The fallacy of web 2.0 utopians – motivational inforporn

Chris Aderson said that the future of business is free. We are still waiting for this revolution (email Chris for a detailed revolutionary plan, he’ll be happy to answer).

Now comes Clay Shirky with the next revolution: “innovation can happen everywhere”, he said yesterday (1:39′ of his talk). OK, let’s buy few more copies of Shirky’s books and wait for the next Microsoft or Google coming from Tanzania. Meanwhile, let me tell you why I think speeches on web 2.0 revolutions are motivational infoporn.

The dogma of web 2.0 primacy says: space doesn’t matter, innovation can happen everywhere. This dogma helps to sell books but relies on anecdotes that do not represent reality (still some of them are cool). “This is the kind of error that technological utopians make. They assume that their particular scientific revolution will wipe away all traces of its predecessors”. (Malcolm Gladwell). The role of the web is to decrease communication costs, but that doesn’t wipe away the power of physical clustering. Our research shows that where you live greatly matters when you befriend people in social media or come up with a new technology. It even matters when you choose which social event to attend – mates at my lab are able to predict whether you will go to the Sox game or the theatre depending on where you live. At the next talk on web 2.0 revolutions, please remember that physical spaces (cities, mega-regions) are the primary innovation organs, as Jane Jacobs beautifully argued in The Economy of Cities. It is in physical spaces that new goods and services are first created, and the world is growing ever more concentrated in creative centres. This is a fact that utopians purposely ignore – their production has nothing to do with scientific evidence, it’s infoporn, which, like all sorts of porn, can be motivational.

4 Responses to “The fallacy of web 2.0 utopians – motivational inforporn”

  1. Michalis P. says:

    Very interesting observation, very interesting blog. I think what you write in this post is more or less common sense that some people either refuse to or can’t see.
    I’d be interested to hear your opinion to overcome this situation however.
    Regards from Crete, Greece,
    Michalis

  2. good question, michalis. i feel that one should go for local initiatives – (1) create local creative cluster around a specialized area; (2) go global – connect the cluster to the other ones around the world. the question of how to do that is open & web 2.0 is not the final answer ;-)

  3. it’s a great article, chris!