The Amateurs' Hour

Is the Internet destroying our culture, or is it just annoying our snobs?

The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture, by Andrew Keen, New York: Currency, 228 pages, $22.95

Andrew Keen’s website claims, without a hint of humility, that he’s “the leading contemporary critic of the Internet.” No kidding? The entire Internet? A curious reader might wonder whether such an all-inclusive battle is similar to taking on, say, “music” or “radio waves.” It is.

More specifically, Keen’s depressing book, The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture, laments techno-utopianism, free content, and the rise of citizen journalists, filmmakers, musicians, and critics as cultural arbiters. It is a book, in other words, of spectacular elitism.

Keen, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur turned full-time critic of user-generated Internet content, argues that our most “valued cultural institutions” are under attack from the hordes of lay hacks, undermining quality content with garbage. His central argument is—to pinch a word he loves to use—seductive. He’s right that the Internet is littered with inane, vulgar, dimwitted, unedited, and unreadable content, much of it fueling outrageous conspiracy theories, odious partisan debates, mindless celebrity worship, and worse. And then there’s the stuff that’s not even entertaining.

Keen refuses to confess that there’s even a smattering of intellectually and culturally worthy user-driven content online. If you do find something decent in the “digital forest of mediocrity,” he attributes it to the infinite monkey theorem: Even simians, if permitted to indiscriminately hit a keyboard for an infinite amount of time, will one day bang out Beowulf or Don Quixote. (Silly me, I was under the impression that monkeys had hatched the idea for VH1’s Scott Baio Is 45…and Single.) Apparently, these monkeys are discharging so much free content into the cyber-strata that they threaten to bury culturally significant work, dilute good craftsmanship, and cost me, a journalist and “cultural gatekeeper,” my job. So I guess I’d better take Keen’s thesis seriously.

Keen isn’t entirely wrong—of over the estimated 175,000 new blogs created each day, just a miniscule fraction are worthwhile—but in the midst of cobbling together statistics and disaster stories he ignores an otherwise promising tale of job creation, mass creativity, and the democratization of the media. He also fails to acknowledge that the rise of Web 2.0—Internet-based media, such as blogs, in which the content is largely generated by the users themselves—was prompted precisely by the lack of choices and quality programming from those gatekeepers he so adamantly defends.

Not long ago, I was presented a firsthand view of the gloomy fallout from Web 2.0. Another downsizing had fallen upon the newspaper industry, including my paper, The Denver Post. Colleagues and friends of mine were instructed to clear their desks and find a new line of work. Keen grieves over the fate of my well-trained coworkers. He pins the blame on a bunch of schmucks knocking out third-rate musings on politics and culture. How can The New York Times, with its multi-million-dollar operational budget, compete with a blogger, who typically operates for pennies in his or her spare time?

We can agree, to a point. There are plenty of schmucks out there. But the ability to receive only the content you want while ignoring the rest of the package, combined with the migration of ads to services like Craig’s List, has done far more damage to newspapers than any pajama-clad scribblers ever could. And since the citizen journalist relies heavily on more traditional journalistic sources, I doubt the industry is nearing its demise. (In fact, by acting as freelance fact-checkers, all those bloggers have arguably transformed the medium into a more reliable dispenser of the news.)

In the face of economic realities, newspapers have been co-opting the blogger model—transforming a once-rigid daily newsroom cycle into a constant, 24-hour process, constantly posting updates, using video and audio as well as text, and bringing on bloggers of their own. Meanwhile, many high-profile bloggers, looking for ways to make their sites financially viable, are moving toward an old-media model, emphasizing professionalism and co-opting some of the conventional elements of news services. From the megapopular left-leaning Huffington Post to the conservative-oriented Pajamas Media, bloggers have pooled their talents and transformed into news agencies.

Whatever Keen (or I) may believe the future holds, it’s not society’s job to ensure that journalism remains profitable. It’s journalism’s job to entice readers and viewers with a product that’s worth the price of admission. These struggles, as important as they may be to some of us, do not signal the cold-blooded murder of “our culture.”

