What follows are orphaned notes from Monday’s TIES conference that have been stranded on my desktop, starving for attention, yearning for completion.

After his general session, Chris Dede moderated a follow-up Communities of Interest question & answer session. A participant asked for his prediction of what the glories of Web 3.0 will look like. Dede’s off-the-cuff response was that he envisions Web 3.0 and its brand of knowledge to be a kind of happy collision or collusion between the previous webby incarnations—a combination of Web 1.0’s emphasis on top-down, authoritative knowledge and Web 2.0’s co-construction of knowledge and distributed learning. Old school meets new school equals. . . new-new school?

This analysis doesn’t ring quite true to me. Feels reductionist and limiting, like a zero-sum game in which the knowledge construction pie can only be divvied up in so many ways. Just recombining the same old tired building blocks. What he’s describing sounds like parallel play, not an integrated, collaborative, communal vision: the traditional lecture and lecturer mode gets to keep its vaunted spot, but there’s room for those wacky, meddling content-creating kids and their Mystery Machine. 

A truer vision of Web 3.0 might be how Jerry Yang of Yahoo responded to the same question (as reported by ZDNet and as noted in Wikipedia’s entry on Web 3.0):

We are seeing that manifest in Web 2.0 and 3.0 will be a great
extension of that, a true communal medium…the distinction between
professional, semi-professional and consumers will get blurred. . . .

Tim Berners-Lee is quoted in the same Wikipedia entry, sounding positively mystical with his prediction that Web 3.0 will involved "everything rippling and folding and looking misty." Admittedly he’s waxing eloquent specifically about the coming visual wonders of scalable vector graphics, but you get the idea.

Dede also talked about using concept mapping with his students to develop more sophisticated understanding of tag clouds, and the semantic relationships between concepts and the taggers behind the folksonomies. This seems like a definitive step in the direction of Web 3.0, which is why his response to the question is puzzling. It seems grounded in a stolidly two-dimensional view of knowledge as intellectual property, as a commodity to be owned, bounded by unblurry lines. Slipperier but more Yang and Berners-Lee’s vision of Web 3.0 as blurry, misty, and three-dimensional.

When they say Web 3.0 will be three-dimensional, they’re talking about its visual presence. But I think the idea of 3D goes beyond visual, beyond simply seeing. In the same way that the web molted its read-only skin and unfolded a startling new pair of powerful read-write wings, perhaps Web 3.0 will be similarly marked by the evolutionary emergence of conceptual organs, appendages, and even body forms we haven’t yet imagined. Our thinking will no longer be defined by what we read and write and create. Our ideas will be shared, a function of our networks and our place as a node within those networks; and as real actions out in the world.

The read-write-act web.

We’ll all need  to wear those funky 3D glasses.