Saturday, June 30, 2007

Andrew Keen: Doesn't Like Web 2.0 Nor His Spinach

The Cult of the Amateur: How Today*s Internet Is Killing Our Culture
by Andrew Keen New York: Doubleday, 2007.
ISBN-10: 0385520808 ISBN-13: 978-0385520805

NYTimes Review
iPhone Day June 29 2007

"Digital utopians have heralded the dawn of an era in which Web 2.0 - distinguished by a new generation of participatory sites like and, which emphasize user-generated content, social networking and interactive sharing - ushers in the democratization of the world: more information, more perspectives, more opinions, more everything, and most of it without filters or fees. Yet as the Silicon Valley entrepreneur Andrew Keen points out in his provocative new book, The Cult of the Amateur Web 2.0 has a dark side as well.

Mr. Keen argues that "what the Web 2.0 revolution is really delivering is superficial observations of the world around us rather than deep analysis, shrill opinion rather than considered judgment." In his view Web 2.0 is changing the cultural landscape and not for the better. By undermining mainstream media and intellectual property rights, he says, it is creating a world in which we will "live to see the bulk of our music coming from amateur garage bands, our movies and television from glorified YouTubes, and our news made up of hyperactive celebrity gossip, served up as mere dressing for advertising." This is what happens, he suggests, "when ignorance meets egoism meets bad taste meets mob rule."


Because Web 2.0 celebrates the "noble amateur" over the expert, and because many search engines and Web sites tout popularity rather than reliability, Mr. Keen notes, it's easy for misinformation and rumors to proliferate in cyberspace. For instance, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia (which relies upon volunteer editors and contributors) gets way more traffic than the Web site run by Encyclopedia Britannica (which relies upon experts and scholars), even though the interactive format employed by Wikipedia opens it to postings that are inaccurate, unverified, even downright fraudulent.


For that matter, as Mr. Keen points out, the idea of objectivity is becoming increasingly passé in the relativistic realm of the Web, where bloggers cherry-pick information and promote speculation and spin as fact. Whereas historians and journalists traditionally strived to deliver the best available truth possible, many bloggers revel in their own subjectivity, and many Web 2.0 users simply use the Net, .... .
Mr. Keen argues that the democratized Web's penchant for mash-ups, remixes and cut-and-paste jobs threaten not just copyright laws but also the very ideas of authorship and intellectual property. He observes that as advertising dollars migrate from newspapers, magazines and television news to the Web, organizations with the expertise and resources to finance investigative and foreign reporting face more and more business challenges.
"Our culture is essentially cannibalizing its young, destroying the very sources of the content they crave."


***Don't Forget to Listen To The NPR Interview w/Keen***


Alex said...

I saw an interview with Keen and I think he tends towards analog snobbery. Wikipedia is a great example. While I used to be very suspect of Wikipedia, the journal Nature recently did a study with very interesting results using Keens favorite juxtaposition between Wiki and Britannica.
"Only eight serious errors, such as misinterpretations of important concepts, were detected in the pairs of articles reviewed, four from each encyclopedia," reported Nature.

"But reviewers also found many factual errors, omissions or misleading statements: 162 and 123 in Wikipedia and Britannica, respectively."

Anonymous said...

'FACTUAL ERRORS' What is the definition of a fact? How do we know what a fact is? What were the standards the reviewers were using in this report on the very 'trustworthy' BBC site?