That brings us to Keen’s most glaring weakness: his lack of faith in the culture he defends. Keen is concerned not just with journalism but with a wider range of creative expression, from film to music. Readers of The Cult of the Amateur may be surprised to learn that the barbarians capable of obliterating thousands of years of Western culture in their spare time are a horde of porn-addicted, gambling-happy, ungrateful, musically challenged yokels. What worthwhile culture could be so easily knocked off its perch?

Like most snobs, Keen doesn’t have much confidence in markets either. To accept his argument, we must believe that the common consumer, able to make thousands of informed decisions in everyday life, can’t differentiate between crap and Cristal when the choice is made on a computer screen.

In other contexts, Keen is a romantic. Consider his rhetoric regarding the supposedly bygone local bookstore. (A quick search of BookSense.com, a site sponsored by independently owned bookstores, shows five such stores within a 10-mile radius of my home.) “Instead of 2,500 independent bookstores with their knowledgeable, book loving staffers, specialty sections, and relationships with local writers,” Keen writes, “we now have an oligarchy of online megastores employing soulless algorithms that use our previous purchases and the purchases of others to tell us what to buy.”

Shopping at the convivial local bookstore might be a heartwarming experience, but the notion that such places offer us better choices is a fantasy. On Amazon, you can perform super-exact searches or browse endlessly (so at some point even the commoner may stumble across something worthwhile). You are guided not only by rough algorithms but by book lists and reviews written and compiled by other human beings who share your hyper-specific interests. And aren’t Amazon’s reviewers, list compilers, and bloggers a lot like helpful, educated bookstore staffers, leading us, by hyperlinking, to stories and ideas we otherwise might never have known about?

But Keen’s most persistent grievance is that free content undermines the accuracy of information. “Can a social worker in Des Moines really be considered credible in arguing with a trained physicist over string theory?” he asks, referring to Wikipedia, the online, user created encyclopedia. “Can a car mechanic have as knowledgeable a ‘POV’ as that of a trained geneticist on the nature of hereditary diseases? Can we trust a religious fundamentalist to know more about the origins of mankind than a PhD in evolutionary biology?”

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  • ||

    Keen's an ass.

    And I speak as the leading contemporary critic of contemporary critics of the Internet, so I know what I'm talking about, you uncultured Philistines.

  • ||

    If I prefer free online nedia such as reason.com over my local newspaper's editorial page, (which I do) then my local paper loses readership (which it has). If that causes my local paper to be say, sold to a national conglomerate (which it hasn't) or otherwise diminished, is that a problem? Not to me.

    Or, if people increasingly prefer some various blogs to reason.com, and that trend dilutes the quality of reason.com, then is that a problem? Would be to me.

    So what would I do about it? Probably stop turning to the editorial page or reason.com to help me think about the world. Is that a problem?

  • KipEsquire||

    ...our most "valued cultural institutions" are under attack from the hordes of lay hacks, undermining quality content with garbage.

    That's not blogging; that's the Museum of Modern Art.

  • ||

    Sturgeon's Law.
    Any questions?

  • Big Nanny||

    1 "But the ability to receive only the content you want while ignoring the rest of the package"

    That seems like it is problem.

    2 I bet his thesis was vimilar to what some people said about democracy centuries ago.

    3 I was flipping around the radio the other night and I heard Art Bell. He had a guest on that was talking about his new book. He said it included sworn court testimoney from Army officers, he talked about the government covering thing up. It sounded like he was talking about secret prisions or Gitmo but I never actually heard. I couldn't understand why this guy was on the Art Bell show. Finally they are going to commercial and the guy says "and I have evidence that we have shot down extera terrestrials crafts" and I thought, 'that sound like the Art Bell show'.

  • Elemenope||

    Sturgeon's Law: 99% of everything is crap.

    That wasn't really a problem for a long time; the total output quantity meant that it didn't take so much effort to improve the signal-to-noise ratio.

