Sociology and, of and in Web 2.0: Some initial considerations
David Beer and Roger Burrows' article attempts to introduce Web 2.0 concepts as an area for study to sociologists and to describe the way its is also being used in the field of sociology. Much of the article is a description of Web 2.0 practice. After a lengthy introduction to the concept and the way that the term is used, the authors break down into the following areas or fields which they argue are key parts of Web 2.0:
- Mashups (application-based mashups like Google maps hacks)
- Social networking sites
In talking about sociology of Web 2.0, they argue that there are a series of conceptual issues raised by Web 2.0 which are of potential interest to sociologists. These include:
- The changing relations between the production and consumption of content where, in theory, production and consumption are being moved more closely together.
- The "mainstreaming" of private information into the public. The authors argue that Web 2.0 (and social networks in particular) are changing privacy in ways that are of key sociological interest.
- A new rhetoric of 'democratization.' This section is largely a reaction and extended description of the way that Web 2.0 are being used (or misused) to discuss people in ways that negative and that they might not like.
The article as a whole, and the final section is particular, seems focused on issues related to sociology as a disciplinary or profession. For example, most of the example of how it can be misused are connected to issues of professor rating. Their examples of social networks are among sociologist students at their university. The resulting effect is a little more insular and targeted to sociologists, and British sociologists in particular, as opposed to concepts which might be of interest to a sociologist. This introspective approach is redeemed at one when when the author observe that social networks "revealing a sociological tendency in web users" as they browse and interact with social network sites.
Theoretical and practical relevance:
The article has been cited more than 50 times in the three years since it was published but has not, to date, provided fertile ground for a literature of sociology in Web 2.0. If one exists, it seems to mostly based on networks and around the more computation-focused versus of network analysis.