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This paper is aimed to analyse the influence of web 2.0 social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter… on the users both mentally and financially. There are huge number of new online social communities established by web 2.0 technology, the owners and developers of them usually launch original social media platforms for free to entice the maximum users at the beginning stage, however the companies that own the platforms are driven by the capitalist need for profit. Consequently, online social media communities or the individual user is commodified in service of company profits, or they are forged purposely and gradually into a tool to satisfy the political needs. This paper is trying to explore the influences of Web 2.0 social networking platforms from the perspective of the current users to outline to where will users be led by web 2.0 social networking sites or the virtual communities, and how the users should deal with the external control to make the most Web 2.0 social networking sites for more benefits.
The innovation of web 2.0 has been dramatically changing the online communication by providing the various platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… to be more dynamic and efficient in manners not already conceivable since 2008. The more and more people are becoming addicted to the specific web 2.0 social networking platforms or the virtual communities established on web 2.0 social media platforms , the platforms are designed to engage as many as possible the users, whereby the owners or the companies of the platforms are able to exploit the maximum profits out of the commoditized users. The subjectivity-based Web 2.0 social networking sites are designed with the functions by those the users or owners are enabled to make exponential growth profit much quicker and easier.
The functions of web 2.0 social networking sites
According to the current critical approaches on social media and communication, the following aspects must be identified : 1) ideologic function (Holzer,1994), 2) the realm of commodification function (Garnham,1990), and 3) “the potential to provide alternative media space for progressive communication and politics” (Downing 2001; Atton,2002), web2.0 as the new form of social media performs both ideology function and the realm of commodification function. Then, how does web 2.0 social media function?
Web 2.0 performs its functions in three main fields: marketing ideology, neoliberal ideology and political ideology. (Fuchs, 2009, p.775). All the users are imperatively influenced by the relevant functions correspondently.
Neoliberal ideology of web 2.0 social networking sites indoctrinates the users to be more ego-centric, which establish the big pool of individualistic labor.
The neoliberal individualism function of web 2.0 will seamlessly indoctrinate its users to be radical activist in persuasion of the freedom and individualism. As the common knowledge, both “liberty” and “competition” are the foundation of capitalism. Neoliberal ideology function of Web 2.0 is playing the essential role in seeding the idea of liberty. The users are gradually being forged into the type of people “into a liberal ideal of subjectivity based around notions of freedom, choice activity. (…) The Web 2.0 user thus is represented as both agential and endowed with freedom from externally derived controls. It would seem that the user being addressed in this interactive and participatory media is the ideal, active neoliberal citizen” (Jarrett, 2008). Web 2.0 is constantly and quietly brainwashing its users to believe that Web 2.0 social communities are the place where they can impart themselves online freely – to say whatever they would like to say, to make choices freely – to watch whatever they would like to watch, so “freedom” has become the token of web 2.0 social networking sites, users will naturally believe in what they are doing is representing “freedom. The recent anti-quarantine protests in USA during covid-19 pandemic in April 2020 is the good example of this point. The protestors request the federal government to revoke the stay-at-home restriction, they said that they have the freedom to go to the bars, to go to work, even to get infected by covid-19. Where does their belief in “freedom” come from? Web 2.0 social platforms are the vital source from where people are fostered into neoliberal individualism activists.
The neoliberal individualism function of web 2.0 can possibly keep the users long-term engaged. The users are able to produce the contents on Web 2.0 social networking sites, which makes them ostensibly control the participation on the social media platforms, therefore the users on the social networking sites deeply believe it is his/her real voice on the sites(eg: Facebook), the subjectivity — based platforms of Web 2.0 strongly emphasizes the individual profile and individual contributes on the platforms. For example, Facebook users are required to create their own profile (eg: personal account) before they can legally interact with other users by posting or commenting, whereby the users are reasonably believe they are the owner of all the contents, by which the individualism is maximumly expanded.
