Web 2.0 invites user participation. For example, we do not merely consume media, but we participate in the production of social media or other content through blogs, online reviews, chat forums etc. Users of the internet are not passive consumers of the information presented on screen, but as users, also produce content. Well made websites encourage users in to engage in content and contribute to the overall production that is the website. This can be done through comment forms which can generate a vertical conversation between the producer of the website and its users, as well as lateral conversation between users as thoughts, opinions and ideas are teased out.
User generated content provides a level of freedom to make information available as people collaborate from all areas of the world. The Reddit social media platform is an ideal example of Web 2.0, where users search for and produce information. This information is then readily available at the top of the list depending on how popular the discussion is on that topic.
A problem associated with the development of Web 2.0 is the distribution of misinformation. Is it fair that a hotel or restaurant receives bad reviews by so called trolls? How can this be managed, or censored? While censorship may not be the politically popular thing to suggest, in these situations it would seem fair, wouldn’t it? Censorship however, is a slippery slope where Web 2.0 cannot truly exist.
Do Web 2.0 producers take the content they produce seriously, or does chaos run riot as young digital producers create content that lasts, without any thought to the future? The Huffington Post has published an article titled “How To Clean Up Your Social Media For College Applications”. While The Chicago Tribune states that “[a] new survey reports that the percentage of college admissions officers who visit kids’ social media pages has quadrupled since 2008”. As social media sites become increasingly popular, becoming a digital producer with a virtual, and visible product becomes easier and easier. Perhaps with this ease of use, complacency about what we produce has settled in also. The Irish Times tells the story of a prank that went wrong. After a youth claimed to see Daniel Davis break into an elderly woman’s home and assault her, the Facebook post went viral and Daniel received death threats. Daniel’s parents sat the pair down to make a video about the dangers of being dishonest on social media.
What you do with your digital identity, how you chose to portray yourself may not be as easy to conceal as you think particularly if you are using your real name on social media sites. However, even using a digital mask does not protect you entirely from the companies that gather data by tracking your digital footprints. These companies may claim to be doing so in a manner that would not reveal your true identity, however the story of AOL searcher No. 4417749 tells a different tale. Purely through a collection of anonymous data, Mrs. Arnold’s search history betrayed her and analysts were able to identify her, where she lived, her phone number, and her relatives without “much investigating”. Even as you search and browse the web, you are being a digital producer, though you may never come face to face with the final product.