Amateur hour has arrived, and the audience is running the show
In a hard-hitting and provocative polemic, Silicon Valley insider and pundit Andrew Keen exposes the grave consequences of today’s new participatory Web 2.0 and reveals how it threatens our values, economy, and ultimately the very innovation and creativity that forms the fabric of American achievement.
Our most valued cultural institutions, Keen warns—our professional newspapers, magazines, music, and movies—are being overtaken by an avalanche of amateur, user-generated free content. Advertising revenue is being siphoned off by free classified ads on sites like Craigslist; television networks are under attack from free user-generated programming on YouTube and the like; file-sharing and digital piracy have devastated the multibillion-dollar music business and threaten to undermine our movie industry. Worse, Keen claims, our “cut-and-paste” online culture—in which intellectual property is freely swapped, downloaded, remashed, and aggregated—threatens over 200 years of copyright protection and intellectual property rights, robbing artists, authors, journalists, musicians, editors, and producers of the fruits of their creative labors.
In today’s self-broadcasting culture, where amateurism is celebrated and anyone with an opinion, however ill-informed, can publish a blog, post a video on YouTube, or change an entry on Wikipedia, the distinction between trained expert and uninformed amateur becomes dangerously blurred. When anonymous bloggers and videographers, unconstrained by professional standards or editorial filters, can alter the public debate and manipulate public opinion, truth becomes a commodity to be bought, sold, packaged, and reinvented.
The very anonymity that the Web 2.0 offers calls into question the reliability of the information we receive and creates an environment in which sexual predators and identity thieves can roam free. While no Luddite—Keen pioneered several Internet startups himself—he urges us to consider the consequences of blindly supporting a culture that endorses plagiarism and piracy and that fundamentally weakens traditional media and creative institutions.
Offering concrete solutions on how we can reign in the free-wheeling, narcissistic atmosphere that pervades the Web, THE CULT OF THE AMATEUR is a wake-up call to each and every one of us.
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About the Author
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The Great Seduction
First a confession. Back in the Nineties, I was a pioneer in the first Internet gold rush. With the dream of making the world a more musical place, I founded Audiocafe.com, one of the earliest digital music sites. Once, when asked by a San Francisco Bay area newspaper reporter how I wanted to change the world, I replied, half seriously, that my fantasy was to have music playing from “every orifice,” to hear the whole Bob Dylan oeuvre from my laptop computer, to be able to download Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos from my cellular phone.
So yes, I peddled the original Internet dream. I seduced investors and I almost became rich. This, therefore, is no ordinary critique of Silicon Valley. It’s the work of an apostate, an insider now on the outside who has poured out his cup of Kool–Aid and resigned his membership in the cult.
My metamorphosis from believer into skeptic lacks cinematic drama. I didn’t break down while reading an incorrect Wikipedia entry about T. H. Huxley or get struck by lightning while doing a search for myself on Google. My epiphany didn’t involve a dancing coyote, so it probably wouldn’t be a hit on YouTube.
It took place over forty–eight hours, in September 2004, on a two–day camping trip with a couple of hundred Silicon Valley utopians. Sleeping bag under my arm, rucksack on my back, I marched into camp a member of the cult; two days later, feeling queasy, I left an unbeliever.
The camping trip took place in Sebastopol, a small farming town in northern California’s Sonoma Valley, about fifty miles north of the infamous Silicon Valley—the narrow peninsula of land between San Francisco and San Jose. Sebastopol is the headquarters of O’Reilly Media, one of the world’s leading traffickers of books, magazines, and trade shows about information technology, an evangelizer of innovation to a worldwide congregation of technophiles. It is both Silicon Valley’s most fervent preacher and its noisiest chorus.
Each Fall, O’Reilly Media hosts an exclusive, invitation–only event called FOO (Friends of O’Reilly) Camp. These friends of multi–millionaire founder Tim O’Reilly are not only unconventionally rich and richly unconventional but also harbor a messianic faith in the economic the cult of the amateur and cultural benefits of technology. O’Reilly and his Silicon Valley acolytes are a mix of graying hippies, new media entrepreneurs, and technology geeks. What unites them is a shared hostility toward traditional media and entertainment. Part Woodstock, part Burning Man (the contemporary festival of self-expression held in a desert in Nevada), and part Stanford Business School retreat, FOO Camp is where the countercultural Sixties meets the free–market Eighties meets the technophile Nineties.