In short, the neoliberal individualism function of web 2.0 has fostered every single user into a liberal advocate who is holding the firm belief of “freedom”, which is the foundation for people to be the real self. But why is Web 2.0 function designed to encourage neoliberal individualism? To have an answer to this, the other function of Web 2.0 needs to be discussed — marketing ideology.
Marketing ideology function of Web 2.0 social networking sites is creating the new opportunities for business.
Marketing ideology function of Web 2.0 arises variety of mode of significant social actions between each and every user on Web 2.0 social networking sites, such as browsing the website, downloading docs, conference meeting, etc, from which the constant huge number of business opportunities were created. As a matter of fact, web2.0 was designed in the beginning of 21 century as the new way to secure the investment in Internet – related business (Fuchs, 2008). Therefore, it was born with the function as marketing strategy. “Web 2.0 would be an overblown marketing attempt” (Reips and Matzat, 2007, p.1). Web2.0 social networking sites provide the new opportunities for the business owners, as they are ostensibly new to people, and able to satisfy the variety of users’ needs, such as making new friends, shopping, education, etc. Despite of the newness of Web 2.0 social media, another native marketing strategy of Web 2.0 is that most of social media is free to use, therefore Web 2.0 stands big chance to expand the market exponentially. In February/March 2005 2% used social networking sites, in August 2006 already 9% (all data: Pew Internet & American Life Project, http://www. pewinternet.org, accessed on March 16, 2008). In the UK, 23% of Internet users have made new friends online, 16% posted messages in discussion boards, 29% used chat rooms, and 12% were blogging in 2007 (data: Oxford Internet Survey, OxIS 2007). The arising accumulated web 2.0 users are also the source of content prosumer for business. but why?
Web 2.0 are designed purposely to exploit the free labour for capitalism needs. Web 2.0 seems to be an ideology and a business mode aimed at exploiting free labour (Terranova, 2002). The subjectivity — based platforms of Web 2.0 strongly emphasizes the individual profile and individual contributes on the platforms, the neoliberal individualism function is constantly offering the perpetual power for turning the audience users into prosumer users. With the contribution from the Web 2.0 free labour, Web 2.0 social media expand the market rapidly with the unconceivable speed. for example, on Youtube, when the audience click on “like” on the stream, the audience commodity accumulates, which composite to the contribution made by prosumer. The “share” action of the stream can be considered as free labour to prosumer, which also composite to the contribution of the original stream owner. Obviously, Web 2.0 is functioning perfectly in exploiting the free labour for the business. web 2.0 functions perfectly not only on exploiting free labour, but also on encourage the co-operations of the labour.
web 2.0 social networking sites facilitate the users in co-operation.
Although most social media are free to use and much free labour is available to be exploited, the companies the own and design the platforms are driven by the capitalist need for profit, which consequently determine that social media communities and the labour of users are commodified for co -operation in service of company profits. Since collective labour is much more productive than individual labour in generating the profits, co-operation becomes the foundation element of capitalism. “A greater number of labourers working together, at the same time, in one place(or, if you will, in the same field of labour), in order to produce the same sort of commodity under the mastership of one capitalist, constitutes, both historically and logically, the starting-point of capitalist production”(Marx, 1867/1967, p.322).
In order to approach the higher profit, the harmonious consensus is essential for the successful co-operation between individuals or communities. “reference is only to the objective fact of a unity based on common traits and activities and other external phenomena” (Tonnies, 1988, p.67). “cohesion” is a very important concept in verify the level of consensus among the interconnected networking members in the co-operation. (Reingen and Kernan, 1986).The level of harmonious consensus is deciding the level of cohesion of the co-operation. Higher cohesion leads to the strong tie relationship among the network members in the co-operation, the members usually have frequent interaction and shared norms, therefore high cohesion is usually more productive. However, complete cohesion is not recommended by some scholars, because it makes some members feeling great tension caused by the uncomfortable social distance. (Bind et al. 2012) The social character of Web 2.0 hugely increases the possibility, frequency, intensity and complexity of social activities, which tremendously expands the cohesion across each the network member’s various social spheres, and stimulates the development of shared norms and trust, as a result the subgroups on the network community will be created. Capitalist will exploit the collective labour from the subgroups to make maximum satisfaction on profits.
