out there, it is easy to find other people who are like-minded. This is especially usefull for people who are surpressed for who they are or what they think. But then it is a necessity that they have the right tools to organize, and that they know how to use these. (more…)

The Internet has brought up a lot of privacy issues over the years. For example personal information that leaks or identities that get stolen. But users can also change their own identity and pretent to be someone else. This tendency towards less privacy fits one of Friedrich Nietzsches quotes.

‘No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.’


Web 2.0 gave the old web a brand new face, and with that, it added cultural and technological changes. Cultural change in the form of weblogging and social networking/bookmarking, technological in the form of User Generated Content and Rich Internet Applications (RIA).

For a change a want to address the latter. Because I’ve got the feeling that there is a cold war going on between Microsoft and Adobe, in their attempt to lure in designers and developers and to make them choose their RIA-products.


Nietzsche’s criticism of the mass culture emerged along with the rise of popular literature, journalism, and the modern press. With the explosive rise of weblogs, mobile devices, and online video, traditional journalism has been contested and challenged by a new model of journalism called citizen journalism. With Nietzsche’s critique of mass society in mind, can we actually consider citizen journalism as the upsurge of strong individuals whose works transcend their present condition and liberate them from authority, custom morality, or even religion?

Nietzsche saw mass culture as central to modern social reproduction processes and as a distinctive feature of modern societies, yet he has also become a major source of critiques of mass society and culture. Nietzsche considered massification as one of the forces of decadence, leading to the eradication of individuality, and creating herd societies and mediocrity. Mass society prevents the creation and dissemination of a genuine culture and strong individuals.
According to Nietzsche, journalistic culture as part of the mass culture would gradually substitute true culture:

The journalist, the master of the moment, is a slave to the present, the ways of thinking and fashion. He writes about artists and thinkers and slowly takes their place, destroying their work. But, while the journalist lives off the moment, thanks to the genius of other men, the great works of artists emanate the desire to survive and surpass time though the power of their creations. (Nietzsche 1870-1873)

My first impulse to a media object led me to, an acclaimed citizen journalistic website where people can upload their photographs of notable and news-worthy events. Skoeps is extending its activities to a selective few foreign countries and to my surprise they will be launching a website in China and other African countries. After a quick scan, I came across two websites; Global Voices Online and

Global Voices Online is a non-profit global citizens’ media project founded at Harvard Law School’s Berkman’s Center for Internet and Society. Global Voices seeks to aggregate, curate, and amplify the global conversation online- shining light on places and people mainstream media may not be reporting.

Global Voices Online covers many countries and nations. When selecting a specific country, a tag cloud appears in which China seems to be the most popular of all. When compared to China’s mainstream news sources, such as the People’s daily, the news headlines (especially those concerning recent events in Burma) in Global Voices Online take on a more critical stance and enables a much wider stream of comments. The articles on Myanmar in the People’s Daily report the “brighter” aspects of the recent activities and progress. Another point worth noting is that the top 5 most popular topics includes politics; governance; history human rights, Freedom of Speech, and Arts & Culture. as an extension of Skoeps’ international activities aims to inform people about the multiple facets of the continent. There’s a discrepancy between Skoeps’ activities in the Netherlands and those in Africa. Whereas in the Netherlands, posting a picture is underlain by probably profit-driven motivations (You get a share of the revenue when your picture makes it to a (front) page in the newspaper/magazine), enables local people to capture events and happenings (or even history) that the local authorities would suppress. Providing these citizen journalists with mobile phones is a way to give these people a voice and the opportunity to be heard within and outside of Africa. So maybe mobile phones might function as a tool to liberate men from oppression on their way to discover (and uncover) the truth.

In an attempt to grasp and theorize all that is happening in the new media landscape, one method can be to project a philosophers’ philosophy onto a new media phenomenon and see what happens.

Amongst the many theories and quotes Nietzsche got famous for, the interesting thing is to look at the context of these quotes in comparison to the context of what is called ‘new media’.
Some obvious ones bear to mind in relation to, for instance, internet and hypertext:

Words are but symbols for the relations of things to one another and to us; nowhere do they touch upon absolute truth.


For everyone who is into New Media, Culture and Design (or just one or two of these…) there are videos online of Virtueel Platform and HKU’s previous (Un)common Ground expert meeting which was held during Picnic ’07. Topics range from Brazilian government computer recycling in a very original way in the MetaReclicagem project, to the Home Health Horoscope where a family is observed by sensors and based on this information they get a horoscope everyday at their breakfast table. Check out full coverage, including video presentations of project initiators, here: (Un)common Ground full coverage.

