Banning “Web 2.0” from my Vocabulary

Time to retire a tired old horse. I expressed my doubts about “Web 2.0” as a useful label in my very first serious blog post on back in March 2006. I was both pleased and surprised when Shel Israel picked it up at the time. After attending the Lift Conference, I must now return to that question with a stronger conclusion.

In all the gee-whiz of “Web 2.0″, the tech world has been tripping over itself to build the next Flickr, the next YouTube, the next whatever. I’ve shrugged, slightly bored by the VC-fueled me-too dot-echo. It’s not another bubble, but it is a distraction. It gets away from the whole point of the social web and social media – the disintermediation of the value chain between people, their passions and each other. To borrow and reframe a Rohan-ism (itself borrowed from Soylent Green):

Web 2.0 is People.

What is the point of a new tool, if it doesn’t connect us in some human way, doesn’t allow us to find each other and ourselves? How is the disintermediation of the value chain between you and me changing the way that we will work, what we will create and the society that we will build together? These were some of the questions in the room at Lift, and there was barely a single screenshot or VC-oriented pitch anywhere in the mix. These are profoundly relevant questions, which the North American Web 2.0 discourse unfortunately obscures.

The Social Web.

If the social medium is the message, then the Social Web is the people. The Social Web is a technological extension of human evolution. The tools are disappearing, and as they do what is left is us: you and me. I contend (in my “strong opinions, loosely held” way) that a new structure for society, the economy and human culture is being built underneath the surface stories in the tech business press of peer production, user-generated content and social software tools.

Collective Intelligence.

Humanity is becoming interlinked and in increasingly constant communication with one another on a scale and at a rate of acceleration that points to the prescience of Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near. This is a Collective Intelligence, which is exhibiting emergent properties. What kinds of questions do we have for this collective intelligence? What problems can it solve for us? What is its intent?

We Need a New Language.

So, to my point: Given the massive implications of this transformation, the whole Web 2.0 nomenclature (3.0, 4.0, etc.) is keeping our imaginations chained to an idea of change that is incremental, not exponential. The collective intelligence of the social web is on a long-term exponential growth curve which is heading to territories we will no longer recognize from our current paradigm of thinking about human society and its relationship to its technology.

The day we abandon this old tech industry-driven fan-boy language and take on the bigger questions behind the technology is the day that the tools really become relevant to the broader society; this will be the day when change will come, new fortunes made, old ones destroyed.

What is the role of human values in this process of transformation? If we don’t articulate them, then those values will not inform the new society we are creating. This is a historical moment of profound possibility, but also one fraught with danger if we do not comprehend or engage with these bigger questions.

(Recognizing the need for humility, I will, however, continue using the tag Web 2.0. I’m not arrogant enough to think I can change the language with a single post!)

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Creative Convergence Centres: Hubs Within the Cluster

On Wednesday of this week, I attended the announcement by the OMDC and Ontario Minister of Culture Caroline Di Cocco of the first 14 projects to be funded by the Entertainment & Creative Cluster Partnerships Fund (ECCPF). I am glad that my prior work with the Ontario Government contributed to the creation of this Fund in the first place, and Wednesday was a proud moment for me. The diversity of cool projects in the mix show what is possible when we cooperate to compete. Check out the exciting CONCERT consortium project to develop an entertainment R&D network: Full List of Funding Recipients.

I am Project Manager for one of those projects, the Creative Convergence Centres Project:

The Creative Convergence Centres Project seeks to accelerate the development of vibrant physical places that become major innovation hubs and economic engines for the creative industries cluster. The project is lead by a consortium of institutions currently involved in the development of creative convergence projects including: Artscape, Canadian Film Centre, MaRS, Evergreen, Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD), New Media Business Alliance (NMBA) and Toronto International Film Festival Group. Additional partners include Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation, TEDCO and the City of Toronto.

Canadian Film Centre is the primary partner, the project is managed through Artscape and I have been contracted to manage the project. I have been really looking forward to this, as one of my research interests is around the intersection between global innovation and local place. What can projects such as these do to anchor a cluster of firms and institutions densely interlinked with many weak ties in the Toronto region? How can these places be created with intention in order to foster collaboration and to offer the possibility of creative serendipity – the unexpected next big thing that comes from a random conversation at the cafe or at an event. It is about physical infrastructure together with social infrastructure.

I will be blogging about this project through its duration. I believe it is important that the wider community understands what the project hopes to accomplish and how they can link into these hubs, whether currently existing or proposed. The project is also not exclusive, and will be looking at other similar creative hubs currently in place or proposed.

