Alchemical Thoughts

Article Note: On Web 2.0 and Libraries by Stephens

Posted on: November 9, 2007

Citation for the article:

Stephens, Michael. "Exploring Web 2.0 and Libraries." Library Technology Reports 42.4 (July/August 2006): 8-14.

I put this draft here rather than on the main blog since I am still thinking out loud, so to speak. Not quite ready for the prime time.

I just finished this first chapter, part of the journal's issue on Best Practices in Social Software, which provides a summary of the theory and rationales of Web 2.0 and Library 2.0. The quote from MIT's Technology Review about the spread of cheap laptops, etc. (10). This was pretty much the only thing that really made me question. The reality is that there are no cheap laptops. Maybe for some people a low-end laptop  between $600 to $800 is cheap. For a good number of people that amount is a good chunk of change. Internet access, and I mean good, fast, reliable access, is not totally affordable either. In other words, we could pick holes at the claim,  but at the end of the day what bothers me is that the 2.0 evangelists seem to forget this. The assumption seems to be that all Web 2.0, and the web for that matter, will be easily and universally accessible. Maybe in some distant future, but it is not happening any time soon. The reality is that there is a substantial digital divide or gap, and many simply lack the resources and/or access.

I am not expecting 2.0 evangelists to solve this issue, but they should at least address it. They are also in a good position to be advocates for those who at this moment are being left behind. Leave those folks uneducated, whether intentionally or by neglect, throw in some ignorant politicians like Ted "the net is a series of tubes" Stevens, and it can be a negative, volatile mix. I worry if we leave too many behind that they will see the few ahead, so to speak, as mere elites much as kids see the nerds in school. We need to educated, but we also need to provide access that's effective and affordable, so more people can join in the conversations. I mean, that is a lot of what the 2.0 evangelists are advocating, these conversations. Well, we need to find ways to actually bring people into the conversations.

Though to give credit where its due, there is mention of wifi in libraries in the article. I just wonder what happens once people leave the library, and they lack a computer or access at home. You see, this goes with my other questions. How many people are actually using the various tools? Are they really clamoring as the evangelists would have us believe? How many people are not using the tools? And why not? I am just wondering.

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