The World Wide Web (WWW) was initially written as a “point and click hypertext editor” (Berners-Lee, 1998, para. 2). Used as a search device by academia and industry, it has over the years experienced both rapid and explosive growth. Earlier incarnations of the World Wide Web were known as “Web 1.0.” Since its inception however the internet has undergone a rapid transformation into what is now considered a sense of community, a reciprocal sharing among users, and a sense of “cognitive presence” (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000), which has been facilitated by a plethora of software tools that allowed users to widely share their work, in thought (e.g., blogs), in creative endeavors, and in collaborative projects. Siemens’ (2005) theory of “connectivism” encompasses the feeling that sharing promotes and encourages a sense of community that is continually being recreated by its audience. The newest forms of interaction are in the form of virtual worlds, in which avatars can attend class, build their own edifices, sell objects, and meet with other individuals in a global virtual exchange. What was once considered static computing has been transformed into a rich, dynamic environment that is defined by the people who peruse it, as evidenced in the following quotation: “The breaking down of barriers has led to many of the movements and issues we see on today’s internet. File-sharing, for example, evolves not of a sudden criminality among today’s youth, but rather in their pervasive belief that information is something meant to be shared” (Downes, 2006, para. 15). As of 2006, the Web had a billion users worldwide (Williams, 2007). Today’s Web users for the most part are not simply information seekers, but co-creators who wish to collaborate and share information in an electronic environment.
In describing the World Wide Web, Berners-Lee (1998, para. 3) refers to “…a common information space in which we communicate by sharing information.” It has actually taken several years, a multitude of software incarnations, and an exponential growth in users to achieve the original vision intended for the internet. For this reason, Downes (2006) refers to Web 2.0 as not a technological, but rather a social revolution, which has created a community of proactive participants who are constantly recreating their electronic domain. Some tools that have facilitated true connective practice are blogs (chronological diaries of information on a certain topic); wikis (editable Web pages); slideshow and video sharing; list sharing of event plans (with programs like Backpack®); sites devoted to communal picture uploads (e.g., Flickr™); social bookmarking; virtual worlds, and social networking sites (e.g., MySpace® and Facebook®, in which individuals can both post information and search for other people). RSS, also known as “really simple syndication,” “rich site summary” or “RDF site summary” software permits dynamic feeds of either new material from a site (such as Web pages, blogs, or news organizations) or downloads of new contributions (such as tagged social bookmarking topics) in an aggregated end product to the destination of one’s choice. Technologies that lend themselves to team work (like Wikipedia®, an online encyclopedia), involve the contribution and collaboration of many geographically dispersed individuals. In their research, Beck and Wade (2004) found for example that when presented with the statement “The best way to get things done is to connect with the right people” the highest percentage in both younger and older categories were frequent gamers. This study was conducted with 2,500 individuals in corporate America (Van Eck, 2007).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Connectivity: With regard to human participants in an “e-world,” this term refers to the linkages created by access and usage of Web 2.0 tools, in which an electronic community of participants is formed.
Web 2.0: The conception of the Web as a large, ever changing repository of user contributed and edited content. This version of the Web is “living,” in that it continually changes in response to user input, such as wikis, blogs, and social networking.
Web 1.0: The first incarnation of the internet, used for gathering information on various topics. This version was used by the government and educational institutions, where the emphasis was on individual searching, as opposed to dynamic and interactive contribution capabilities.
Collaboration: A unitive effort among individuals with the intent to share, create, and display information.
Virtual Worlds: Three dimensional electronic recreations of physical spaces, in which users can interact via an “avatar” with other users, and engage in a wide range of activities that are user orchestrated and maintained.
Cooperative Learning: A teaching strategy in which students work together (either in pairs or in groups) to master a particular lesson.
Second Life: A three dimensional universe in which avatars can transact business, meet one another, and purchase user created electronic objects (along with pieces of virtual land) using Linden dollars.