Silicon Valley conferences weren’t new to me. I had even organized one myself at the tail end of the last Internet boom. But FOO Camp was radically different. Its only rule was an unrule: “no spectators, only participants.” The camp was run on open-source, Wikipediastyle participatory principles—which meant that everyone talked a lot, and there was no one in charge.
So there we were, two hundred of us, Silicon Valley’s antiestablishment establishment, collectively worth hundreds of millions of dollars, gazing at the stars from the lawn of O’Reilly Media’s corporate headquarters. For two full days, we camped together, roasted marshmallows together, and celebrated the revival of our cult together.
The Internet was back! And unlike the Gold Rush Nineties, this time around our exuberance wasn’t irrational. This shiny new version of the Internet, what Tim O’Reilly called Web 2.0, really was going to change everything. Now that most Americans had broadband access to the Internet, the dream of a fully networked, always-connected society was finally going to be realized. There was one word on every FOO Camper’s lips in September 2004. That word was “democratization.”
I never realized democracy has so many possibilities, so much revolutionary potential. Media, information, knowledge, content, audience, author–all were going to be democratized by Web 2.0. The Internet would democratize Big Media, Big Business, Big Government. It would even democratize Big Experts, transforming them into what one friend of O’Reilly called, in a hushed, reverent tone, “noble amateurs.”
Although Sebastopol was miles from the ocean, by the second morning of camp, I had begun to feel seasick. At first I thought it was the greasy camp food or perhaps the hot northern California weather. But I soon realized that even my gut was reacting to the emptiness at the heart of our conversation.
I had come to FOO Camp to imagine the future of media. I wanted to know how the Internet could help me “bring more music to more orifices.” But my dream of making the world a more musical place had fallen on deaf ears; the promise of using technology to bring more culture to the masses had been drowned out by FOO Campers’ collective cry for a democratized media.
The new Internet was about self-made music, not Bob Dylan or the Brandenburg Concertos. Audience and author had become one, and we were transforming culture into cacophony.
FOO Camp, I realized, was a sneak preview. We weren’t there just to talk about new media; we were the new media. The event was a beta version of the Web 2.0 revolution, where Wikipedia met MySpace met YouTube. Everyone was simultaneously broadcasting themselves, but nobody was listening. Out of this anarchy, it suddenly became clear that what was governing the infinite monkeys now inputting away on the Internet was the law of digital Darwinism, the survival of the loudest and most opinionated. Under these rules, the only way to intellectually prevail is by infinite filibustering.
The more that was said that weekend, the less I wanted to express myself. As the din of narcissism swelled, I became increasingly silent. And thus began my rebellion against Silicon Valley. Instead of adding to the noise, I broke the one law of FOO Camp 2004. I stopped participating and sat back and watched.
I haven’t stopped watching since. I’ve spent the last two years observing the Web 2.0 revolution, and I’m dismayed by what I’ve seen.
I’ve seen the infinite monkeys, of course, typing away.
And I’ve seen many other strange sights as well, including a video of marching penguins selling a lie, a supposedly infinite Long Tail, and dogs chatting to each other online. But what I’ve been watching is more like Hitchcock’s The Birds than Doctor Doolittle: a horror movie about the consequences of the digital revolution.
Because democratization, despite its lofty idealization, is undermining truth, souring civic discourse, and belittling expertise, experience, and talent. As I noted earlier, it is threatening the very future of our cultural institutions.
I call it the great seduction. The Web 2.0 revolution has peddled the promise of bringing more truth to more people–more depth of information, more global perspective, more unbiased opinion from dispassionate observers. But this is all a smokescreen. 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. The information business is being transformed by the Internet into the sheer noise of a hundred million bloggers all simultaneously talking about themselves.
Moreover, the free, user-generated content spawned and extolled by the Web 2.0 revolution is decimating the ranks of our cultural gatekeepers, as professional critics, journalists, editors, musicians, moviemakers, and other purveyors of expert information are being replaced (“disintermediated,” to use a FOO Camp term) by amateur bloggers, hack reviewers, homespun moviemakers, and attic recording artists. Meanwhile, the radically new business models based on user-generated material suck the economic value out of traditional media and cultural content.
We—those of us who want to know more about the world, those of us who are the consumers of mainstream culture—are being seduced by the empty promise of the “democratized” media. For the real consequence of the Web 2.0 revolution is less culture, less reliable news, and a chaos of useless information. One chilling reality in this brave new digital epoch is the blurring, obfuscation, and even disappearance of truth.
