ROU concept meeting: The possibilities and limitations of activism in and beyond Web 2.0

16 May

Image from Deterritorial Support Group

After a bit of delay, the Really Open University has set its next Concept Meeting! The topic of the participatory discussion will be ‘The possibilities and limitations of activism in and beyond Web 2.0’

Web 2.0 is a term used to encapsulate internet sites and applications that depend upon user-produced content. This includes a diverse range of sites including facebook, youtube, wikipedia, twitter, wordpress, digg and bittorrent.

These days the internet is pretty hard to ignore. Increasingly our lives are online, we use it to shop, work, plan social events with our friends, read the news, download music, etc, etc. Therefore as the latest development of the internet, Web 2.0 is pretty hard to ignore. Many have done more than simply take part, proclaiming Web 2.0 to be a chance for activists to get their message out quicker and to organise in more fluid and decentralised forms. Proponents often point to the ‘Arab Spring’ where initial protests reportedly were sparked on the blogosphere and twitter, resulting in the government attempting to shut down social networking sites and even the internet all together.

However on the most popular Web 2.0 sites, users (or more rightly as the content producers, workers) face increasing repression. Just two weeks ago over 50 groups, accounts and pages associated with anti-cuts campaigns were taken off facebook. Furthermore, use of facebook and others takes away our anonymity and the Met has just bought technology designed for the US military to help track us using, in part, social networking. Even more troubling is that as the workers (those that produce the product) of Web 2.0, even our activism can be seen to be part of the capitalist machine.

The Really Open University with our facebook page, twitter stream and wordpress site certainly feel we cannot take the lifestylist position of abstaining from corporate Web 2.0. But much is left to discuss. Can we as Web 2.0 workers unite to cease the means of production? In this world, what is the means of production? Are there chances to subvert Web 2.0 to our ends? Is the internet so uncontrollable that it does not matter who owns it? What are the limitations and possibilities for the struggle for transformation in this new age (if it is a new age?)?

6pm, May 24 – Upstairs, Packhorse Pub, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds.

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