I look forward to the day when Toronto is home to a network of vibrant interlinked creative hubs where the best content, design, science and technology in the world is developed and commercialized; important new engines of economic development and prosperity.

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Say Hi to David Ma: A Working Quantum Computer?

I met David Ma at this morning’s meeting of the Toronto Board of Trade ICT Advisory committee meeting. Thanks to Grant Hume, Penny MacNeal and TorCamp’s friends at Royal Bank of Canada, Anita Sands and Kurt Gooden for bringing the community to the table.

David is a partner at McCarthy Tetrault’s Technology, Communications and Intellectual Property Group. He’s now blogging and shamed all my in-meeting folksonomy hype by using a nice tag cloud on his blog, as compared to my oh-so-2005 categories. 😉

His blog has an interesting piece I haven’t seen picked up elsewhere – a Canadian company has demonstrated a working Quantum Computer – in the Valley, of course. I mean, who in Canada would be able to handle such a thing? There a sense of it being underwhelming, but this is very early days.

Read D-Wave’s Quantum Computing Demo

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Transit Camp Goes Global

Charlie on the MBTA wants to bring the Transit Camp event format to Boston: An open invitation to Dan Grabauskas. Will was saying that Vancouver’s interested as well. Toronto Transit Camp is designed to propagate just as BarCamp did. We’re here to help.

In the beginning, there was BarCamp, and there was much rejoicing; and the Messina looked down and said that it was good.

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Toronto Transit Camp: One Week Later

Accordion Guy @ Toronto Transit Camp, originally uploaded by Will Pate.

Did the earth move? Did Toronto change overnight? Was there a sense of WOW in our now? Maybe…

We certainly had our fair share of attention, from the TTC staff to the politicians to the media locally and around the world. See the latest media pieces in the Toronto Star and NOW Magazine.

Why? Because individual passion, open creative communities, culture and creativity are desperately needed to solve our real-world problems. There is a hunger for the things that Transit Camp represents in the world, and this is just the beginning.

This new baby community hopes to continue to feed that hunger with more Toronto Transit Camp conversations and projects, and some of us are looking to extend the idea more broadly in the Open Cities unconference being planned for June.

Join the open creative communities movement and put the people back into city-building.

Lift ’07 – Day 1

Day 1 of the Lift conference was intense and amazing. A fantastic collection of brains, amazing people and some mind-blowing speakers. Unlike North American web 2.0 style conferences, Lift really embraces the big social and economic implications of so-called web 2.0 and social media.

Pre-conference workshops at the University (I attended Stowe Boyd’s 3 hour workshop on building social software applications – HIGHLY recommended) warmed us up on Wednesday. It was a great idea to be gathering in smaller groups first, building those critical social relationships that make a conference like this worth much more than the price of admission.

Here are the topics and speakers I attended:

Do biologists dream of robotic art?, Regine Debatty & France Cadet
Collective Intelligence inside the enterprise, Lee Bryant, Headshift
Social = Me First, Stowe Boyd, Blue Whale Labs
What kind of Humanity do we want?, Paola Ghillani
Industrial Ecology – the future of hyperindustrial economy, Suren Erkman, Institute for Communication and Analysis of Science and Technology
Outdoctrination: society, children, technology and self-organization in Education, Sugata Mitra,
Community on the net: going virtual in proportion to being actual, Sister Judith Zobelein
Communication technologies and new forms of social interaction, Lara Srivastava, International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
How to live in a pervasively networked world, Julian Bleecker, Near Future Laboratory
The luminous bath: our new volumetric medium, Ben Cerveny, Playground Foundation, Stamen
Everyware: Further down the rabbit hole, Adam Greenfield, Studies and Observations NYC

All this in ONE DAY! Fast-paced, dynamic and several WOW moments that blew the audience’s minds. I’m dying to review Cerveny’s talk again on video. I’m going to pick up Greenfield’s book.

Big theme: biological metaphors for the social web

Being the gadfly and connector I am, I discovered a dozen amazing people and started making introductions to people in Toronto and beyond.

I am now a Lift addict.

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Liveblogging from Lift ’07 – Join the Backchannel

I am blogging live from Lift ’07, first day of the main conference. Current speaker: Florence Devouard, Chair of Board of the Wikimedia Foundation.

You can join a live unofficial Lift backchannel, hosted courtesy of the TorCamp Chat Swarm: The Always-On Unconferenceâ„¢. If you would like to join, simply add my Skypename (markkuznicki) or Tom Purves (tom_purves) to your Skype contact list and send me a text message (no Skype calls please!) and I can drag you into the swarm.

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