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Web 2.0: Next-g, a sequel, or more of the same?

Roger Atkinson

As the IT world seems to have an inexhaustible scope for generating new words, Web 2.0 being a topical and typical example, it's important to have a systematic approach to checking out the newcomers. For Web 2.0, I propose an analytical framework defined by the questions, is it next-g, a sequel, or more of the same?

To explain the theoretical foundations for this analytical framework, let's define how these terms relate to Web 2.0. Firstly, whilst 'next-g' is actually a registered TM [1], owned by a one time relative of the flying kangaroo [2], here I use it as a descriptor for appeals to persons who want to be inventors or co-inventors of the next best thing. Secondly, 'sequels' are best illustrated and defined by Hollywood examples, like the series Die Hard, Die Hard 2, Die Hard 3, Die Hard 4.0 [3]; or Mad Max, Mad Max 2, Mad Max 3 [4]; or (you get the idea?). A sequel appeals to those who liked the prequel. Thirdly, 'more of the same' appeals to Grumpy Old Men [5] who feel that these new fangled words may be little more than well-intentioned, but uninformed pretensions about having invented something new.

The purpose for this column is to help you sort out your primary pole of identification with the tripolar model, next-g, a sequel, or more of the same? If you know already, please move on to your next most pressing task, or your morning tea, or whatever, and if you don't know, or need to acquire a modicum of evidence to support what you feel you know, I invite you to read on. However, I should caution that Roger's model for diffusion of the Web 2.0 'innovation' does not pretend to be in the same class as Rogers' model for Diffusion of Innovations [Everett M. Rogers, 6], which has enjoyed (quite deservedly) a far longer run than the Hollywood examples cited above. The best known feature of Rogers' model [7] is his categorisation of 'adopters', in the well-known sequence, 'innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards'. A five point, uni-directional scale, in contrast to this Roger's model, which is a humble, three point, non-directional scale (though I have hinted at my bias towards the Grumpy Old Men faction). I did consider an alternative three point scale, 'leaders of the flock, follow the leader sheep, and we are foxes', but that was not sufficiently non-directional.

Discussion of Web 2.0 is apparently abundant, for example as Google attests, Results 1 - 10 of about 237,000,000 for "web 2.0" [8]. Can we handle such a number by using Roger's three point categorisation? Let's try it and see, though with caution as the sample size is small and the technique idiosyncratic for constructing Table 1. In this Table the three 'next-g' examples are American, with Tim O'Reilly [9] being often cited, as the originator of the term "Web 2.0". The quotations give only a small sample of these authors' enthusiastic desire to project a limitless vision for Web 2.0, notwithstanding their apparent reluctance to give a definition for Web 2.0. By contrast, the 'sequel' examples, all from Australian authors, indicate a linking to more specific purposes and clienteles, including primary schools in the case of Paul Reid [14]. The four 'more of the same' examples are drawn from a single source, the Proceedings of ASCILITE's December 2006 Conference in Sydney [19]. This conference provided perhaps the best opportunity in Australia to date, to ascertain academic acceptance and utilisation of "Web 2.0" as a concept. However, only one of the conference's 120 refereed research papers contained significant references to Web 2.0 [13], whilst about six papers contained minor or even trivial references to "Web 2.0" as indicated by the four cited in Table 1. Preliminary indications from ASCILITE's December 2007 Conference to be held in Singapore suggest to me there's little increase in references to "Web 2.0" compared with asc'06 papers [20]. So, if educational technology and IT researchers, as represented by ASCILITE conferences, are showing little interest in Web 2.0, or are adopting a 'more of the same' attitude, what's the explanation? Are the writers in the 'more of the same' category failing to keep up with the literature, or are the enthusiasts in the 'next-g' category failing to see that they have re-invented the wheel? Whilst the 'sequel' category has an each way bet?

