Monday Blog 2: February 6 “Where Web 2.0 Went Wrong” by Henry Jenkins

Web 2.0 was introduced in 2004 by the O’Reilly Media Group, initially as the idea that we should design software as a service that runs across multiple devices. Web 2.0 represents a reorganization of the relation between the producers and the audiences of the Internet, and it also entails certain companies’ desire to harness collectivism and mass creativity. Web 2.0 was not just introducing a new user interface onto an old application, it also allows companies to relinquish to users a certain degree of control over the production and distribution of creative contents and services. Users are promised a greater power to participate in this process and become reimagined as co-creators of the creative labor. Hence Web 2.0 is liquidating the line between the collective and commercial modes of production, and the primary consequence is the devaluing of creative labor and the escalating distrust between companies and users.

Jenkins quoted the concept of the “moral economy” coined by historian E.P. Thompson to illustrate the different stands of the two sides. The moral economy refers to an unstated social norms and mutual understanding between the dealer and the consumer that makes long-term social relations possible in a small-scale economy. Web 2.0 brings a challenge to this mutual trust in the business environment of the “spreadable media.” Jenkins used YouTube as an example to illustrate the sense of the moral economy being violated. YouTube’s strategies and its electronic fingerprinting technology focus on forging bondings with large copyright holders rather than individual users. When YouTube automatically removed the copyrighted soundtracks in some uploads on January 14, 2009, there was a breakdown of mutual trust between YouTube and the users. Large copyright holders believe that users should be restrained from exploiting creative labor, while users believe that they are entitled to use the materials for free. Consumers’ expectation of free material is destroying the moral economy, and the market calls for a new moral economy.