    My thing is this: if the amount (sheer quantity) of content continues to expand at a vaguely exponential rate, and yet the tools used to improve our ability to find the content we are actually seeking improve at a linear rate (even I high one), at what point will we be buried under the sheer quantity of crap?

    Google may have saved our asses (and the Internet) for a while, but that ain't gonna last forever.

  • Elemenope||

    Damn you, J sub D, while I was busy adding to the problem, you were linking!!!

  • Dave W.||

    Don't forget to check out my blog:

    http://fedcirpatentcaseblurbs.blogspot.com/

  • Episiarch||

    I guess Keen isn't aware that his whining makes him look old, stupid, and past his relevance.

  • ||

    This guy isn't just a snob, he is a stupid snob. When I was 12, in 1978, there were three networks, a home newspaper, Time, and Newsweek.

    Now, I have a much richer media and news experience because of the internet. I have forsaken network TV because I refuse to be advertised to like I am an idiot. I have forsaken my newspaper because it isn't convenient.

    But now, I have motherjones.com, nationreview.com, thenation.com, cnn.com, reason.com, theagitator.com, etc. at my fingertips with a variety of views.
    I spent this morning learning about tessellations by M. C. Escher. http://library.thinkquest.org/16661/escher.html


    I nominate Andrew Keen for King douche of 2007.

  • ||

    Here's a Keen article in the Weekly Standard about Web 2.0.

    I'd guessed in reading Harsanyi's review that he was a Platonist and guess what he is, but it also turns out he's weirdly ant-Marxist (in the sense that he hates Marxism so much that everything he hates must be Marxist) and a bit of a Grandpa Simpson-type luddite to boot.

  • jtuf||

    When soft cover books lowered printing costs a century ago, writing turnned from a gentleman's hobby to a viable career. Critics then complained about pulp fiction destroying culture. Art is much more interesting when it keeps changing. Those who disagree can always start their own museums.

  • ||

    Damn you, J sub D, while I was busy adding to the problem, you were linking!!!

    LMNOP-
    Google is my friend. HTML is becoming my servant. Life is good.

    Your point about filtering out the crap, the irrelevant data, is a problem I noted with computer data years prior to the internet explosion c. 1984, with the Aegis Combat System. An operator, technician or tactician can be snowed under by the quantity of info available to them. That quantity is miniscule compared to the amount of data on the internet. I've developed a decent BS filter over the years and the internet tests it almost daily.

  • MCW||

    Of course the wingnuts would be opposed to the internet. Its all about common people organizing at the grass-roots.

  • Elemenope||

    J sub D --

    My BS filter is also tested constantly under these "internet combat conditions". However, signs point to too many peoples' filters being hopelessly clogged.

    for example: How many people swallowed without thinking the whole "Obama is a Muslim" and "Paul is a Nazi" thing just because they read it somewhere in an e-mail or on a blog? The correct information provided by trustworthy sources necessary to debunk either assertion are plentiful and yet they persist with a nauseous tenacity.

  • ||

    So is MWC like a spambot or something?

  • ||

    How many people swallowed without thinking the whole "Obama is a Muslim" and "Paul is a Nazi" thing just because they read it somewhere in an e-mail or on a blog?

    Confirmation bias plays the key role. If you read something that gives you pleasure if it were true, you are much more likely to believe it. Vice versa.

  • ||

    Please, 'Google may have saved our asses?'

    Do a Google blog search for Ron Paul, and you'll see that most of the entries are attacks. Going by Google, you'd get the impression most of the internet hates Ron Paul. Yet it's obvious the sites are bogus because they endlessly repeat the exact same news items (eg, 'Don Black gave $500 . . . ''Bill White wrote . . . ''In a 1992 newsletter . . . '). You'd think that if thousands of anti-Paul bloggers are actually out there, they could be more creative. You'd think that if thousands of anti-Paul bloggers are actually out there and spending all those hours for the sake of trashing Paul, they could also donate some money to THEIR candidates.

    Whether Google is in on the conspiracy or not, it's obvious that the blogosphere has been spammed by a tiny group of paid political operatives who know how to get to the top of the search engine list.