Table 1: Web 2.0: Next-g, a sequel, or more of the same? Some examples

CategoryAuthorIllustrative quotations
Next-gO'Reilly [9]Like many important concepts, Web 2.0 doesn't have a hard boundary, but rather, a gravitational core. You can visualize Web 2.0 as a set of principles and practices that tie together a veritable solar system of sites that demonstrate some or all of those principles, at a varying distance from that core.
Alexander [10]The term is audacious: Web 2.0.... Many people-including, or perhaps especially, supporters-critique the "Web 2.0" moniker for definitional reasons. Few can agree on even the general outlines of Web 2.0. It is about no single new development.
Schindler [11]Web 2.0 is a set of technologies, a huge set of related functionality and almost a lifestyle choice... Ideally, Web 2.0 sites... make it easier for people to connect and to learn from one another. The result of the user-generated content, for instance, is said to be "collective intelligence," or the wisdom that comes from consensus decision-making. (Buzzword-watchers will remember when the hyped term for this was "collaboration.")
SequelLee and McLoughlin [12]...a burgeoning interest in Web 2.0, both in mainstream society as well as in education, with tools such as blogs, wikis, RSS, social networking sites, tag-based folksomomies, and peer-to-peer (P2P) media sharing applications gaining much popularity and traction in all sectors of the education industry.... potential for... enhancing their learning experiences through customization, personalization, and rich opportunities for networking and collaboration.
Plaisted and Irvine [13]Web 2.0 is a multifaceted term that describes the 'second generation' of web services that are becoming available online ... Web 2.0 services are the force behind 'social software' such as Wikis, which facilitate the collaboration and sharing of information...
Reid [14]Many educators are questioning if the industrial age institutions we work in are ready for the kids of the digital communication revolution.... If "knowledge sharing is the lubricant behind the knowledge community"... then the engine of web2.0 is beginning to be used by educators as the agents of change. We are beginning to see a culture of sharing and creativity which is not based upon market exchange but rather an intellectual exchange.
More of the sameHolt et al [15]The move to the read-and-write Web, so-called Web 2.0, opens up new dimensions of digital literacy for learners and teachers as active consumers, and critical readers and editors of information...
Pettit and Kukulska-Hulme [16]...foster online communities of learners. Such an approach will be very familiar to university teachers, whether on campus, online or using a blend. Even the delights of Web 2.0 may not be as new as is sometimes thought. Lilley (2006), for example, has argued that '[i]f the blog has a common ancestor with the diary, MySpace shares at least some of its DNA with the scrapbook'.
Conole et al [17]...the level and type of communication is notable - there is strong evidence of peer support and peer community, reminiscence of the rhetoric inherent in the idea embedding in social networking and the world of Web 2.0 (O'Reilly, 2005)
Jones and Conole [18]...new terms and ways of describing tools and their use emerge at a frightening rate (consider for example the rapid increase in discourse on wikis and podcasting, the rise of the term social software and Web 2.0 in the last year or so).

Of course the notion of "failing" isn't helpful. The world of edtech and IT is used to legitimate divergences between those who wish to accord more prominence to the technologies, and those who see technologies as tools, as a means towards higher objectives and not ends in themselves. For example, there are those who enthuse about blogs and wikis, those who enthuse about CSCL (computer supported collaborative learning), and others who just implement collaborative learning.

Another impression from my investigation for this column is that introducing a new word like "Web 2.0" needs some good luck to secure adoption by the targeted community of practice. It's not easy, but nevertheless people will try their luck, as illustrated recently by our Prime Minister, who tried out the new word overwatch: "We take the view that the Commonwealth should adopt something of an overwatch role" [21] Whilst there was some ABC media commentary, mainly from a legal expert who could not find an "overwatch" role defined in the Australian Constitution, it appears that "overwatch" has failed to gain "popularity and traction" (to paraphrase Lee and McLoughlin, [12]). Although my trusty Macquarie Dictionary recognises "overwatch" as a word, I for one doubt that "overwatch" will warrant a 'sequel or more of the same' analysis. Actually, I'm not entirely sure that "Web 2.0" does either.


