December 17th, 2006
I was talking on the phone this morning to my mother — a well-read woman in her eighties, who is remarkably up to date on current events in the world — and I was amused when she asked me, “Did you see what Time magazine chose as the Person of the Year?”
“Yes,” I replied. “It’s Web 2.0.”
“What’s that?” she asked.
“It’s the computer stuff that I’ve been writing about all year,” I responded.
“Oh,” she said, in a tone that indicated that as far as she was concerned, I was talking — as I often have, since I went off to college long, long ago — about some kind of mumbo-jumbo. “Well, I looked at the cover of the magazine, and it was a mirror.”
“Yes,” I said, “The idea was that you look into the mirror, and you see yourself. Time is saying that the Person of the Year is you (and me, and the person next door, and the person down the street, and…). And the rest of the article said that Web 2.0 is what makes it all work.”
“Oh,” she said, in a tone that said: I don’t get it. What’s the big deal?
Meanwhile, the blogosphere has been buzzing about Time‘s choice. I won’t even attempt to list all of the related articles and blog comments; here’s a link to a Techmeme page that (as of this evening) contained a link to the Time article, half a dozen related articles, and a few dozen blog-related discussions. Much of it is a variation on Jeff Jarvis’ comment on his BuzzMachine blog, in which he says:
“Well, I suppose I should give Time some credit for recognizing the power of the people. Only thing is, there’s no news here. This is nothing new. We have always been in charge. It’s just that the people who thought they had the power now have no choice to but hear us and recognize that we are, and always have been, the boss.”
He has a valid point, but it may be self-evident only to those who blog. And we bloggers have to remind ourselves that we represent only a tiny fraction of the human race: 57 million bloggers represents slightly under one percent of the global population. The number of people who read blogs is presumably much higher, but the point of Time‘s story is that more and more people are taking the power of the Internet into their own hands, and creating their own content — in the form of blog postings, YouTube uploads, MySpace pages, etc. That’s fine, but within my extended family, my mother doesn’t blog, nor does my father. To the best of my knowledge, none of my five siblings blog — though I was surprised to discover, this evening, that one of them has a MySpace page (I’ll spare her the notoriety that would come with a link to her page). Of my three children, one blogs — (which makes sense, because he’s a professional writer),and one has a MySpace page about his band, the Pathways. To the best of my knowledge, nobody in the family has ever uploaded a video onto YouTube; and (thank God!) none of my erstwhile friends or enemies have uploaded a video onto YouTube about the Yourdon clan.
(I should note, however, that I seem to have a bunch of distant relatives — members of the Yourdon family tree that none of my immediate kin have had any contact with for several generations — living in upstate New York, Kansas, North Carolina, southwestern Colorado, and other parts of the U.S. If you go searching through MySpace and other parts of the Internet, you’re likely to discover some of them. I have no idea who they are, where they come from, or what they do. I wish them all a happy life, but I take no responsibility for whatever they’re doing out there in cyberspace.)
So, while Time‘s paean to the power of the people is uplifting and motivating, we still have a long way to go before we can reasonably claim that a majority of us have become part of the “read-write Web.” Time may have encouraged a few more (or perhaps a few million more) people to join the fun — but realistically, the revolution is just beginning.