    The best way to find good content on the web is by word of link. Go to a site you trust, see who they link to, and bookmark as desired. But search engines are becoming polluted with opportunism and if they're still around in ten years, the model will have to change drastically.

  • ||

    Confirmation bias plays the key role. If you read something that gives you pleasure if it were true, you are much more likely to believe it. Vice versa.

    Sadly true. I am grateful that the research was done and have since tried to take that bias into consideration. IOW, I'm a skeptic of my own reasoning conclusions. In some ways reality sucks, doesn't it?

  • Elemenope||

    de stijl --

    I'd say rather that confirmation bias plays an important role, but perhaps not the key one. One of the major differences between the way information tends to be disseminated over the net as opposed to through traditional mass media is that it often comes as the result of a forward from a friend (hey, man, check out this link!), whom they are likely to trust and also unlikely (through cognitive dissonance effects) to disagree with, especially if they have no prior information about the topic.

  • ||

    Pain

    WCW is our new troll. We appear to have received him for our solstice gift. He was found lurking under an interstate bridge.

    I thought he might be Dan T for a while, but Dan T never used Marxist cant the way MCW does.

  • Elemenope||

    imp --

    For a long time (and still in most areas now) Google was one of the very few effective tools for finding content amongst trash. Like I said, it is likely to be overwhelmed eventually (and perhaps quite quickly) barring some amazing breakthrough in context search mechanics and/or algorithms.

  • ||

    Elemenope,

    Aren't you* much more likely to forward an e-mail if you really, really want it to be true? Aren't you more likely to read and "believe" blog posts from people who share your political POV?

    * - The generic you

  • ||

    OOPS

    Should read "MCW* is our new troll."

    *stands for "Middle Class Worker". He shortened it after the first couple of days. He's actually one of the lumpenproletariat. Not middle class at all.

  • ||

    Good, another a-hole watching out for our welfare.Does it ever stop?

  • ||

    MCW, Defining the poor as the bottom quintile in income, the rich the top quintile in income, then the middle class consists of 60% of all Americans.

    In light of that, why do you think that so many Republicans get elected?

  • douglas gray||

    The Internet has been great for Mathematical research. When three Indian mathemteticians came up with their "Primes is in P" algorithm (In "P" means in polynomial time) the Internet allowed the result to be checked and verified almost immediately. Same with Pereleman' s work on Thurston's lemma. Also the team that did the work on the E-9 lie group (which one physicist has used to make an interesting but as yet unverified "theory of everything") was would have taken years longer without Internet collaboration. Bad blogs abound, but are not read much; they are no different from bad books which just sit there on the shelves in a bookstore.

  • Russell||

    (In fact, by acting as freelance fact-checkers, all those bloggers have arguably transformed the medium into a more reliable dispenser of the news.)

    Really ? Some electronic gatekeepers for major print media have elected to drop out of the Age Of Fisking by simply turning off reader feedback to spare themselves the necessity of fact checking.

  • ||

    WCW is our new troll. We appear to have received him for our solstice gift. He was found lurking under an interstate bridge.

    Wierd. The posts look really automated. Especially with the odd bolds.

    "Of course the < epithet_political_1.txt > would be opposed to the < heading_subject.txt >. Its all about < phrase_prolitariat_4.txt >."

  • ||

    I came across Keen's book in a (zomg) local bookstore recently, and assumed it was just more of the usual sensationalist shit that the gatekeepers of our precious culture routinely flood the shelves with, so I'm shocked that anybody has taken enough notice of it to write a review for even as reputable a rag as Reason.

    What made me gag about Keen's book was the phrase "destroying our culture." Anytime somebody talks about the destruction of culture I'm immediately suspicious, and I think justifiably. Culture is fluid, it changes to fit the conditions into which it is channeled. Moreover, the idea that the conditions of human life ought to be husbanded to suit the needs of preserving a particular culture - especially ours, which is at best no older than a single human lifespan - is putting the cart so far in front of the horse that it isn't funny to either the horse or I, and the horse isn't hard to amuse.