Home Health Horoscope

Google, Apple, Yahoo others of the technological part of the economy, suffered big losses on the stock market yesterday (de Volkskrant, 12/10/07). Whereas in the begining of the week their stock value went up they were now influenced by a report by JPMorgan, an important american financial services firm. In the report they lowered the sales estimate for

Bruce Sexton on TargetArchitects and the ‘urban and rural planning’ have to deal with the implementation of special facilities to meet disabled people and to comply with legislations. Where do webdevelopers meet the disabled in building the virtuel infrastructure? What are the legislations concerning internet accessibility? Are there guidelines in the Netherlands? How about these issues concerning other (underdeveloped) countries?

Yesterday, I was reading an article on Bruce Sexton, who is suing Target to make its website accessible for blind users. This issue is getting more and more attention, which is great, because publicity get’s more people thinking about the issue of accessibility. If you also want to nose around this area, I have listed some interesting sites.:

  1. Disability:
    • Disability in Australia: Exposing a social apartheid, Gerard Goggin
    • Digital Disability: The Social Construction of Disability in New Media, Gerard Goggin
  2. Accessibility:
  3. Agency:
  4. Usability:

Is decision-making on the internet more democratic, less hierarchical than in the ‘real world’? Is structure needed in collaboration? In the ‘real world’ there is a general consensus about this: In any kind of management, be it the board of a huge multinational or a small town party council, there’s always a chairman, a treasurer and a secretary. Next to that there are usually others with different responsibilities. All these people have different talents on base of which they have been atributed their task. The chairman is a good leader, the treasurer has got a reliable financial instinct and the secretay is very good at writing down things other people say and going through the mail. then there are the people that are not on the board, depending on them, hoping they will make the right decision.
These boards or committees have an executive task: making decisions, achieving a goal. Others which are not on the board may also have a voice but the last say is always theirs. If they don’t work together well enough they will not achieve their task and others will take over where they failed. Depending on the circumstances (political party or big multinational) this may or may not be a democratic process but there is clarity about the responsiblity.

In the ‘other world’, internet, the game seems to be played somewhat differently. web 2.0 has made it possible for people to contribute and share their opinions, arts, everything with the rest of the world. These people may be very talented and intelligent or the other way around, but the important thing is that they can put themselves ‘out there’. This sharing in itself is not a way of working together to achieve a similar goal, accept perhaps the most general of general goals: distribute and share information with everyone anytime.
There are obviously other collaborations on the internet which are more practical, like raising money for a political party. Matters of importance can also be found online and usually concern financial matters on the stock market which become more important everyday and can affect a lot of people. Decision-making on these serious topics, however, is not something done by the big mass. this is in general impossible because with so many people, a consensus can never be achieved, too many different interests are at stake. There, like in the real world, certain people make it work and make lots and lots of money. Who they are, why they are where they are and how they make their decisions is unclear.

It may look as though people have seized the power in the world of internet but the real decisions are still made by the elite. Google decides what you can find, Wikipedia decides what you can know just as our government decides how much taxes we have to pay and our publishing houses decide what we are allowed to read. Not much has changed now that we have a new medium when it comes to decision-making accept for the fact that it is easier for the rest of the people to ventilate their opinion. Let’s just hope they are being heard. The downside is that there is less openness about who this elite is, and, more alarming, even that it exists. It is an illusion to believe that everyone has an equal say on the internet when it comes to important matters and until there comes more openness about the web’s elite, what exactly they are responsible for and how they function, I prefer the more honest method of the real world.

Something droll, courtesy of


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According to Wikipedia, collaboration is a structured, recursive process where two or more people work together towards a common goal – typically an intellectual endeavor that is creative in nature – by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus.
Important in the description is the ‘fact’ that collaboration does not require leadership because without, a better result is achieved because of decentralization and egalitarianism. Who else knows this better than the source itself? Wikipedia is a big collaboration between people who add their knowledge to ‘the free encyclopedia’. People work together on an entry with the same goal, to share their knowledge with the rest of the world. An other form of collaboration is open source software. Someone writes an application and makes the code public. Now others can use this code and change or improve the original application.
It seems like collaboration is the new word of Web 2.0. But is this new web really that collaborative? Isn’t this just what we want to see? One big collaboration between all the different users of the internet, who share their knowledge and help each other, without looking who is the real person behind a nickname or avatar. It would be a nice vision, but unfortunately it isn’t true. For example Wikipedia. It is possible for every user to contribute, but it is just a really small group of people that actually do contribute. Read for example this article about a power user, who is one of the few people who add a lot to Wikipedia. So there is a small group of users who make most of the entries. Not really the perfect example of a collaborative project if you ask me. Even one of the founders of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, thinks it isn’t really collaborative:

“But, he insisted, the truth was rather different: Wikipedia was actually written by “a community … a dedicated group of a few hundred volunteers” where “I know all of them and they all know each other”. Really, “it’s much like any traditional organization.”