Truth, to paraphrase Tom Friedman, is being “flattened,” as we create an on–demand, personalized version that reflects our own individual myopia. One person’s truth becomes as “true” as anyone else’s. Today’s media is shattering the world into a billion personalized truths, each seemingly equally valid and worthwhile. To quote Richard Edelman, the founder, president, and CEO of Edelman PR, the world’s largest privately owned public relations company:
In this era of exploding media technologies there is no truth except the truth you create for yourself. (1)
This undermining of truth is threatening the quality of civil public discourse, encouraging plagiarism and intellectual property theft, and stifling creativity. When advertising and public relations are disguised as news, the line between fact and fiction becomes blurred. Instead of more community, knowledge, or culture, all that Web 2.0 really delivers is more dubious content from anonymous sources, hijacking our time and playing to our gullibility.
Need proof ? Let’s look at that army of perjurious penguins–“Al Gore’s Army of Penguins” to be exact. Featured on YouTube, the film, a crude “self-made” satire of Gore’s pro–environment movie An Inconvenient Truth, belittles the seriousness of Al Gore’s message by depicting a penguin version of Al Gore preaching to other penguins about global warning.
But “Al Gore’s Army of Penguins” is not just another homemade example of YouTube inanity. Though many of the 120,000 people who viewed this video undoubtedly assumed it was the work of some SUV–driving amateur with an aversion to recycling, in reality, the Wall Street Journal traced the real authorship of this neocon satire to DCI Group, a conservative Washington, D.C., public relationships and lobbying firm whose clients include Exxon-Mobil.2 The video is nothing more than political spin, enabled and perpetuated by the anonymity of Web 2.0, masquerading as independent art. In short, it is a big lie.
Blogs too, can be vehicles for veiled corporate propaganda and deception. In March 2006, the New York Times reported about a blogger whose laudatory postings about Wal–Mart were “identical” to press releases written by a senior account supervisor at the Arkansas retailer’s PR company. (3) Perhaps this is the same team behind the mysterious elimination of unflattering remarks about Wal–Mart’s treatment of its employees on the retailer’s Wikipedia entry.
Blogs are increasingly becoming the battlefield on which public relations spin doctors are waging their propaganda war. In 2005, before launching a major investment, General Electric executives met with environmental bloggers to woo them over the greenness of a new energy–efficient technology. Meanwhile, multinationals like IBM, Maytag, and General Motors all have blogs that, under an objective guise, peddle their versions of corporate truth to the outside world.
But the anticorporate blogs are equally loose with the truth. In 2005, when the famous and fictitious finger–in–the–chili story broke, every anti–Wendy’s blogger jumped on it as evidence of fast–food malfeasance. The bogus story cost Wendy’s $2.5 million in lost sales as well as job losses and a decline in the price of the company’s stock.
As former British Prime Minister James Callaghan said, “A lie can make its way around the world before the truth has the chance to put its boots on.” That has never been more true than with the speeding, freewheeling, unchecked culture of today’s blogosphere. It doesn’t require the gravitas of a world leader to appreciate the implications of this democratized media. In a flattened, editor–free world where independent videographers,
podcasters, and bloggers can post their amateurish creations at will, and no one is being paid to check their credentials or evaluate their material, media is vulnerable to untrustworthy content of every stripe—whether from duplicitous PR companies, multinational corporations like Wal–Mart and McDonald’s, anonymous bloggers, or sexual predators with sophisticated invented identities.
Who is to say, for example, that a Malaysian prostitution ring didn’t sponsor the famous YouTube video of the sexy Malaysian dancer? Or that the Englishwoman in the YouTube video eating the chocolate and marmalade cookie isn’t really being paid by United Biscuits Incorporated?
Who is to say that the glowing review of The Cult of the Amateur on Amazon.com that might have led you to purchase this “brilliantly original” book wasn’t authored by me, posing as an enthusiastic third party?
As I’ll discuss in more detail in Chapter 3, truth and trust are the whipping boys of the Web 2.0 revolution. In a world with fewer and fewer professional editors or reviewers, how are we to know what and whom to believe? Because much of the user–generated content on the Internet is posted anonymously or under a pseudonym, nobody knows who the real author of much of this self-generated content actually is. It could be a monkey. It could be a penguin. It could even be Al Gore.