    But why am I bothering? The fact is, Keen is probably just cashing in on the fact that print sensationalism sells. It sells phenomenally better than almost any other genre of nonfiction, and one of the unfortunate things about the information trade prior to the internet is that the quantity of a given type of information skews directly to what criteria get books off the shelves - gormless panic-mongering and moralistic pissmanship, for example. Is this one of the things we're now supposed to be lamenting? The fact that this sort of happy hackery no longer enjoys the de facto last word?

  • ||

    (In fact, by acting as freelance fact-checkers, all those bloggers have arguably transformed the medium into a more reliable dispenser of the news.)

    Really ? Some electronic gatekeepers for major print media have elected to drop out of the Age Of Fisking by simply turning off reader feedback to spare themselves the necessity of fact checking.


    Which doesn't stop people at other sites from critiquing their work, so why do we care other than to laugh at the dinosaurs?

  • R C Dean||

    But the ability to receive only the content you want while ignoring the rest of the package

    I've gone decades ignoring big chunks of every newspaper I ever looked at. What kind of mind control would be necessary for me to ignore any damn content I want, regardless of whether it is put under my nose?

  • Rhywun||

    It's nice to see a specimen of an ACTUAL elitist as opposed to the "you're an elitist because you disagree with what I say" definition that gets tossed around here so often.

  • ||

    Gee, I don't recall anyone appointing Keen to any position of authority, so who cares what that snotty prick is bitching about?

    Toss his book in the round file and be done with it.

    -jcr

  • ||

    MCW allegedly stands for "Middle Class Worker", but he/she claims to be a union prole who doesn't do much actual work, so "Marxist Class Warrior" might be a better phrase to capture our latest troll's modus operandi.

  • ||

    Is there anyone else left alive who read "The Culture We Deserve," Jacques Barzun (Wesleyan University Press 1989) ISBN 0-8195-5200-3?

  • ||

    Is there anyone else left alive who read "The Culture We Deserve,"

    I haven't read that, but I have read some other Barzun. This goes on the list. Thanks.

    As for Keen, he's merely a symptom of the disease he decries. Surely The Academy did not appoint/annoint him as the foremost critic of the Internet. He touts himself as such; just like any other 3rd rate hack in print (paper or electronic).

  • ||

    Interesting. I discovered Keen's ideas for the first time on the internet. Does that make his thesis bogus?

  • Alexandra Erin||

    Yeah, there's a lot of crap on the internet... but the only thing in danger of getting lost among it is other crap. Quality will out itself, and gems shine through on their own.

    Does the number of garage bands with MySpace pages stop Radiohead from taking in a good income when they choose to give away their latest album in exchange for listener to donations?

    Does the number of strictly amateur-hour webcomics stop those with the talent and drive from making a decent living with their more professional offerings?

    Call me a "professional amateur"... I make my living as an author, entirely online, and without an editor or publisher or other "guardian" screening my work to make sure it's "quality." I'm not the least bit concerned about the amount of awful prose there is on the internet. Why should I be? Am I meant to be competing with it?

    People can and do filter for themselves. They do so as individuals when they make up their own mind about whether a new entertainment is worth their time, and they do so collectively by trading links, voting in polls, using internet topsites, and so on.

    What people like Keen fear isn't a loss of culture. It's a loss of jobs, a deflated sense of importance for the "gatekeepers."

  • ||

    The article didn't mention Keen's most fatuous piece of "evidence" against the internet: that he got away with falsely claiming in his Wikipaedia profile that he appeared in television soup adverts as a child.

    That's right. The internet community didn't spot an irrelevant claim by an unimportant person, therefore everything on the internet is inaccurate.

    Actually, someone did correct it after 11 hours, demonstrating Keen's belief that the net encourages people to waste energy on pointless, mediocre tasks.

  • Egon||

    In case anyone else wants to become a recognized authority: Become A Recognized Authority In Your Field - In 60 Days Or Less.

