I try not to let myself get too hung up on terminology. “Web 2.0” is an irritatingly buzzwordy phrase, but it conveniently refers to a broad set of practices, patterns, and general zeitgeistiness in such a way that most people can understand what you’re talking about when you say it. I just shrug when people talk about eliminating the word “user” from their designs; it seems like a lot of work for very little benefit.

The more I hear the phrase “user-generated content,” though, the more I’m convinced it’s doing more harm than good. Increasingly, UGC is becoming code for “let’s convince our users to do all of our work for us, sit back, and watch the money roll in; if we’re lucky, they’ll even pay us for the privilege!” It’s a phrase that posits the user as an anonymous, interchangeable machine whose only purpose is to spew meaningless, interchangeable data. When I see people taking this attitude, my vision turns red and I start to get all hulk-smashy.

So now I’m looking for a new phrase to (over)use, one that doesn’t reek of exploitation and the commodification of people’s creative energies, and instead puts the emphasis back on the idea of the Web as a big collection of individual efforts. Something that encompasses your video blog about that mean girl in class on YouTube, your rad T-shirt design on Threadless, pictures of your vacation on Flickr, and your beadwork for sale on Etsy. “Folk Media” is a phrase that I’ve heard here and there, and it seems almost right, although “folk” might carry too many connotations of a strummy-strummy-la-la aesthetic. Does anyone out there have any better ideas?