The Cult of the Amateur

…or how to pretend that the Internet is the evil in our lives.

Andrew Keen is a critic of the Internet. He has a very elitist way of viewing what role the Internet is playing in our lives and the one it SHOULD play.

Here are some of the main points he makes:

  • on the Internet you can be anyone. That is why we should not trust the “academic” materials on the web, because we cannot be sure if they are written by an university professor, a dog, or the Easter Bunny. He gives the example of Wikipedia;
  •  “the noble amateur” is everywhere on the Internet. It takes time and a high amount of knowledge to become a lawyer, a doctor or a journalist. But in this cyberworld there are “amateurs” without any degree who give their opinion without having any authority;
  • the Internet brings the death of music businesses, book businesses, and especially film industry;

Here is what I think about his points: they are highly exaggerated.  Andrew Keen is obviously one of the  conservative people believing that this new technology brings the death of “real culture”. In the early 1990s the TV was believed to bring the end of radio. And here we are, in 2012, still having and listening radio; in a different way, of course, but it is still part of our lives.

In my opinion, what Andrew Keen did not understand about Web 2.0 is that it is more concentrated on the individual. Yes, you can be anyone on the Internet. And there are many false intellectuals pretending to posses the knowledge. But it is up to you, as an INDIVIDUAL, to believe them or not, to differentiate between an authentic  writer and a “nobody”. Last semester I had to write an essay about cyberculture. I used many materials from the Internet, but I did not get them from an obscure forum or from Wikipedia. I went on the official site of W3, where there was plenty of information about Tim Berners Lee. How did I know they were true? Because he wrote in his books to visit this page. That is how you chose the right information.

The author of this book complains about “self-made music” that would make singers like Bob Dylan forgotten, “transforming culture into cacophony”. Excuse me, sir, but I think only who does not know anything about Bob Dylan would chose a crappy remix over his songs. However, I would listen remixes and self-made music. I definitely would. But I would never say they are better than Bob Dylan`s songs.

“The noble amateur” is my favorite chapter. I cannot criticize the entire chapter. It would take me far too much time.

This time Keen claims that “citizen” journalism is the black sheep of “journalism“. Bloggers cannot tell the truth in a professional manner. Citizens cannot give accurate information because… they do not have the right training. He gives the example of what happened after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Most of the initial information came from citizen journalist, simple people who lived that awful experience and were blogging and uploading pictures right after the tragedy. Andrew Keen argues that they were not accurate because these people were not trained, experienced journalists. Yes, they did not write stories using the inverted pyramid; but they wrote the truth, they took the real pulse of the situation and spread the gravity of it.

One of his few points I agree with is that “The Liquid Library” project is simply stupid. Kevin Kelly wants to transform every book from paper to digital and then to put them in a big virtual library. Nothing bad till this point. Only that he goes further. He wants to give access to anyone to edit the text of the books so they can create their own stories based on published literature. This is interaction used in the wrong way. It is not about articles written by amateurs anymore. It is about professional writing transformed by amateurs. And this is wrong.

As I previously said, I think Andrew Keen missed the point of web 2.0. He did not understand that it is exactly like the age of enlightenment in art: the human being, the individual, is put in the center of the digital world. It is all about interaction and personal choice. It is all about people creating for other people.

But maybe my opinion is highly influenced by the fact that I am (still) an amateur. I do not have (yet) the professional authority to give my opinion on anything, according to Andrew Keen.

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  1. #1 by Shane Conway on March 12, 2012 - 3:50 pm

    Quite liked it. you certainly challenged his points very well.

    I would agree with what you have said except for radio is dying. most people now listen to radio in the car rather than at home. followed closely by listening to radio at work.

    The reason is because you obviously cannot drive and watch TV nor can you type on your computer desk at work at watch TV. you can however listen, also pointing out that radio even when in the background is exactly that background noise. However T.v is either being watched or not watched.

    Having been in the radio industry for only a few short years, you could say i too am not experienced enough to comment but it is an unfortunate truth that radio stations are closing due to lack of advertising, yet big media company’s like BSKYB, their TV revenue is comparability up, when you consider the world recession at the moment. This revenue is going to both TV and ONLINE pushing of advertising. Lastly to mention is most radio stations you can now WATCH live via webcam. This is now almost a must.

    So i think personally the Internet will kill radio. only the Really strong backed will survive and this is down to web.2.0 accelerating personalized viewing experience for the user.

    • #2 by Tina on March 12, 2012 - 4:01 pm

      I am not sure it will die. It definitely must change, it will have to find other ways to make money. I`m not sure how though. I think we just have to wait and see.

  2. #3 by professoroldham on March 12, 2012 - 4:02 pm

    I think there will always be room for great radio, but that the internet will trump the clear-channelization of commercial radio. Check out http://www.kdhx.org for an example of the stations I think will survive.

  3. #4 by nikipattanaik on March 12, 2012 - 4:11 pm

    Reblogged this on Nikipattanaik's Blog.

  4. #5 by Paule Steikunaite on March 12, 2012 - 7:32 pm

    Great blog. Though I am not only an amateur (hopefully, as you’ve said, still), but not really keen on Internet novelties as well, I defo agree with all your points made.

    It made me wonder, maybe some professionals, with bunch of degrees (probably Mr Keen is one of them) are a bit scared that them amateurs may built up better stuff then they do: write better stories, create better music, etc..

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