Alternatively, weak tie relationship of Web 2.0 social networking sites is also playing the positive role in developing the cohesion for co-operation. The scholars have broadly recognized “ strength of weak ties in facilitating the transfer of information across disparate subgroups within a network” (Granovetter 1973, 1982).
In summary, the neoliberal ideology creates the big pool of individualised crowd for capitalism needs of free labour, marketing ideology have all of them interact one the other to generate the opportunities for capitalism needs of profit. Web 2.0 social networking sites are offers the most and new opportunities for both the owners and users to exploit and accumulate the profits, whoever knows it better will definitely be quicker and smoother to get richer.
Jarrett, K. (2008). Interactivity is evil! A critical investigation of Web 2.0. First Monday, 13(3).
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Holzer, H. (1994). Medienkommunikation. Einfüh- rung in handlungs-und gesellschaftstheoretische Konzeptionen. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.
Garnham, N. (1990). Capitalism and commu- nication: Global culture and the economics of information. London: SAGE.
Downing, J. H. (2001). Radical media: Rebellious communication and social movements. London: Sage.
Engels, F. (1886/1960). Dialectics of nature. der Natur. New York: International Publishers.
Scholz, T. (2008). Market ideology and the myths of Web 2.0. First Monday, 13(3).
Terranova, T. (2000). Free labor. Producing culture for the digital economy. Social Text, 18(2), 33–57. doi:10.1215/01642472-18-2_63-33
Marx, K. (1867/1967). Capital, volume 1. New York: International Publishers.
17 replies on “Web 2.0 is just the virtualized jungle.”
Great to see your paper! I can see your points on how Web 2.0 has been used for marketing. Zuckerberg for instance, was very clever with the way they brought Facebook to the masses. That little communication tool between University students, now used by millions globally. There was a period of time when I deleted my account and it was so frustrating when competitions would say “just go to our Facebook account” or I’d want to know more about a business I wanted to visit only to find they did not have a website, only a Facebook page. Goes to show how much people aim their marketing at social media rather than TV, print or even a good ol’ web page.
It was also interesting reading the strategies you mentioned, there have been other papers I have read here by Melissa and Kylie regarding the ways that influencers are essentially free marketing for big companies, through their posts and their viewers ‘liking’, sharing, commenting also helps promote the business.
I like how you mentioned that all Web 2.0 is made to lead us to believe that we have freedom of choice, to do whatever we want, say what we want etc. yet we are actually doing all the above mentioned, when you think about it, in some ways this quite true. We still get those ads before the YouTube video of someone doing an unboxing which is yet MORE advertising, right?? All the social media sites are still bombarded with little suggestions we subliminally absorb and we participate by tagging. In some ways, I think “so what, I don’t mind giving them a plug” but on the other hand it does make you wonder about the kind of control Web 2.0 can have over us all.
Thank you very much for your comment. i like that point that you mentioned in your comment — It is true that we have been being tagged around on the Web2.0 social networking sites for capitalism needs. i guess that it is the inevitable destination for every and each web 2.0 user, by which the perpetual energy is generated for business developing and profits exploitation.
Though it is true there are too many “ads inception” on youtube streams, they could be possibly considered as the reciprocity to the companies those need the more rewarding places to advertise their products, vice versa web 2.0 can expand rapidly with the increasing demanding by these companies.
