User Generated Content

Web 2.0 Offline

While thinking about the different applications Web 2.0 is bringing us, I have been also thinking about how this might be implemented offline, in media that are not based on the Web, and more importantly, applications where the media are not involved at all.
The main aspects, or components that make any application a Web 2.0 application are user-generated content, community empowerment (where the community decides what is and what is not acceptable), and the service provider acts merely as a platform for these activities to happen. This platform is a passive aggregator of whatever the community chooses to produce, and works only on making the platform easier to use, more efficient and effective at realizing the goals of the users and the community, and finally, works on marketing that platform.
In other words, I like to think of Web 2.0 as a new phenomenon of doing business, community activities, and transforming any aspect of our lives and work.
An application I imagined was having a city without a police force. That was my opening example for my presentation on this topic, in an attempt to make it familiar to the audience, and to show them that it is not that technical or complicated, it's just a really new way of doing things.
The police department of city X decides to empower its citizens by allowing them to photograph all the cars that are violating the law, and sending them via email to the department. The officers there will take a look at the photos, and if there is sufficient proof that the car is actually violating the law, a ticket will be issued, and sent to the car owner.

Why would anyone take photos?

I first thought that only people with nothing better to do than pick on other people's mistakes would be engaged in such a thing. But I immediately remembered the frustration I feel when some people park in front of our parking and stop us from getting in or out of our own house. Sometimes, we are in a hurry, sometimes guests are coming, and it is really frustrating to have to deal with it. In such a moment, I will definitely pick up my mobile phone, take a picture of that car, and immediately send it for him to receive his ticket. The beautiful thing is that there are other people also living in the same street who are frustrated with this, and probably one of us will take the picture.
A basic principle of Web 2.0, is that people engage in it for their self-interest. I would really be interested in doing this for our street, and might do it here and there occasionally, but I'm sure the people living there will make sure nobody intrudes. Since everyone will be using the system to protect their own street, almost all streets will be protected this way.

What benefits does it have for the police department?

This method provides much greater coverage for the department. Police officers cannot be everywhere all the time, and people will eventually learn that to take care of their neighborhood, they have the means for that, and they should do it. There will also be a lot more understanding and cooperation with normal citizens who will have the chance to be police officers whenever they need to be! This eliminates the "us vs. them" attitude, and transforms the community into a whole big "us" where "they" would be the ones breaking the law in a certain instance.
Eventually, when this becomes the norm in a certain society, policemen will be less needed to waste their time writing tickets, and can focus more on more important and deeper aspects of their work, like focusing on combatting organized crime, and training for more sophisticated skills.   

How does it benefit the society?

Just like society makes sure the social and ethical norms are being taken care of, again through their pursuit of self-interest, this circle will be expanded to included new areas never tackled before, it should also foster a new sense of cooperation and responsibiliy among people toward increasingly more aspects of their lives.

How to implement?

The first thing is to make this system available while keeping everything the way it is. This provides a buffer, since you cannot know when exactly the use will be widespread in society. Therefore, you keep things going as they are, advertise for the new system, start mentioning instances where this has happened, warn law-breakers that Big Brother has become one of your own, and sit back and watch the photos coming!