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Posts Tagged ‘semantic web

I read You Are Not a Gadget: The Continuing Case Against Web 2.0.

You are not a moron. If you realize that Web 2.0 is but a stepping stone in the evolution of the WWW. Next step? The semantic Web.

[image source, used under CC licence]

Is Web 2.0 perfect? It is not. But it is a huge leap from Web 1.0 in that it allows everyone with the means to create and critique easily. This in turn creates LOTS of content online.

We then need to make sense of this information explosion. That is where Web 3.0 comes in. Here is a quick and dirty comparison of Web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0.

Last year, a writer at The Atlantic asked Is Google Making Us Stupid? Recently another writer from the same publication wondered if the opposite was true. They might seem to be taking different sides, but they are really providing depth to the same coin.

The first author said:

the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

I found it somewhat ironic that he wrote an article that a digital native would likely skip. A persistent or struggling digital immigrant (the type that still licks a finger to turn a page) was more likely to read it all the way through. Maybe he was targetting the old school reader as his audience.

But the main issue beckons. There is value in different forms of reading. I agree that more people seem to read only on the surface because of media like mobile phone SMS, ticker-tape TV and the WWW. The need to skim or “power browse” has become necessary to deal with the way information is presented and the sheer amount of information that is now available.

Any educator or digital immigrant would tell you that once the skimming is done and something relevant is found, the reader should then read deeply and reflectively. But that is becoming a lost art. And it is inevitable. After all, how many of us still know how to plant crops and milk a cow the good old fashioned way? Technology has reduced our need to do these things so we can focus on other arguably more worthwhile tasks.

I am a realistic optimist, so I tend to agree more with the second author that technology will help us get smarter in our bid to survive as a species. We might seem to be losing some of our cognitive abilities (e.g., attention span) with the explosion of information but this is only a phase in our development. I’d also like to think that “we’ll move from a world of ‘continuous partial attention’ to one we might call ‘continuous augmented awareness.'” In other words, technology will not only allow us to get the information we need when we need it, it will also help us make sense of it. The author gave great examples in the form of customised travel itineraries and focused Twittering.

I am a bit surprised that there was no mention of Web 3.0 (the semantic Web) which I think is a critical stage in developing continuous augmented awareness. Rather than define Web 3.0, I’ll give an example of what I think it might look like.

Imagine that you are a parent of two children, one is a bright child and the other has special needs. You have a Facebook profile and a blog. You Google for a variety of information regularly (meal ideas, strategies for dealing with special needs, educational and enrichment activities, etc.) and participate in a loose but passionate community of parents on the Net. With Web 2.0, you generate information effortlessly, share it with others and respond to what they have to say. But there is still a lot of information that you need to look for and process.

With Web 3.0, only what is meaningful to you comes to you. As you search for information online, the engine is already aware that you are a parent of two very different kids because of what you post in Facebook, your blog and the forums you participate in. The search results (and even the ads that come with it) are more meaningful to you.

You may not even have to search for relevant information. You carry this information and, say, your shopping list with you in a mobile device when you go out. As you walk past a bookstore, a virtual display changes to highlight a help book or game that might be useful to your children. While doing groceries, you receive notifications on food items on your list that are on sale.

This is continuous augmented awareness. This is Web 3.0 (or even beyond it). This may scare advocates of privacy, but the notion of privacy depends on culture and it changes with time. I am looking forward to such a world because we will collectively want to make it this way, not because some Big Brother is forcing us.

Video source (MP4 version available at source)

How we change the world in this “ground up” manner is another story. But I think that the video above gives us a clue on how this is already happening. The video is long, but I think that it will be 60 minutes well spent. There was nothing about education is it, but it got me thinking about the world our children will be living in. Their education should prepare them as best as possible for their world, not ours.


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