That was such an interesting paper and I really enjoyed reading it. I love the title. I also really like how you called out Web 2.0 ideology and its role in promoting social media as a tool for expressing the self – as you note by promoting the values of the subjective self and the free self. I would have also liked to hear your views on the concept of authenticity which I think is another key tenet of neoliberalism which plays a big role in supporting social media. And of course you are right, beyond all the discussion about identity, self-expression, and creativity lies an explicit greed for profit. Nicola
Thank you very much for your comment. i am sorry for the late reply, because i have been rushing around for something urgent. I agree with you that authenticity is key facet of neoliberalism. i strongly recommend the paper of Alison McGuigan, in the paper the concept of “impression management” was introduced. it is talking about authenticity from the different angle. I like it very much. i guess you might like it as well.
Thank you very much!
I found your paper very interesting to read, it is such a relevant topic to be analysing especially at the moment with the COVID19 pandemic. The idea that Web2.0 was in part created to further the business interests of a select few corporations would make the millions of current Web2.0 users think twice about using such technologies if true. There is truth in that social media platforms are targeting users with advertising and subliminal messaging, in all I love the topic and greatly enjoyed reading your paper which is of a similar theme to my own abielt more on the confrontational side.
Thank you very much for your comment. And it is very good seeing your comment here after I have made a comment on your page the day before.
Again, I like reading your paper, a bran new angle to explore about the Web 2.0 social networking platform. I think i will do more researching on that topic, too. Thanks again
I really enjoyed reading your paper. Your paper highlights how our online information and our individual networks are being exploited by the social media businesses that compete with one another for our online engagement and profit from advertising revenue. It’s big business. But it seems the world wide web was always destined for the purpose of capitalism and it’s probably a reflection of our society’s ideology at present.
I’m left wondering how do you think we can change the purpose of the WWW and put it back on track to being about a democratic information sharing cooperative space for everyone that was envisaged at its conception by Tim Berners-Lee?
Thank for your comment, and thanks for sharing the useful links as well.
it is a very broad field to figure out why WWW has been deviating very far from its original concept. You are right, being commercialized has become prevalent in almost everywhere it can be. seemly, it is inevitable at all to refuse the commercialization in all fields. For me i don’t think it will be a good idea for WWW to go back to the original concept it was envisaged from outset of it. I guess it could be more realistic to focus on why we are so commercialized, with more understanding of it, we can choose to possibly play better in competition, or choose to stay out of the competition by getting a remote place or space for him/herself, if people enjoy staying solitaire.
Very wide topic choice: good work on tackling it!
It would have been interesting if you could have defined Web 2.0 for the general public who read this. What do you define Web 2.0 in the context of this paper?
I liked how you discussed how the Internet community as a whole can be misguided, especially how people try to spread panic and convince others of their words.
Where you write “The neoliberal individualism function of web 2.0 can possibly keep the users long-term engaged. The users are able to produce the contents on Web 2.0 social networking sites, which makes them ostensibly control the participation on the social media platforms” I would have to disagree as I think social media plays a large part in keeping users engaged long-term. The social media companies put a lot of thought into what will keep users engaged and what features will keep them on the site longer. A great example of this is the suggestion of new people and accounts to follow, keeping you interested and always exploring the site. You write later about how companies try to gain profit, so would you agree with my point about companies keeping users engaged? Users and companies definitely work together, but I do think that companies have more motive to keep us on the site (such as updating how things are shown to us on our newsfeed).
Thanks for your paper! It was good to read.
Wanted to jump in here and join the conversation/debate between who is in control of participation.
I agree with Anne-Marie that companies are driven by profits to retain users for longer each session, but they’re only able to do this because of the technology that Web 2.0 allows. The UI/UX are enhanced by Web 2.0, and this which allows companies like Facebook to enhance the experience of its users through clever interface design, with the aim to deliver more advertising to them and generate revenue from it.
What do you both think?
Hey again Nicholas! Good to see you again so soon and glad that you are liking my points on these papers.