But if Wikipedia, one of the most promising collaborative projects, isn’t real, does it exist in other forms on Web 2.0?
Can applications like Last Fm be considered collaborative? Last fm is a social-music-share-website where users can collectively build the world’s largest social music platform and share their taste with each other. When you like a song you can ‘recommend’ it or ‘love’ it. Other users that like the same song can listen to the other songs you like. So people are helping each other to find music they like to listen to. Or take for example This is a social bookmarking site were people can store their bookmarks and share them with other people.
But is this really what the collaborative web is about? Share your taste in music, favorite bookmarks or knowledge? Can this ‘power’ not be used for greater things?
There are a lot of programs that make collaboration easier. For example Google Docs. [click here for an explaination video about Google docs] Users can upload a document and send a secured link to other users they’d like to see and work on the document. All the users can see changes right away. So this means no more multiple versions of one document and getting confused over what is the latest version. According to my own experiences, it really works. During a project that took several months we had to keep track of all the things we did and had to work on an accompanying document together. We used Google Docs to do this and it saved us a lot of emails and even traveling-time to work together. Skype also contributed to the process. Thanks to having chat conversations and calls we could talk about the project without being together. During the period we used Delicious to save url’s.
Is this maybe what is meant with the collaborative web 2.0? Maybe it aren’t the ‘greater things’ that make the collaborative web for what it is. It are the small things that make life online easier.

A few articles on the subject that are worth reading:
The Wikification of knowledge
Why Wikipedia isn’t like Linux
Wikipedia reputation and the Wemedia Project
Who writes Wikipedia?
A contributor to Wikipedia has his fictional side
Participation Inequality
Real web 2.0: Wikipedia, champion of user-generated content
Web 2.0 conference preview: Tools that make the collaborative web work for you

In talking about collaboration on the web, the first thing I did was running the term ‘collaboration’ through the WikiScanner, in order to find out to what extent online collaboration was used to create the article on collaboration on Wikipedia.
The picture shows the first result that the scanner comes up with. A whois-search returns British telecommunications as the main source for this article.
Despite the fact that we cannot be sure that one person has exactly one IP adress, there is a tendency to think that the article on collaboration was not really a collaborative piece of work.
In defining what ‘good’ or ‘successful’ net cooperation is, often Wikipedia is mentioned as the main example of a successful and equivocal project. Without going too deep into this discussion (as this is already extensively done on this blog), it is very questionable how valid these claims are (link to post). But what then, is a good example (augmented or real) of online collaboration?
In researching collaborative work on the net, one has to question what people are actually doing there? Shuman and Reilly state in their article that people:
collaborate, publish, mobilize and observe. In mapping the question what people do collaboratively and what they do individual, they introduce two axes; that of formal versus informal, and centralized versus distributed.
By introducing this strategic uses spectrum, some conclusion can be drawn on what actually is the status of online collaboration.
When looking at ‘analogue’ institutions (as an opposite of networked organizations like Wikipedia), it can be concluded that the tools used are mainly email and/or messenger infrastructures.
As Ned Rossiter argues in his book ‘ organized networks’ it is of great importance that these institutions catch up and get involved in online collaborative structures in order to keep their validity and raison d’etre as an institution.

The question now is where this all leaves us when talking about online collaboration? In short we might say that it works for mmorpg’s, it does not work for classical institutions yet, because of their bulky and slow way of adapting to the ‘now’. Also, seemingly beautiful and honest examples like Wikipedia are in fact the wisdom of a very tiny crowd.
When taking a microscopic view on online collaboration and look at my own behavior in that sense, I can say that I too still see email as the main way of communication, with Skype as a very nice add-on for direct discourse; the tools that are heavily saturated in society. With a current new (geeky-small-crowd) trend of using games and/or game-engines to communicate ideas and/or do collaborative sketching, for instance, or projects like Processing that are entirely built-up via the Web in an open-source fashion, there is a set of tools upcoming that allow you to do much more collaboration online.
When we scale up again to the institution-level, however, this is way-future material, I am afraid.