The Dual Nature of Participatory Web and How Misinformation Seemingly Travels

The Dual Nature of Participatory Web and How Misinformation Seemingly Travels

Sameer Kumar (University of Malaya, Malaysia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch606


Web 2.0 is an internet technology that facilitates collaboration on the World Wide Web (WWW). As a direct product of people's freedom of expression, Web 2.0 technology has given birth to a new media – the Social Media that is redefining the way people collaborate and express themselves. By studying surveys in three specific aspects of its impact – social service, politics and as a vehicle of misinformation and through content analysis of some online comments, the author argues that social media is capable of transmitting both good and bad information. In the article, an illustration of how misinformation through video seemingly travels, is also presented.
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Web 2.0 does not refer to the update in the technical specification, but rather new applications and technology that makes web experience more interactive. While talking of Web 2.0 the applications such as Ajax or Openlaszlo are stated, which make the web as a ‘Participatory Web’. This is in contrast to the earlier version Web 1.0 which was essentially an ‘Information Web’. The main features of Web 2.0 are user-interaction, dynamic content, meta data and scalability (Best, 2006). Social media sites such as Facebook and Flickr make use of Web 2.0 technology in order to give interactivity to their sites. McAfee (2006) refers to the following technological features of Web 2.0, acronymed as SLATES – Search, Links, Authoring, Tags, Extension, Signals. Search enables keyword search, Links helps in linking to other documents within the page or elsewhere on the Net, Authoring refers to the ability to update, iterate and cumulate content, Tags help in searching and helping to avoid category rigidity, Extensions help in leveraging the Web as both document server and application platform, and finally, Signals that help to inform users of changes in the social media content. In more technical terms, Web 2.0 technology is based on two sides – Web browser side (client) and Web server side (server), and they utilize softwares like Ajax, JavaScript, Flash etc. to fetch data to and from the Web server and to carry on instant updates. Flash software technology is also used in music and video sites. YouTube is a good example of Flash technology. The popularity of Web 2.0 has encouraged all web allocations with collaborative and interactive functionality to append the term 2.0 to it – interestingly these name are, for example, Library 2.0, Publishing 2.0, Social Work 2.0, Travel 2.0, and the list goes on. Essentially all these Web applications use Web 2.0 technologies to provide better functionality in their domain of business.

In this article that author argues that although these new technologies are making Web even more popular and accessible, they are also making people spend long hours on seemingly unimportant and irrelevant conversations, dialogues, reviews and opinions. According to Andrew Keen, writer of ‘Cult of the Amateur’, Web 2.0 has “created a cult of digital narcissism and amateurism, which undermines the notion of expertise” (“Web 2.0 has created a cult of digital narcissism and amateurism?,” 2010). Just as a river, that carries everything – good or bad – as it flows, social media makes no discrimination between what is carries. Some people use it for a good cause, some as a campaign tool, while others use it to spread hatred and false news.

Through surveys and content analysis of some comments of Social Media, which includes blogs, discussion forums, newscasts, market research studies and traditional websites, on three determinants – 1) social service, 2) politics and 3) misinformation – we do a critical examination to see if social media is a double-edged sword – a technology which could be used to transmit both good and bad information.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Echo Chambers: the area of the virtual media where ideas and beliefs are reinforced through repetitive broadcast.

Misinformation: False information, rumors, etc. circulating through the online social media.

Influence Limitation: A process where misinformation (or ‘bad’) is diluted or replaced with correct (‘good’) information. Such an endeavor potentially reduces the harmful repercussions of misinformation.

BoP: In an acronym of ‘Bottom of Pyramid’ that refers to the poorest, yet largest strata of people. The poorest are usually defined by those group of people having earning of under USD 2.5/day.

Web 2.0: Often referred to as the second version of World Wide Web (or simply ‘Web’) that has interactivity. The earlier version of Web had static pages with little or no interactivity. AU27: Reference appears to be out of alphabetical order. Please check

Social Network Theory (SNT): SNT theory looks at associations in terms of ties and nodes, where nodes form a tie if there is some kind of relationship between them.

Social Media Sites: Websites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, etc, where people access the Internet to interact (chat, share photos and videos, communicate, etc.) with other people online.

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