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Can you define it?

Stephen Fry: Web 2.0

Stephen Fry (Author and Broadcaster) gives expert video advice on: What excites you about the way technology is evolving? and more...

Can you define it?

Web 2.0 is an idea in people's heads rather than a reality. People shouldn't feel, O my God I've got to upgrade, how do I upgrade to Web 2.0. Their current browser will do it for them. It's actually an idea that the reciprocity between the user and the provider is what's emphasized. In other words, genuine interactivity if you like, simply because people can upload as well as download.

Should we be afraid of Web 2.0?

The things you can do with Web 2.0 are astonishing because there is no reason why anybody with a computer and a little camera or a major serious camera which all can attach to computers these days can't themselves contribute. And that's a strange feeling and a lot of people are quite nervous about it, if not afraid. Obviously because they think, "that camera's on my computer and I go to the settings with the flash player and it immediately can see me, so does that mean that everybody on the Web can see me all the time?" It's a legitimate question to be afraid of! So people get a bit nervous about it, "oh, I'll unplug it", you know. There are all kinds of issues and fears as yet undreamt of, that will emerge, in terms of personal privacy for example and all the other big ethical issues.

What about the quality of User Generated Content?

If you've got an inbuilt camera or you've got one attached to some high AAA or USB interface, you are already only a tiny click away from being a live contributor to those sites. There's usually an upload option and you can upload what you like, whatever the quality. This naturally makes it extremely difficult for the people who run the sites to monitor quality, because they are getting hundreds of thousands, millions of people uploading vast quantities, in terabytes, of them either expressing themselves in an embarrassing fashion or unloading themselves of some preposterous dull theory of Jesus, and that has to be waded through for quality. Because that's obviously what you get, in that sense it's the street corner and there will be a lot of poor quality material, mad people with banners. But there will be good quality material, good street theatre too. But then you go a little further into the more regulated or more moderated areas and naturally people will be providing really extraordinary things of amazing quality.

How will Web 2.0 change traditional television?

As a performer/presenter myself I wonder whether Web 2.0 is going to take away all meaning from the idea of any form of television station as we know it and any providers. Because the possibilities of web 2.0 are so remarkable, there is no reason for you not to have all the quality you expect from your television on your computer. So really what are television personalities like me going to do in the future? Well, I think there will still be a place for highly produced drama done in studios. Whether it is done for a mainstream broadcaster or a Webcaster, if you want to call that, or some company that offers channels and bandwidth in any other form, that's a moot point.

What excites you about the way technology is evolving?

I suppose what excites me about the way technology is evolving is the availability of things that one had thought scarce. Whether that is actually knowledge and understanding techniques that you can have access to, it's not because one is lazy, but you can have access to things now which before took huge effort. For example entertainment, when I was growing up watching television, if you missed a program, that was it. That was absolutely it. I remember when Dr.Who first came out in the early sixties, around the time my parents moved house, in the moving, the television got broken. And we arrived at this new house and plugged in the television to watch the third ever episode of Dr.Who, and the television was dead. And I still want that moment back. I still want to go back to being the age of seven, six in fact I think, and I want to see that episode, I want to put that right! As the poet says you can never hope to recapture that first fine careless rapture, but you grew up thinking there were things that were lost. I remember seeing the first half of Suddenly Last Summer, a film based on the Tennessee Williams play, with Monty Clifton and Elizabeth Taylor and then being sent to bed. I was so upset and I used to look everyday in the newspapers for the next twenty years to see if it was going to be on television. And then videos arrived, which excited me. And then DVDs arrived, which excited me more. And then the terrifically exciting possibility of downloading a movie onto your iPod, onto your mobile phone, onto whatever device you happen to have arose. The idea that you could lose that moment is completely disappeared.