Look at Wikipedia, the Internet’s largest cathedral of knowledge. Unlike editors at a professional encyclopedia like the Britannica, the identity of the volunteer editors on Wikipedia is unknown. These citizen editors out-edit other citizen editors in defining, redefining, then reredefining truth, sometimes hundreds of times a day. Take, for example, July 5, 2006, the day Enron embezzler Ken Lay died. At 10:06 A.M. that day, the Wikipedia entry about Lay said he died of an “apparent suicide.” Two minutes later, it said that the cause of death was an “apparent heart attack.” Then at 10:11 A.M., Wikipedia reported that the “guilt of ruining so many lives finally led him to his suicide.”4 At 10:12, we were back to the massive coronary causing Lay’s demise. And in February 2007, just minutes after ex-Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith died in Florida, her Wikipedia page was flooded with conflicting, speculative versions of the cause of death. As Marshall Poe observed in the September 2006 issue of the Atlantic:
We tend to think of truth as something that resides in the world. The fact that two plus two equals four is written in the stars…But Wikipedia suggests a different theory of truth. Just think about the way we learn what words mean…The community decides that two plus two equals four the same way it decides what an apple is: by consensus. Yes, that means that if the community changes its mind and decides that two plus two equals five, then two plus two does equal five. The community isn’t likely to do such an absurd or useless thing, but it has the ability. (5)
In Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Big Brother insisted that two plus two equaled five, transforming a patently incorrect statement into the state–sanctioned, official truth. Today, as I discuss in Chapter 7, there is potentially an even more threatening Big Brother lurking in the shadows: the search engine. We pour our innermost secrets into the all–powerful search engine through the tens of millions of questions we enter daily. Search engines like Google know more about our habits, our interests, our desires than our friends, our loved ones, and our shrink combined. But unlike in Nineteen Eighty–Four, this Big Brother is very much for real. We have to trust it not to spill our secrets–a trust, as we will see, that has repeatedly been betrayed.
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
The great seduction 11
The noble amateur 35
Truth and lies 64
The day the music died [side a] 97
The day the music died [side b] 114
Moral disorder 141
1984 (version 2.0) 164
Web 2.0 and politics 206
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
An anti Web 2.0 rant. He makes a valid point regarding the credibility of bloggers vs news journalists. But beyond that the view is so biased and so limited that it becomes annoying rather than enlightening. There are a number of pencil notations in my copy, next to contradictions in his argument. For example one big complaint is the lack of accountability on the web, yet Reed College alos comes under fire for denying admission to a student who had published rude comments about the school.I agree that there are issues to be solved that most Web 2.0 evangelists ignore, such as the issues of privacy vs anonymity, censorship (necessary to protect children) and intellectual property. But I am more optimistic than Mr. Keen.
I was hoping for an intelligent critique of the dangers of excess trust in the web 2.0 revolution. Instead I got a badly written rant on a par with the worst of the blogs the author professes to condemn.Keen's criticisms of the reliance on amateurs to provide us with trusted information may well be valid in theory, but it's impossible to tell from this book. I started marking errors in reasoning with a scrap of paper for a bookmark, by the end of the book it was bristling with scraps almost every other page. Most can be summed up in two categories:1) Wild exaggerations. Wikipedia 'is almost single-handedly killing the traditional information business'; The music industry 'is dying'.2) Factually wrong claims. 'Online gaming is as addictive as cocaine, alcohol, and other substance abuse.' No. It's not. You could perhaps argue it's as addictive as, say, shopping, or even compulsive risk taking, but it's not *chemically* addictive. The addiction is qualitatively different.The subtitle is 'How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy'. On the first point Keen is merely misguided and incoherent. On the second he is fundamentally wrong. An example:Frito-Lay runs a competition to design an advert. A professionally produced advert would cost $381,000. The competition cost $50,000. According to Keen this means '$300,000 that wasn't paid to professional[s]... $331,000 sucked out of the economy.'Excuse me? So Frito-Lay took the money out of their advertising budget and buried it under a stone somewhere, did they? Took it out in $10 bills and fed them into a shredder? Of course not. They spent the same money elsewhere. It may arguably be the case that the 'cult of the amateur' is harming the professional advertising industry, it is *not* assaulting the economy as a whole. Money is diverted from one sector into another. Likewise, even if expenditure on online advertising is largely wasted, this money is not removed from the economy, it's merely diverted in other hands. This misunderstanding renders most of Keen's analysis economic garbage.This is not to say the book does not raise some interesting questions. Unfortunately, Keen does more harm than good for his own arguments. If you think you'll agree with his points, don't bother to read this book, you can probably come up with better arguments on your own. If you think you'll disagree with it, don't bother either, as it could fool you into thinking your case is stronger than it is...
