Can the RenGen Save Web 2.0

I often imagine waking up in a world where the upheaval is behind us and the renaissance is in full bloom. In that daydream, people communicate with more kindness. And the Web is an encouraging and cooperative place where criticism is meated out fairly and without personal attack.

Then the fog lifts and I see the real Web where people embalm their enemies with toxic remarks. Vicious slurs are an accepted parlance in some chat rooms and on blogs. We have to face the fact that for all the community building and creativity born out of the Web, it has also fostered an acceptable level of contempt.

Possible excuses:
The Web’s anonymity allows cowards to hide in the weeds and sling mud
It’s a new medium with no serious editors or refs
If Karl Rove made us mean, Dick Cheney made us meaner
We hate our lives but can’t admit it.

Simon Dumenco recently wrote about the crassness of Web 2.0 but cites a different culprit–capitalism. He concludes that…

“The gloves are off, and so are the freakin’ rose-colored glasses, suckas! Let’s stop kidding ourselves: The webby arms race isn’t going to involve quasi-utopian technological advances so much as bare-knuckled brawls (mostly in courtrooms, although sometimes in digital back alleys), hostile takeovers and — sorry, consumers — increasingly brazen attacks on personal privacy in the name of “relevant” advertising delivery.”

Dumenco may be on to something. For my part, I am sticking to my 2008 prediction: We are growing wary of the wild wild Web and want standards. This goes for content providers, advertisers and fellow users. As we awaken from illusion that the Web is a frolicking free-for-all, we’ll yearn for all types of civil protections–privacy chief among them.

Sound like a pipe dream? Well, spring is all about redemption. Lots of things blossom. Let’s see what unfolds in Web 2.0.