This volume in the series Social Issues Firsthand makes the abstract concrete, using real people to illustrate the intersection of the virtual worlds and "real life", through stories both "ubiquitous and compelling" (p.9). This book defines web 2.0 as a delivery mechanism, a paradigmatic shift from the read–only web to one offering interactivity and the ability to add and upload content. It’s "a shift in focus from one–way, static communication to interactive, collaborative online communities" (p.14). In readable essays, both positive and negative aspects of Web 2.0 are probed, touching on everything from privacy concerns to time management difficulties. The writers are, for the most part, not technorati, but individuals grappling with technology at a consumer level. Essays present the perspectives of clergy, Harvard faculty, columnists, and familiar commentators, including NPR's Peter Sagal.
Coming as it does at the apex of the explosion of social networking among older Americans — meaning the introduction of parents, teachers, and other interlopers in what was previously students’ own space — Web 2.0 does a convincing job modeling how functional services gain participants and functionality, but will lose cachet with the inclusion and incursion of later adapters. The book pointedly describes the particular attractions of a range of evolving web–based services including Facebook and Twitter, and spends time explaining the function of blogging and social bookmarking online in a manner comprehensible for the novice. Some pieces serve to legitimize online communities as support networks and as a way of maintaining a shared culture in an increasingly homogeneous world, especially important for individuals isolated by age, culture, or gender. The discussion of technologies is always socially contextualized so that it becomes equally about the evolving nature of correspondence and friendships at a distance.
There are almost–obligatory caveats related to mySpace impersonation, deception in online dating, websites selling user profile data, and forfeiture of control of images and multimedia files uploaded. On the other hand, the description of OpenID to promote data portability conjures up a positive, futuristic impression of a computer user moving seamlessly from one online service to the next with safeguards to security and privacy. On the whole, as the range of essays here appears to suggest it is up to the individual to negotiate a personal balance between exploration and exposure to real online stranger danger.
Read/write web technologies provide a window into an individual's life. Students may often struggle with ways to describe the effects that connectivity is having on their lives, and this book provides an excellent scaffold and shared vocabulary for serious discussion of what are and will remain concerns central to how we live online. Strongly recommended for both school and public libraries.