Web 2.0 - Know It When You See It

It occurs to me that those of you outside of the conversations taking place here at SCAD may not see the immediate connection between an article on friendship and design. Allow me to illuminate.

When napster kicked off in 1999 (sited), most of us thought "Sweet. Free music." Since then we've watched from the sidelines as the music industry fought legal battles to ban the file sharing that was eating away at their revenues. Then the FBI began warning us against illegal replication at the start of every movie. There was a general sentiment of nonchalance - the music and film industries paid their stars millions, what was a few bootleg copies to them? (Pause here for a moment of silence in honor of the thousands of individuals responsible for the production of 'We R Who We R' and 'Sex in the City 2')

The threat starts moving closer to home, though, when design becomes public domain. Don't pretend you're not somewhat threatened or at least annoyed by sites that convince users they can Design their own Home!  or Learn Designer Secrets. The truth is, the Do It Yourself (henceforth referenced as DIY) movement has been nibbling at the edges of the Design profession since design became a profession. The only difference being that now,  it has the internet in its back pocket.

It's not the profit loss that really sets us professionals on edge - frankly, if you're happy with the ducktape-spraypaint version of whatever it is, then I'd rather not have you as a client anyway. It's the sensation of watching design's mystique and prestige run down the drain. It's knowing that we're all up against the public perception of "If anyone can do it, then why is it so expensive?" or for those of you familiar with the more rural parts of the country, "I don'eed no fancy...." There is also, of course, the passionate but loan-paying student in the back of your mind murmuring quietly 'if anyone can do it...but it's hard!... if anyone can do it, then why am i studying so long to learn it...?'

Consider, also, the newest insult to design professionals: Crowdsourcing. Now you can compete against teenagers with a bootleg copy of CS4 for the praise of an uninformed client - for FREE! That's right designers, you can work without pay! (outside of school, that is.)

What does this have to do with facebook? Everything! The internet as we know it, aka Web 2.0, truly is a world wide web; one that is rapidly flourishing and tightening its grasp on social systems globally. Don't get me wrong- I'm not about to sell my human trappings and devote my life to escaping Google. I simply believe that it is worth our energies to pause and reflect upon the new mechanisms of connectivity. It seems to me that technology seems to pose us with the same timeless question: 'I know we can, but should we?'

I would love to interject here with some save-the-day optimism, but I haven't really wrapped my mind that far around it yet. I can, however, offer this tiny snippit of insight: When the Industrial Revolution took hold in the 18th century, people were petrified that the machine was going to replace them all. Now, technically it did... but they evolved with the new opportunities and became, well, us. Designers are nothing if not innovative. Who knows what amazing opportunities we might elicit from the unstoppable Web 2.0.

[ readings to consider include Cult of the Amateur, You are Not a Gadget, and The Long Tail. feel free to suggest more. ]

1 comment:

  1. But if there were no robots, graphic design/architecture would be by hand. more valuable/ less valuable?

    In the same breath that I hear you exhale with frustration, I also have a sigh of relief. For I know I dont have to call an IT expert to de-bug my hijacked computer. I an just follow a few simple steps from a website. The internet is a wealth of good information that saves a lot of people time and money.

    Then I guess the question is one of value. How do I as a designer separate myself and convince my client I have earned my wages? Maybe its your people skills. (or social network, being as the original subject was your ability to hoard facebook friends) Side note: has anyone ever felt the need to take part in a facebook intervention?

    In relating this back to your reference of the industrial revolution and robots taking jobs- our economy became service based because business owners wanted to make a better profit and our labor laws and congressional leaders would not allow them to exploit american workers. China is having a hell of an economic boom right now being our workers bees.

    And they are only a few keystrokes away.