Yes, Web 2.0 definitely gives companies the avenue for retaining users and developing algorithms. I personally think algorithms aren’t as widely discussed as they should be, as they are constantly tracking and retaining data about every single user. They are a powerful tool that isn’t given enough credit. However, I do think that users should be given the choice of their newsfeed – whether they want the most popular content first, what the algorithm thinks they most want to interact with and see, or the most recent posts.
Would you both agree with this?
I thought that Facebook already ‘supposedly’ enables you to select how you want to view your News Feed or posts within Groups, by most recent, or most viewed, etc… I thought I’d set mine up that way, but somehow I still get everything muddled and repeats of things as I scroll. *shrug* I agree though that if they’re used properly algorithms can be very powerful!
Thank you very much for your comment, i also appreciate your opinion. I guess that I might not state clearly in my paper for my stand. I agree that the web 2.0 social media platform is able to keep their users more engaged for a long term. My argument is: it is because web 2.0 is more subjective – oriented platform, users have more control for themselves on the content both input and output, by which the companies of the Web 2.0 social media are encouraging their users to be prosumer rather than consumer, so as the free labour can be generated, thereby more users will be attracted ang gathered by the new content that is produced by the current users. With seeing the upsurge number of new readers/ follower gathered by the appealing content, the owner of the content will perform as the prosumer more willingly, whereby web 2.0 social media complete the transmission on their users mostly. during this long period of online social activities, the companies have accumulated big number of commoditized audience for the capitalism needs, which is initial envisage of web 2.0 such as facebook from the outset.
overall, i am happy to know, in fact, we are sharing the same opinion here. i love to hear from you soon. thank you again.
I enjoyed reading your paper, you have cut right to the bone to expose social networkings catipalist hidden agendas. To your point about Web 2.0 social networking sites creating new opportunities for business, I would also add it increases end to end control of communication networks, which in turn helps to protect profits. For example, it’s harder to share copyright music or videos (You have paid for) then it would be on less regulated websites. One thing I’m not sure of though, is your claim that web 2.0 develops people’s belief in freedom. I actually think the opposite at times, you have a reduced sense of freedom because you are subject to surveillance and the “permanent” nature of internet footprints.
Anyway that’s enough from me. Thanks again for your contribution, and If you would like to read a paper from the Virtual Communities and Online gaming stream, mine can be found at:
Thank you very much for your comment. And i am willing to read your paper, too.
I respect your opposite idea of thinking of web 2.0. but given the circumstances of online censorship and surveillance are not unique, the equal or even more restrict level o censorship and surveillance can be found easily in other forms of social media or social communities. As the opposite to your opinion on surveillance, i would think that the sufficient surveillance functions as the guard of the freedom of speech, it could maximumly eliminate the possibilities of aggressive message caused by predatory nature of human. I would like to listen how you think as well.
again, thank you very much, see you in your session.
Great paper! I really enjoyed it and it was a bit of an eye opener at how calculated and controlled social media sites really are when you spend most of your days seeing them as a fun way to interact with friends, something so trivial.
I was most interested by what you said about the neoliberal individualism, and found myself agreeing. The protests in the US over the COVID19 restrictions are something I personally found pointless, citizens protesting against a government as if they were under the rule of a dictator, when in fact the restrictions are for their own safety, and almost every country in the world right now is experiencing their own version of COVID restrictions. Looking at this as an example, do you think social media has created an ‘individual’ who has trouble with authority? Has it created an age of people who feel it is their duty to protest and challenge that authority any chance they can get?
Thank you very much for your comment!
you have a good question for me. This is actually the other facet of the neoliberal individualism that i would like to talk if i could squeeze them into my paper. Based on the research on web 2.0 functions, it was possibly predicted that will be true if there is no sufficient and efficient control over the social media. The anarchy will be another wave of pandemic, however what is even worse is that people take it into the account of victory as ” freedom revolution”.
thanks for your comment again, hope to hear from you soon