I first learnt about Web 2.0 about a year ago, gave it a bit of thought, then shelved it as something that would be a dream, just as my primary school art piece depicting flying cars in the year 2000. I remember thinking that while it was cool to learn and interact with anyone, anytime, it was all so frightening and far-removed from my reality.
Some time at the start of this year, however, I was introduced to Google Docs, and intrigued, found a whole plethora of stuff online related to creating web content and collaborating with others instead of using the web for writing and publishing. It doesn’t seem that dreamy now. While the future still looks quite excitingly scary, it also feels a lot nearer and more accessible.
I should probably confess here that I’m not the most IT-savvy of persons in my personal life. My last “tech gadget” were 2 walkmans (walkmen?) I got when I was in primary 4. I carry a 14-year-old Bible to church instead of a downloaded bible in a pda/palm, scribble to do lists/plans/sermon notes in 555 notebooks and use a range of hard-covered spiral notebooks for everything else ranging from lecture notes to foreign vocab words to Booker Prize reviews to travel logs. I hardly listen to music, so mp3 players and ipods are quite pointless. Outside of work tools, the only tech stuff I use are an electronic dictionary, an electric toothbrush, my beloved camera and my handphone. And it’s only from Januray this year that I switched from dial-up to broadband. I’ve kept an online diary (now blog) since 1997, but I guess it’s more because it’s just a continuation of the cathartic writing/typing habit I’ve had since the days that I had a typewriter in my room.
But it’s a bit scary how, as the cult youtube video “Shift Happens” goes, we’re living in exponential times. My first computer, when I was about Primary 3 or 4, was an old 386 that was on its last legs and which my aunt gave me so to type my stories on. The words were green, but I became quite adept at typing commands after the Dos C prompt. I saved everything onto a big 5-and-a-quarter-inch floppy disk (the soft kind that could grow mold if you left it for too long) and printed stuff out with a noisy dotmatix printer. The paper came out in rolls that had rows of holes along the margins and perforated lines for you to tear off. Barely 20 years later, we’ve gone through so many technological changes that it makes my 386 experience look prehistoric. I’m almost embarrassed to tell anyone about it lest it dates me. Though I use PDAs and Macbooks and am virtually stuck to my latop in the name of work, deep deep down inside, I’m really still a 555 notebook pen-and-paper user at heart.
How much and how fast will the world change in the next 10 years if we all get onto Web 2.0? In terms of epistemology, the definition of knowledge has changed and will continue to change. People often talk about the dawn of a postmodern generation to whom everything is relative, but looking at the applications listed under Web 2.0, it seems like the emergence of a generation more unsure of itself than ever. Lists of links to this and that, tips, how-to videos…people seem to be going to a point where they are just looking for directions and well, the truth. Perhaps we will have absurd jobs in the brave new world that we are entering like Babette’s in Don Delillo’s White Noise, who teaches classes on good posture and eating to reassure people that they are doing the right thing. Perhaps, as I’ve been told, listening and writing will become the two key skills needed (though I would still argue for speaking and reading instead).