The book is page after page of patent nonsense.It improves very slightly in the last chapter. You might want to read only that.
Without question one of the worst-written books I have ever read.
A very good book, but one that is fairly predictable in many ways. Keen really seems overly nostalgic about 20th century technologies. The author works hard to present an argument that basically states that web 2.0 is basically destroying our culture. While there certainly are some compelling points to ponder, I wonder in a way if he didn't adopt this view point as a way to create an avenue to profit from the writing of this book. This is well worth the ready, but save the money and check it out from your local library.
In this book, Andrew Keen categorically dismisses the notion that anyone anywhere anytime could take it on its hands to publish their works without any credentials from an established authority. He 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" and the consequence, of this uncontrolled content, Keen warns is chaos and disappearance of truth (p.16). Keen extends his argument to the dangers of too much democratisation in that it threatens the fabric of traditional quality controlled, edited, and guarded media. As a journalist Keen's focus seems to be on news, TV and music than on information organisation. Nonetheless, his widely cited book provides an insight into the dichotomy of the debate on Web 2.0. For social media lovers, it is very good that you also read contending perspectives. Though I don't agree with most of his arguments about Web 2.0, I enjoyed this beautifully written book.
Since Andrew Keen is so instinctively dismissive about amateur contributors to the internet - people like me - it's hardly surprising that I should instinctively dismiss his book, so let me declare an interest right away: I like Web 2.0. I've been a contributor to it - through Amazon customer reviews, Wikipedia, discussion forums, MySpace, Napster and so on - for nearly a decade now, and I've followed the emergence of the political movement supporting it, exemplified by writers such as Larry Lessig and Yochai Benkler, with some fascination. and no, I've never made a dime out of it (though I have been sent a few books to review, not including this one). Andrew Keen is that classic sort of British reactionary: the sort that would bemoan the loss of the word "gay" to the English language, and regret the damage caused by industrial vacuum cleaners on the chimney sweeping industry. His book is an empassioned, but simple-minded, harkening to those simpler times which concludes that our networked economy has pointlessly exalted the amateur, ruined the livelihood of experts, destroyed incentives for creating intellectual property, delivered to every man-jack amongst us the ability - never before possessed - to create and distribute our own intellectual property and monkeyed around mischievously with the title to property wrought from the very sweat of its author's brow. Keen thinks this is a bad thing; but that is to assume that the prior state of affairs was unimpeachably good. You don't have to be a paranoid Chomskyite to see the pitfalls of concentrated mass media ownership (Keen glosses over them), or note that the current intellectual property regime - which richly rewards a few lucky souls and their publishers at the expense of millions of less fortunate (but not, necessarily, less talented) ones, isn't the only way one could fairly allocate the risks and rewards of intellectual endeavour. Keen's world is one where there is a transcendental reality; a truth, purveyed by experts, trained journalists, and in great danger of dissolution by the radically relativised truths of Wikipedia where the community sets the agenda, and if two plus two equals five, then it is five. So much Big Brother: Orwell's novel gets repeated mention, it apparently having escaped Keen that a media owned by a concentrated, cross-held clique of corporate interests - which is what the old economy perpetuated - looks quite a lot more totalitarian than publishing capacity distributed to virtually every person on the planet. Keen laments the loss of a "sanctity of authorship" of the sort which vouchsafed to Messrs Jagger and Richards (and their recording company) a healthy lifetime's riches for the fifteen minutes it took to compose and record Satisfaction (notwithstanding their debt - doubtless unpaid - to divers blues legends from Robert Johnson to Chuck Berry) and seems to believe individual creativity will be suddenly stifled by undermining it. There's no evidence for this (certainly not judging by MySpace, the proliferation of blogs, Wikipedia, and so forth, as Keen patiently recounts), and no reason I can see for supposing it to be true on any other grounds. On the contrary, Yale law professor Yochai Benkler in his excellent (and freely available!) The Wealth Of Networks has a much more sophisticated analysis: there is a non-market wealth of information and expertise - residing in heads like yours and mine - which the networked economy has finally unlocked, for the benefit of all, and at the cost of the poor substitute that preceded it. That this might have compromised the gargantuan earnings capacity of one latter day Rolling Stones (to the incremental benefit of a few thousand others) is far less of a travesty - and more of a boon - than Keen thinks it is. Now rock bands have to sing for their supper. Keen may regret that but, as a concert goer, I sure don't. Keen also, irritatingly, keeps returning to the Monkeys and Typewriters analogy (writes your de