  1. Telstra Corporation Limited. http://www.telstra.com.au/nextg/
  2. The Sprit of Australia. http://www.qantas.com.au/
  3. Die Hard 4.0. http://www.diehard4.com.au/
  4. Mad Max. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad_Max
  5. BBC - Comedy Guide - Grumpy Old Men. http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/guide/articles/g/grumpyoldmen_999031010.shtml
  6. Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Ed. New York, NY: Free Press. (1st ed. 1962, 2nd ed. 1971, 3rd ed. 1983, 4th ed. 1995).
  7. For a 'shrink lit' kind of guide to Everett Rogers' ideas, see Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_innovations (the term 'shrink lit' is from Oz Shrink Lit, see http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/3315236)
  8. Google. http://www.google.com/ [viewed 12 Aug 2007]
  9. O'Reilly, T. (2005). What is Web 2.0: Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html (see also 'Web 2.0 Compact definition: Trying again'. http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2006/12/web_20_compact.html; and 'Controversy about our "Web 2.0" service mark'. http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2006/05/controversy_about_our_web_20_s.html)
  10. Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning? EDUCAUSE Review, 41(2), 32-44. http://www.educause.edu/apps/er/erm06/erm0621.asp
  11. Schindler, E. (2007). ABC: An introduction to Web 2.0. CIO.com. http://www.cio.com/article/101614
  12. Lee, M. J. W. & McLoughlin, C. (2007). Call for chapter proposals. Web 2.0-Based E-Learning: Applying Social Informatics for Tertiary Teaching. http://csusap.csu.edu.au/~malee/web2book/
  13. Plaisted, T. & Irvine, S. (2006). Learning from Web 2.0 practices: A tool to support realtime student collaboration. In Who's learning? Whose technology? Proceedings ASCILITE 2006. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/sydney06/proceeding/pdf_papers/p112.pdf
  14. Reid, P. (2007). Knowledge sharing via web2.0. http://www.digitalchalkie.com/2007/07/19/knowledge-sharing-via-web20/ [viewed 12 Aug 2007]
  15. Holt, D., Smissen, I. & Segrave, S. (2006). New students, new learning, new environments in higher education: Literacies in the digital age. In Who's learning? Whose technology? Proceedings ASCILITE 2006. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/sydney06/proceeding/pdf_papers/p162.pdf
  16. Pettit, J. & Kukulska-Hulme, A. (2006). Going with the grain: Mobile devices in practice. In Who's learning? Whose technology? Proceedings ASCILITE 2006. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/sydney06/proceeding/pdf_papers/p91.pdf
  17. Conole, G., de Laat, M., Dillon, T. & Darby, J. (2006). An in-depth case study of students' experiences of e-Learning - how is learning changing? In Who's learning? Whose technology? Proceedings ASCILITE 2006. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/sydney06/proceeding/pdf_papers/p127.pdf
  18. Jones, C. & Conole, G. (2006). Who will own the new VLE? Sharing practice, problems and alternative solutions. In Who's learning? Whose technology? Proceedings ASCILITE 2006. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/sydney06/proceeding/pdf_papers/p95.pdf
  19. Who's learning? Whose technology? Proceedings ASCILITE 2006. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/sydney06/
  20. ASCILITE Singapore 2007. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/singapore07/
  21. ABC News (2007). Howard says hospital takeover could be repeated. Wed 1 August. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/08/01/1994408.htm

Author: Roger Atkinson retired from Murdoch University's Teaching and Learning Centre in June 2001. His current activities include publishing AJET and honorary work on TL Forum, ascilite Singapore 2007 and other academic conference support and publishing activities. Website (including this article in html format): http://www.roger-atkinson.id.au/ Contact: rjatkinson@bigpond.com

Please cite as: Atkinson, R. (2007). Web 2.0: Next-g, a sequel, or more of the same? HERDSA News, 29(2). http://www.roger-atkinson.id.au/pubs/herdsa-news/29-2.html

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