  • Douglas||

    Why are we still discussing this book, which is so September 2004? When I wrote this review in June of 2007, I called Cult of the Amateur "a valentine to a disappearing world."

  • Kirby||

    MCW has got to be somebody's strawman. Nobody has looked that much like a boob since Archie Bunker.

    Ignore the man behind the curtain!

  • Save the endangered Media||

    What will you tell your children when there is no New York Times to push liberal agendas? What will you tell your children when CNN no longer exists? We must subsidize the media, so that Liberal Statism can exist. We must do everything that we can to make sure that CBS news does not go extinct. Will you please tune into ABC News, so that more Americans can get thier news from ABC news than from ANOTHER source.

  • Ramesh Raghuvanshi||

    First thing we must except that we could not stop internet`s progress.We can do only avoid the junk web.There are some very good website, take alday, science today.
    Very good thing Internet did it destroied the monopoly of newspaper their onesided propoganda.old newspaper were so malicious that they could not tolerate inocent opposite view.

  • Michael J. Totten||

    Keen might have a point if we had no control over which Web pages we looked at, and could only view them at random. But we have no choice but to forever ignore more than 99.999999 percent of the Internet as it is.

    He thinks we're dumber than he is. That's obvious.

  • ||

    Blaming the internet for the demise of local bookshops is particularly unfortunate. In fact, so far as secondhand books are concerned, the internet has made them MUCH easier to find, and cheaper. And for every one person bookshop that closes down, there are twenty or more people who are now able to sell secondhand books full time, via the net.
    True, the unthinking will go to Amazon; but the wise will go to sites such as http://used.addall.com/ that combine the listings of tens of thousands of web booksellers.

  • ||

    Funny, I thought Cass Sunstein was the leading critic of the internet.
    It's also a bit funny how posters on this chiefly libertarian site seem to dismiss the MSM's (admittedly ideal) role in government oversight. Has it occurred to anyone that when the chief oversight of government is done on the internet, and changed sufficiently so that some lawyer can argue it no longer need be defined "press" as the founders intended, then that portion of the First Amendment will lose its practical value, and the free market will have evolved us right out of one of our most important freedoms. You have to fight with the Constitution you have, not the Constitution you want.

  • Moneyrunner||

    Culture destroyed?

    Has anyone seen "culture" recently?

    The pure unadulterated crap that is modern art; that takes a written explanation to tell you what you're supposed to be seeing?

    Music? Atonal stuff that is actually painful to hear?

    Theater? Talking vaginas?

    Literature? Quick! Name me a great piece of current literature.

    The internet can't destroy a culture that has already been reduced to rubble. All it can do is "make the rubble bounce."

  • ||

    There are plenty of well reasoned arguments against Ron Paul's monetary policy on the internet. Megan McArdle regularly demolishes Paul's call for a gold standard. David Frum has also pointed out the insanity of returning to the gold standard. There are also plenty of well reasoned arguments against Ron Paul's isolationist foreign policy and bizarre proclivity to blame America for acts of Islamic terrorism. As for Ron Paul's White Supremacist buddies, Captain's Quarters has an excellent post on why that matters.

    All of these arguments are rationally and logically constructed. To point out that Ron Paul is bat poop crazy is just to belabor the obvious.

  • ||

    "Can a car mechanic have as knowledgeable a 'POV' as that of a trained geneticist on the nature of hereditary diseases? Can we trust a religious fundamentalist to know more about the origins of mankind than a PhD in evolutionary biology?"

    In 1905, could you trust the crazy rantings of an obscure patent clerk in Switzerland about matters involving physics?

    Turns out that patent clerk was named Einstein.

    Keen's an idiot.

  • ||

    Keen is not so much an idiot as a fool. It is difficult to believe that anyone could be so incredibly stupid as to think that a book could do anything to alter the internet.

    After all, it is not who is speaking so much as those who are listening and in his case, no one is listening. And in reality, they have no rational reason to.

  • LarryA||

    No doubt a small fraction of those who participate in social networks are sexual predators and pedophiles-roughly the same as the percentage of people in local bookstores, playgrounds, and libraries who are sexual predators and pedophiles.

