The defining characteristic of Web 2.0 is that users can contribute content. Websites are no longer static, under the control of a ‘webmaster’/organisation, but dynamic, with many creatoprs actively encouraging others to add content.

At its most basic level this may mean allowing comments, probably moderated, to a blog post, or inviting stars and reviews. The most vivid example of user-generated content (UGC) is perhaps Wikipedia, almost entirely the creation of volunteers who contribute content for a wide range of motives.

UGC turns websites from adverts and noticeboards into conversations, it invites audiences to actively engage with products or services. But at the same time, Web 2.0 creates an easily accessible platform for criticism, even ridicule. From the beginning, this was the great fear of felt by any organisation considering puttin a toe into these uncharted water.

“What if people say nasty things about us?”

The answer of course, was that if people wanted to say nasty things about your product or service, they woy would do, and unless they broke the law, there was little an organisation could do top stop it. The advice of most social media experts was something along the lines of “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

At a deeper level, the debate highlighted one of the fundamentals of public relations, namely that reputation comes from what an organisation does, rather than what it tries to say it does.


As wellas allowing people to comment, Web 2.0 is ideally suited for redistribution and repurposing. If we can still accept a traditonal definition of PR that it is concened with acquiring third party endorsement of a product or service, then the ability to pass on messages is of great interest to organisations. Once, endorsement meant (positive) coverage in a newspaper, now it may just as usefully mean a ‘like’ on Facebook, a re-tweet, tagging or social bookmarking.

At one level, we might edit a tweet before retweeting, perhaps adding opr detracting from its meaning. Or we might take a more complex message and make adaptations that enhance, detract or mutate its meaning.

A related concept is that of the mash up, where two or more devices, often widgets or platforms, are combined to create a new meaning. A good example might be the various uses to which Google’s mapping function can be used (subject of a future session).

Remember teh controversial ‘airbrushed’ David Cameron poster? See how this has been repurposed by searching on Google. Then make your own!

One of the most amusing examples of purposing is video editing. Take Downfall, a rather good, German film which tackled the rather touchy subject of the last day’s of Adolf Hitler. In one famous scene, some understandably nervous senior generals pluck up the courage to tell Hitler how serious a situation Germany faces. Hitler does not take this well – and the ensuing ‘rant’ has been repurposed many times, using the simple device of subtitles. Background: The Hitler Meme, New York Times,


I have tried hard to convince you of the value of social bookmarking, particularly Delicious, and the concept of tagging. Tagging offers a very useful perspective on reputation as the aggregation of individual comments. It can also create communities in the most unusual places –

Reviews, ratings and UGC

A couple of our bloggers, Amy and Hannah are watching movies – have a look at Green Issues and Amylockhart18’s Blog . Amy is asking us to vote on which film she should watch and review – go there and offer a helping hand.

Choose one of the films and see what you can find out about it, paying particular attention to fan sites, apps, games, YouTube etc. Spend some time investigating and report back with a detailed comment, including links.