Friday, October 19, 2007

Dictated By Amateurs

For a book about how the world of Web 2.0 and as a result modern society was doomed, I found the introduction of The Cult of the Amateur funny enough to nearly choke over my brownie. He compares the collective input of bloggers, youtubers and wikipediasts to several million monkeys on a typing rampage.

Unlike T.H Huxley's million monkeys on a million typewriters no works of Shakespeare are being produced as a result of this collective endeavor on the world wide web. Keen finds no signs of intelligence or erudition in this democratic harvest of words and images. He warns us that the true and trusted old media is on the verge of extinction

“say goodbye to experts and cultural gatekeepers – our reporters, news anchors, editors, music companies, and Hollywood movie studios.”

Of the Web 2.0 revolution he says:
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.

His tirade against the amateur continues to the end of the book at which point he talks about the way out of the mess we've gotten ourselves in. His solution is to reign in the power and energy of the narcissist masses to work in tandem with the establishment and subject matter experts. He exhorts us to do Joost not Kazaa, iAmplify not YouTube and Scholarpedia not Wikipedia.

Not a particularly path breaking idea. Democracy in its infancy is prone be somewhat anarchic but in due season, the very forces that foment chaos will take over to create balance and order. More likely than not Web 2.0 will follow the same pattern well before the sky falls down as Keen fears.

His main concern appears to be the blurring line between the cultural producer and cultural consumer. The notion that meritocracy cannot survive or win in the Web 2.0 world is suspect. Sure everyone will have their fifteen minutes of fame but that should not steal the spotlight away from those who truly deserve it and for the long haul. It may take more effort to be heard above the din but if the voice is distinct enough it will still rise to where it can be heard loud and clear. Even those typing monkeys will stop to listen before they return to blog about it in their teeming millions - and that should help the cause of celebrity.

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