Web 2.0 and the Critical Thinking

Yesterday, I attended a forum at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue "Electing the American President: Do New Media, Blogs and the Internet Make any Difference?" The speaker (and the star of the evening) was Steven Clemons, the writer of a popular political blog “The Washington Note”. The evening was moderated by Robert Misik Austrian journalist and blogger. Late as always, I ended up sitting with a group of high-school kids, which I believe came from the American International School. This was kind of cool because the kids ended up being the most important aspect of the evening.

Clemons told us many amazing things and bedazzled us with his expertise but the main lesson of the evening – exactly because of the kids sitting in the audience - was to "Learn to write; learn to communicate and show your ability to think critically about the world." Up until that moment, I was “heavily suffering” under the (negative) influence of Andrew Keen’s book “The Cult of the Amateur – How Today’s Internet is Killing our Culture and Assaulting our Economy”. Yes, I hated Web 2.0 for the incredible amount of brain-shrinking rubbish and, as Washington Post’s Robert Samuelson puts it “greatest outburst of mass exhibitionism in human history.” ( I know, I am the queen of it). But Clemons’ message made me realise the importance of Web 2.0 in re-emerging of the critical thinking, especially in young people.

This point brought me back to my article about us, the children of the 1968 rebels (see “Writing”, The Vienna Review). In this article, I argued that maybe on the surface we might seem like “just a bunch of cynical, egoistic, lobotomised consumers” but that I do believe that there is an” idealistic spark hidden somewhere deep under the Prada logo, waiting to start changing the world”. I argued this with the increasing number of young people who are quitting their jobs in large corporations, boycotting big brands and instead buying local (and organic) products and even living in new forms of communes. Clemons made me realise that I have omitted one crucial point - the emergence of Web 2.0 as the cradle of the new critical thinking. So, off I am to start editing….. Thank you Steven.