A month ago, I went to Felix Meritis in Amsterdam, where Andrew Keen held a debate about his book "The Cult of the Amateur". I heard of him before, and consulted his blog a number of times, which did not draw my attention very much. I thought he made a point through exaggeration, and nothing wrong with it if, at least, there is some data and reasonable argumentation backing his statements. I was quite interested if he would convince me, because I thought it was good to hear something about the negative side of Web 2.0. And negative it was.It turned out to be pretty disappointing, both the lecture of Keen, which was somewhat engaging, using many examples and being very enthusiastic and cynical, and the reply by the other persons who were invited. Although examples can be engaging and create more understanding about a subject, you can hardly generalize them into always-true statements, since.. well, they are examples. But that was exactly what Keen was doing, examples prove his point of view.. a pretty childish way of argumentation, which he used extensively in his book as well.Andrew Keen is an angry man. He is angry at anything that resembles Web 2.0, he despises creations of amateurs online, filesharing, remixing of content, and he embraces everything that came before Web 2.0. In his anger, it must have been very hard for him to follow a consistent line of reasoning. The argumentation in the book is so lousy, I think I have never seen such lousy reasoning. And I don't get it. Although he admires and continuously points out the advantages and necessity of cultural gatekeepers, working at traditional media companies, it seems like he had not had any editor at all. This was exactly the point made by Stanford Law professor Lawrence Lessig, in his very funny review about the book.The basic argument in the book is that Web 2.0, or the ability of anyone able to contribute anything (from news to videos to music) online, diminishes the traditional structures and organizations in the media industry. This will damage our culture and in the end ruin it. Because anyone can put anything online, the quality is becoming less reliable of what you read and see, and more intertwined with commerce etc. There are so many flaws in this piece of rubbish, that it seems a Sisyphean task trying to document them. Maybe.... in a collective effort we could do that, as has been intended by Lawrence Lessig.Although the book flaws in a substantial way (factual errors & bad argumentation), the basic point made in the book has some significance: quality of information and trust in people and information is decreasing in an ever-expanding online information space. There is a lot of rubbish online, and maybe, it has become less easy for kids and adults to distinguish high quality from low quality. Still, technology also enables people to overcome these problems. All in all.. don't bother reading the book.. just pick up the main message, which has some truth in it. As technology creates problems, don't forget it can also solve them. When I get hold of a book that offers a more substantiated critique and better advice in how to deal with the egalitarian characteristics of the Internet, I will post it here as well.
Keen raises many valid points about the Internet and its effect on media and commerce (especially record and book stores) But I think the truth about the internet is somewhere between his view and the view of those who find nothing wrong with the way things are going. While I agree that blogs and other sources of "news" tend to undermine traditional news sources, many of those tradtional sources aren't always as "expert" and "professional" as Keen would have us believe. For example the Baseball blog "Fire Joe Morgan" is built on pointing out the absurd and poorly researched viewpoints of many traditional baseball journalists who know less about the game than many fans. I also don't like his seeming belief that only people who have a college degree and years of study are bright enough to give an opinion or write something of value. There are plenty of smart, educated, and informed people who didn't go to university. Keen's viewpoint leans slightly to the side of Elitism. The internet has its flaws, but it has good points as well. The trick is filtering out the bad and finding the good.
Andrew Keen makes some valid points -- his attack on the Wikipedia has made me think twice about using it as a source, or allowing my son to use it as source in school. But the book wanders, as he tries to cover all the evils of the Internet -- online porn, privacy, gambling -- and in the end, you feel this was little more than a rant.
I totally disagreed with the premise of this book, which is why I wanted to read it. If you only read people who agree with you, how can you have a balanced assessment. That being said it was a struggle to get through this book. Clearly the author used a provacative and one sided attitude as a hook to bring in sales. The last chapter actually ofsets the ranting of the rest of the book and it would have been more readable if this content had been included in each of the previous chapters.
