Thursday, July 26, 2007

Blogosphere Critique

The Cult of the Amateur is a broadside attack on Web 2.0, a term we may hastily define here as that growing sector of the internet which serves mainly as a platform for user-generated content, including sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Typepad, Blogger and YouTube. The main thrust of his argument is that all this home-made content - blogs, podcasts, amateur videos and music - is an inadequate replacement for mainstream media. It may be a harmless, even occasionally enriching addition, but we can't have both, because the former is swiftly killing off the latter. Thanks to Web 2.0, newspapers, record companies, movie studios and traditional publishers are on the verge of extinction, he says.

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Keen claims he isn't really going after the bloggers so much as the influential idealists who actually run Web 2.0. "My real targets are what I would call the libertarians on the right and the left," he says. To Keen, the "democratised" web is actually a form of oligarchy, the product of an unholy alliance between old counterculturalists ("fat guys with beards, basically") and free-market fundamentalists (he offers Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail, as an example). The former group, he says, reject "all forms of external authority"; the latter believe "that if you just leave everything alone it will work itself out".

One inviolable tenet of this twin-track libertarian ethos, according to Keen, is a misplaced faith in the integrity of the amateur - the citizen journalist, the self-published author, the mash-up musician - and a generic distrust of expertise. One does indeed find this attitude mirrored all over the net, where people frequently post sayings such as "Amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic". Mainstream media is seen as corrupt, compromised, lazy and fearful, while Web 2.0's army of amateur content-generators is dynamic, honest, worthy and wise. In Keen's estimation this idea isn't just absurd - it's dangerous. "For these Generation Y utopians," he writes, "every posting is just another person's version of the truth; every fiction is just another person's version of the facts."


1 comment:

Hasbara With Attitude said...

Well, when you have people like Jayson Blair and Orly Halpern representing mainstream media, it's no surprise that the unwashed masses would trust one their own first. It would be simpler to admit that they've cashed in their ethics for agenda-driven journalism, rather than cling to the foolish notion that we think they're still neutral fact-reporters.