TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year is You. In a tribute to the stupendous growth of what is popularly being called Web 2.0, TIME Magazine has congratulated the wiki editors, bloggers, podcasters, video bloggers and online community buffs who have created a parallel media that is powerful and credible while remaining largely non-commercial.
It’s a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.
As a blogger, online community junkie and communications professional, I am pleased. But I am also uneasy. Yes, building a parallel media that complements, and sometimes, works better than mainstream media is radical. Yes, so much collaboration and community is heartening and can achieve great things. Yes, blogging is definitely the coolest thing since the printing press.
I’m just not sure yet about the parameters and uses in the Indian context.
While Web 2.0 is finding it’s way into the Indian consciousness, the movement is in trickles rather than surges. There is a devoted blogging fraternity. Whispers of p2p media are being heard in corporate board rooms. The concept of e-governance is being discussed. But all of this is a faint murmur rather than the voice of the crowds rising up to greet us.
It’s very easy to remain cocooned in this world with fellow bloggers and collaborators and believe that this is a ‘movement’ and feel a little thrill of pleasure. It feels great to be told you’re making a bit of history. It would be even easier to sit back and continue blogging and congratulating each other and forgetting that there is a whole country of people out there who do not blog, and many who do not read.
I am not trying to be a naysayer. There are needs and issues that Web 2.0 can address very effectively and we’ve seen some of this – participative journalism, marshalling resources during natural disasters, spreading awareness and encouraging dialogue about specific issues among some segments. It may be a good idea to see how much if this is being done in India, what else we can do, and how effective it’s really proving before we bask in reflected glory.