    And probably less than the number of cops posing as prey. The Internet is the best tool for hunting such predators ever. Unfortunately most predators turn out to be relatives, mom's boyfriend, teachers, priests, and youth activities leaders, not strangers from across the country.

    When soft cover books lowered printing costs a century ago, writing turned from a gentleman's hobby to a viable career. Critics then complained about pulp fiction destroying culture.

    The same thing happened 500 years earlier when Gutenberg invented the moveable type printing press.

    Can a car mechanic have as knowledgeable a 'POV' as that of a trained geneticist on the nature of hereditary diseases?

    Generically, no. But he can have a lot more specific knowledge about the effects of the one disease he or his kid has. There's more than one source of knowledge.

  • ||

    Moneyrunner made my point for me. As does Jacques Barzun's "From Dawn to Decadence", and in such a way to leave little doubt. (Thanks R. Richard Schweitzer, I just added that one to my list too).

    The internet is filled with crap, but it's a NEW kind of crap, and that gives me hope.

  • jerng||

    Geez... survival of the fittest man. If his favorite cultures don't emerge from the fracas then he's an ass. If they do emerge after all, then he's still an ass for worrying. Why bother anyway?

  • Jon Monroe||

    Keen is not only a snob, he is shortsighted and blinded by cultural anxiety.

    The more "content" that goes online the more people need to have it sorted out for them. Better searching is one way, but inevitably online info and entertainment brand-name websites will become the new gatekeepers, and they will set standards. This is nothing new. It has happened before, just in different media (like print!).

    Cultural gatekeepers do have value, and they will reassert themselves. But once in a while it is good to have a purge -- to get rid of the comfortable, self-important, nepotistic, parasitic aristocrats who have planted themselves in between the creators and the consumers. The Internet purge will ultimately bear fruit by making people think seriously about what quality media really is.

  • ||

    My experience with the mainstream press is that a high percentage of journalists know little or nothing about the subject of their articles. When I read an MSM article about something in which I have personal experience (e.g. aviation, space, computers, the military), a very high percentage of the time the "professional journalist" is flat our wrong. That being the case, how can I trust them to get other subjects right?

    For the first time, the Internet allows ordinary people like me to point out that the journalists are full of crap. They don't like it one bit. In the past, all we could do is write an easily ignored letter to the editor. Today, we can point out their mistakes. This fact checking by a virtual army of people with real world experience is one of the reasons why readership and viewership for the MSM is declining. They're producing an inferior product and deserve to lose market share as a result.

  • ||

    Keen's an elitist, just like Newton Minow. Like Minow, he's pissed that people watch what they want to watch, rather than what Minow/Keen thinks they should watch...

  • Theodore Baar||

    What the pompous twit Keen seemed yto miss is the internet did not attack, savage and (eventually) replace a cultured and strong fact reporting analystical mechanism but a corrupt lieing ogliarchy that we now refer to as the MSM.

    To this day most newspaper and all three major networks totally fail to get it. Should anyone want to contest this "fact" just look at the stock price of the New York Times. In spuite of their slide to financial oblivion they continue to service a few blocks in Manhatten, some enclaves on the West Coast and other journalists who take their marching orders from the news diet on the Times.

    As to the terrible wuality of the internet, that's nonsense. The internet has a lot of nonsense but I suggest you go through and pick up the tabloids the next time you go through the supermarket line. They would be the paper and ink devices covering Alien sex attacjs, Bush's affair with Condi Rice and the latest news that Nastradamus predicted the patriot's football season.

    After that pick up any mainstream magazine pimping itself for Al Gore and Global Warming.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    "Call me a "professional amateur"... I make my living as an author, entirely online, and without an editor or publisher or other "guardian" screening my work to make sure it's "quality." I'm not the least bit concerned about the amount of awful prose there is on the internet. Why should I be? Am I meant to be competing with it?"

