Revolutions, restrictions and web 2.0 grumpiness

As a historian, I am very interested in the parallels between the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, and previous revolutions. I decided to use Glogster to do a little “play” creation with video clips,  mostly because I wanted a way to have all the video on one page, going at the same time.  Can’t really happen, I don’t think, with any of the 50 tools.

My inspiration is a little story too. I was walking on the treadmill at the gym, watching Dr Zhivago on TV, and out of the corner of my eye I caught TV news coverage of Egypt, the people on the streets. Look at the treadmill TV and it was people on the streets in a fictional movie; look up and it’s real people in the streets in Egypt.

This is a half poster because I wanted everything “above the fold” on the screen — Glogster doesn’t do half posters.


So Glogster restricted me. Web 2.0 tools are intended to be liberating. The easier a tool is for the masses to use, the more restricting it is for those of us old farts who can embed video into HTML pages. What I wanted was something like this:

so I did it on a web page with Quicktime embedding. Even Posterous tried to restrict me, not letting me autoplay this movie if I uploaded it, so I embedded it myself.

But did I fulfill the assignment? Alexander and Levine’s article says digital stories are “open-ended, branching, hyperlinked, cross-media, participatory, exploratory, and unpredictable”. This isn’t any of those things, except that it contains three media: text, images, video. I used a Web 2.0 tool, but not in a Web 2.0 way.

I did, however, “[f]ollow a drama on YouTube”, though it has also been through Al-Jazeera – it’s a story that’s just starting.

All of this helps explain why I do not like the label Web 2.0. It’s just the web, as it is, now. You can use it in a collaborative way, or not. And like everything else we repurpose to use ourselves, we add an interpretive layer. That hasn’t changed. We have always recombined information and media to see things differently.

So I get a little grumpy when I read things like the diaries of an English soldier “come to life in this new format” (Alexander and Levine, 56). No, they don’t come to life. They get a different life, created by someone else. It’s kind of like that old copyright law stuff – it’s the same thing until you change its format. If you take a diary that’s intended to be read, and you tweet it instead, it’s something else. And something else is fine. Unless you wanted the diary.

2 comments to Revolutions, restrictions and web 2.0 grumpiness

  • Alan Levine

    I do like the wall of video effect- there’s probably some web tool to achieve that, though it might not exactly be a story tool. Gloster really is a fixed canvas and not really the kind of thing you want or can embed easily. I’d push back on the ” Web 2.0 tools are intended to be liberating.” which suggests you want it to do everything you want to. That’s not the sense of liberation you describe, of course.What is more interesting to me is being creative within the limits. Glogster is a fixed canvas as opposed to the infinite canvas of prezi. You might be able to window it by limiting parameters in the embed code, but it is best viewed directly on the site.Vuvox Collage keeps you above the fold, but makes the infinite a horizontal scroll.Darn, you historians are tough crowd!

  • Lisa M Lane

    I did try Vuvox first, and One True Media, but… if you have to scroll, I stroll.You are so right about creativity within the limits – I argue that myself all the time. And after reading your comment, it occurred to me that the assignment was to play with a tool, let it inspire me, rather than try to force a tool to do what I had in mind.I confess to having a great deal of trouble coming to a tool without an idea of some kind, and just fooling around. So although I am not a typical historian, perhaps I am indeed stodgier than I’d like to be.