Jeff Jarvis (left) and Andrew Keen courtesy of Ann Helmond
| Jeff Jarvis (author of What Would Google Do?) and Andrew Keen (author of The Cult of the Amateur) painted opposing views of the techno-cultural landscape.
Keen actually regarded Jarvis as a ‘cheerleader’ for Google although Jarvis himself said he used the company as an example for changes in the real world.
Regardless of this, both agree that we are in a period of massive cultural change. Punctuated by the failing economy, the behaviour of banking institutions, the demise of the auto industry and business models that can no longer be sustained as the world moves beyond Web 2.0.
The perpetual beta
Jarvis comments that Google sees products in perpetual beta and continual evolution. That your worst customer should be your best friend, your best customer, your partner.
He sees that we are in more than a financial crisis, a depression or a recession, it is a compression – where perceived value is equal to real value.
Google has shown how being honest and transparent and collaborating with your community has created success. Above all they make sure they don’t get in the way of what people want to do. Google doesn’t know how its products will be used so they make sure they are not obstructive. Thus, Jarvis states it has become the measure of success in business.
From institution to individual – the person is the product
Keen sees this time as a ‘profound shift in society’ that it is a critical moment in history. He feels there is a shift in power from the institution to the individual.
This is where Keen differs from Jarvis, though agreeing that the world of Google is the way things are changing, in his view the new age is where the person is the product. Of the individual and the empowered. He argues we are ambivalent to technology as a concept as we do not know where it goes.
That statement certainly framed the conference well. The conference’s focus seemed to fall into four areas;
- representing the culture of our times
- the current state of technology represented in new business (start ups)
- current trends (Twitter)
- future technologies (gestural interfaces and Ubicomp).
Twitter killed 2.0
Keen’s main concern is that all this change will not bring success but create a vacuum of quality. He argues that Twitter is the final nail in the 2.0 coffin. It maintains intimacy, relevancy and trust. It is the start of real-time social media.
Jarvis views the room as smart, that the conversation is the most important aspect, and those being engaged around it. The impact of this he says is huge on society and it is hard to determine how it will affect the future. He argues this transparency could result in governments being watched. He predicts newspapers will die, coming back as looser media channels.
Keen feels that this democratisation is a problem, a profound inequality where people become brands. Real time social media is the future and Twitter brings it closer than ever before. He feels that it is both inspiring and frightening. His concern is that change will not be successful. His fear being that the old media will not be replaced by anything credible.
‘The web 2.0 models are finished. You Tube does not work, they do not generate revenue. We need to maintain intimacy and relevancy but how? ‘
The challenge of elegant organisation
Keen’s last question is perhaps most pertinent as is Jarvis’ realisation that the conversation amongst smart groups is perhaps the most important part of innovation and one that is impossible to predict the results from.
Twitter certainly represents a change in the digital landscape, an immediacy that has power and lends itself to trend monitoring, real time search and the rapid spread of ideas amongst groups of like minds.
This fire hose of memes will become elegantly organised – and that really is the next web. Jarvis believes it will be mobile, social, deeply linked and living in the cloud, and who could argue with that?
However stating Web 2.0 as being dead is the wrong statement because who said it was ever versioned? If you take a Google view the web is in perpetual beta, and the evolution will be error strewn and messy.
Remember that most success stories online are actually old ideas that have been redeveloped. Keep making mistakes and we may actually get to where we want to be, as long as we are learning from them.