    This is a great comment Alexandra - I work as a freelance composer and performing musician. I often find myself annoyed with the crap put out by people claiming to be musicians and filmmakers who's only talent is access to a computer and 3rd rate software. But every time I find myself getting worked up about it I realize that I'm not competing with them. And I don't have to! Ultimately, it's my responsibility as a small-business owner to make sure that people understand why paying for my superior services is worthwhile. Usually it's not a hard sell - you get what you pay for. So yeah, the internet and the tech revolution gives a lot of average people access to tools they never had before, and yeah, 90% of them use the tools to make shit. So what? The percentage hasn't really changed... if anything it's going to ultimately make people more discerning on an individual basis! Not less. I think that's a boon to culture, don't you?

    Beyond the personal relevance, the truth is, there's always been shit in art, culture, media, journalism, etc. Personally, I'd rather get news from a hundred different independent sources "fact-checking" so to speak, than I would read/listen/watch corporate media's groupthink-based broadcasts. In major network news, you get tons of bias with the slick presentation that has the outward appearance of trustworthiness. There are icons like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite referred to even today to make us be nostalgic for the "good old days" when journalists were honest.

    Well... ya know what? Everybody is biased - even Murrow and Cronkite. Some people are wise enough and passionate enough about accuracy (or pedantic about it like me) to not let their biases get in the way of honesty. Fair but extremely biased is fine with me - which is what the internet can give you if you know where to look. The major news-media really just tends to be extremely biased because it started deliberately packaging itself as 100% fair. Bad deal... and now they whine when individuals on the internet compete with them. Cry me a river CNN.

  • ||

    Just an aside. The author says:

    "On Amazon, you can perform super-exact searches"

    As a librarian, may I point out that Amazon's (and many other open web searches, including Google's) are hardly "super-exact"!

    Amazon attempts to provide some related keyword phrases and broad subject areas. But, it's not even close to the level of focus provided by library cataloging. A search of public WorldCat using subject

    Greece -- History -- Peloponnesian War, 431-404 B.C.

    yields 869 hits to Amazon's 50 or so for the phrase "Peloponnesian War".

    http://tinyurl.com/35j96j

    As information consumers, we should not believe that many of the popular web resources are providing us with "super-exact" search capabilities. They could be, but they aren't currently!

    Nick

    NYC

  • M. Simon||

    If you want to see how badly search engines are being polluted do a search on.

    Power and Control

    Some damn blog is at the top.

  • M. Simon||

    With the aid of an obscure Physicist, a bunch of activists, and the 'net I helped turn an obscure idea for nuclear fusion into an active program to test the ideas.

    In addition I have been approached by Venture Capital people and a large industrial corporation who would never have found me or the idea without the aid of the 'net.

    Search:

    Bussard Fusion Funded

    No way I could have accomplished that in under a year with old media? Why? The "consensus" was that his ideas were science fiction not based on physics principles. Actually they are based on tested principles I have linked to.

    Find all that stuff in a library? Maybe in 10 years. How long did it take me? Under a year. Start to funding.

  • ||

    Who's culture? Or probably more appropriate, what culture?

  • Harvee||

    I have a blog that I use to comment on books I like or dislike, and I do quite a few comments on mystery novels and books by international authors. It's not junk to me, but it may certainly be more fun to read than some of the book reviews in our newspapers. Journalists have become elitists only to protect their product, which has become just another blip in the information world out there. Sorry about that, journalists. But dats de truth you have to deal with. So, stop bellyaching, will ya?

  • james||

    Here's what he's missing - and sorry if it's been said. He's completely OBLIVIOUS to people savvy and adept enough at filtering through all the garbage and finding USEFUL content for THEM!

    case in point: On my blog I've highlighted and FOUND local community issues I've taken interest in (either for or against) The internet used in a SMALL SCALE can bring neighborhoods and communities together.

    I'm a diabetic, and recently started using some new monitoring gadgets. I've found blogs related to my equipment (user blogs) and have shared my experiences with them as well. That's far more knowledge for a user than an owner's manual.

    james http://www.futuregringo.com

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