From Culture 2.0 to a Network State of Mind: A Selective History of Web 2.0’s Axiologies and a Lesson from It

  • Pak-Hang Wong
Keywords: Self, Popular Discourse, Digital Media, Good Life, Axiology, Web 2.0, Information Ethics, Andrew Keen, Clay Shirky, Nicholas Carr, Sherry Turkle, Jaron Lanier, Nick Bilton, Charles Ess


There is never a shortage of celebratory and condemnatory popular discourse on digital media even in its early days. This, of course, is also true of the advent of Web 2.0. In this article, I shall argue that normative analyses of digital media should not take lightly the popular discourse, as it can deepen our understanding of the normative and axiological foundation(s) of our judgements towards digital media. Looking at some of the most representative examples available, I examine the latest wave of popular discourse on digital media, focusing on the (new) worries and doubts voiced by the alarmists and the (new) hopes and dreams portrayed by the enthusiasts. I shall illustrate that various stances in the popular discourse on Web 2.0 are ultimately rested on different notions of the self. This conclusion entails an important lesson for our practice of critiques of digital media, as it entails that our critiques of digital media cannot be done without referring to a notion of the self. Hence, a normative enquiry of digital media should not only be about the moral and/or prudential goodness or badness per se; it should be about who we should be online, or which notion(s) of the self we should strive for.