Jul 19, 2010

The web is like air we can't see

A professor said to me the other day he didn't think critics and academics understood the web and web 2.0 yet. "We keep writing about it," he said, "but I'm not convinced we actually know what we're talking about -- it's too amorphous."

Sometimes I think there's a generational gap on these things, so old models and outdated concerns keep getting applied to the subject, but then, too, when most people and even young people and even people who are younger than me and more digitally native than me talk about these technologies I tend to think they're asking the wrong questions. Even if I don't know quite what the right question is.

As an example, consider the similarities between the Old Spice campaign and State Department campaign.

In a way this is just a new type of advertising, with its focus excessively on brand identification -- possibly to the extent that other things are ignored -- but it's also, isn't it?, a new kind of text. And it's difficult, I think, to cut through the hoopla to say exactly what's happening here, and it's difficult, too, to get through the whiz-bang and whistles to say exactly what's important about it, and how one should read it to understand it to say what it says about us as a culture.

As with Neda, most of us seem to see what we want to see, and the content is content free, but filled with our projections, and talking about it means bringing in all of these assumptions about what "it" is, assumptions that, at this point, are not really a part of the conversation.