Andrew Keen's talk at the OLA Superconference was much better than the book which was a rather unbalanced rant.
A fast, absorbing read about the dark side of the Web 2.0 phenomenon. Is the "user-generated" society born by Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter actually harming our society? Has expertise become devalued? And what happens when search engines know everything about you? I came at this book from the position of agreeing with Keen on expertise, so I enjoyed his central thesis that in the new world of the "amateur expert", we can no longer distinguish between someone whose opinion matters and someone talking out of their posterior. However, Keen adopts a scorched earth policy -- attacking Google, iTunes/Apple, online gambling, and even the old warhorse pornography -- which left this amateur's eyes a little sore from all the rolling. Keen is a good writer, and his subject important, so this book is highly recommended. Read it, and then talk about it. Not blog about it like I'm doing -- he wouldn't like that.
Keen's argument is that the web amateurs and the spewing forth of their work in the user-generated world threatens our very culture. (He would perhaps even have a problem with this book critique). Yet, his descriptions of the effects of music piracy and copyright violations make sense. The Web 2.0 world if accepted uncritically can cheapen our culture. Keen's book is littered with data as well as stories that capture the effects of what he terms "the cult of the amateur" where amateurish media publications are raised to the same level as Shakespeare or the Beatles. It's cautionary message was a worthwhile read.
I watch him make his case for the book online on cnn and I have to say that while the theme is interesting, the argument is as useful as yesterday¿s expired ad. His main reasoning is that people should go back to the good old days where we used to pay 20 dollars a cd to purchase a one song we like, read printed text to save the journalist¿s job, and avoid anything free online because they are evil and worthless. It really sounds like hearing an overbearing and control freak for a father decides to expand his code of conduct at home into a book to enlighten the public mass. If I really want to have someone edit what I read, show me what to see on tv, and tell me where to surf on the internet, I would go to China, Burma, Russia, or any of the totalitarian regimes out there that existed in this world. He lashed out angrily at the anonymity online as this voids the user¿s responsibility and encourages vulgarity. But he fails to consider is that it¿s the anonymity and the lack of user¿s responsibility/ accountability that allows to world to protest over the injustice that occurs in Burma. His reactionist view belong in only one place..at home where he can micromanage his own son. He should leave the rest of the world alone, and let people waste their time as they see fit.
It is supremely ironic that I am writing a book review in a medium that the author completely deplores. This book makes an attempt to prove that some portions of the Internet, more specifically, the application of Web 2.0 technologies, is eroding some of our cherished American values. Some examples discussed include the scourge of 'on-line' gambling, 'on-line' pornography, and the decline of the recording and publishing industries. These phenomenon and others are used as proof that as more Internet technologies supply the masses with powers previously reserved to webmasters, the professionalization of the workforce, artistic industries, and the quality knowledge will decline. The book has two weaknesses. First, it dresses up old problems as new problems. For instance, the author points to intellectual property 'IP' theft, which has existed for centuries, through Web 2.0 technologies as responsible for unraveling all incentives for the forces of creativity. While there is little debate that these technologies facilitate and distribute the fruits of this type of theft more quickly, the author fails to draw a comparison to the way IP theft used to be executed. This simple parallel would highlight the degree to which thieves have been able to cause more harm, but the strength of this argument is lost with evidence-light anecdotes. The second weakness is the application of contradictory arguments and arguments of convenience. On more than one occasion the author discusses the importance or benefits of capitalistic market forces and then argues that as Web 2.0 technologies, which broaden and diversify the market, will somehow collapse certain market segments. For example, the author argues that on-line music services are besting the legacy CD distribution-based music industry and this is reducing the recording industry's ability to discover and fund hot talent. The author chooses not to point out that in the traditional music market that it costs a record company about $5 to produce a CD with 15 songs that sells for $10. Today that same CD can now be sold on-line for $.99 a song or $15 for the entire CD and with reduced costs 'such as packaging and shipping'. In summary, the author's perspective prompts the reader to question their beliefs and attitude toward the changing Internet, but the quality of evidence presented needs improvement.
Speaking as an amateur I found this book very interesting. I found myself not always agreeing with the author about the downside of the 'Web 2.0', however, his reasoned arguments and statics do tell a chilling story. It is a very quick read, which is surprising considering all of the topics covered in the book. But as an anonymous review I recommend this book for anyone who thinks our culture is going to heck in a hand basket, hope you can trust me?