Local Is Simply You – best description yet of Web 2.0 and Glocalization

This is excellent. Over the last 36 hours, I’ve been chewing on these intersections, not quite seeing how they’re going to end up fitting together. Then along came this new essay by Danah Boyd, “Why Web2.0 Matters: Preparing for Glocalization“, and I’m totally there.

Well, not totally — as she says, it’s “bloody tricky” — but she did give me more than one epiphany moment and the motivation to dig deeper. As I read it, I also started to see answers to questions like these:

  • Why does Friendster (nearly all social networking sites) not hold interest?
  • Why is Google (inbound-link-based search) broken?
  • Why don’t I like some of my friends restaurant recommendations?
  • Why do I care what some blogger’s lat/long is?
  • Is it OK that I have 20 different tag maps tag clouds?

Still with me? Cool, go check it read it. I’m quoting several sections below (taking notes as I read basically), but her piece is lengthy and broad in scope, and worth reading in full.

(emphasis mine):

During the boom, there was a rush to get everything and everyone online. It was about creating a global village. Yet, packing everyone into the town square is utter chaos. People have different needs, different goals.

A global village assumes heterogeneous context and a hierarchical search assumes universals. Both are poor approximations of people’s practices. We keep creating technological solutions to improve this situation. Reputation systems, folksonomy, recommendations. But these are all partial derivatives, not the equation itself. This is not to dismiss them though because they are important; they allow us to build on the variables and approximate the path of the equation with greater accuracy. But what is the equation we’re trying to solve?

But on a personal level, no one actually wants to live in a global village. You can’t actually be emotionally connected to everyone in the world. While the global village provides innumerable resources and the possibility to connect to anyone, people narrow their attention to only focus on the things that matter. What matters is conceptually “local.”

In business, the local part of glocalization mostly refers to geography. Yet, the critical “local” in digital glocalization concerns culture and social networks. You care about the people that are like you and the cultural elements that resonate with you. In the most extreme sense, the local is simply you alone.

When the web started, the hype was that geography would no longer matter. Of course, we know that now to be utterly false. But the digital architecture did alter the network structure of society, allowing interest-driven bonds to complement geographically-manifested ones. Web1.0 created the infrastructure for glocalized networks.

Yet, the responsibility of big Web2.0 companies is to provide flexible glue to all of this innovation, to provide the information infrastructure that will permit glocalization, to allow for openness.

Those are just a few pull quotes. I know I missed numerous great one. If you read it, feel free to quote your favorite sections in my comments, as I’d love to hear what you got from it too.

OK, off to bed.



(I didn’t know it until I went back through this post to add links that Danah is a researcher at Yahoo! Research Berkeley.)