Monday, July 5, 2010

Review: "The cult of the amateur" by Andrew Keen

I was browsing through the shelves of the library when I came across this book. As I've always been a fan of the immense changes that the Internet has made in the way that we produce and share information, and am a strong advocate of examining both sides of any argument, I decided to give it a read.

In a perfect world, I would be able to say that I read it, disagreed with many of the points, and then would go on to calmly recite exactly on which points I diverged from the author.

(To clarify a quick point, I rarely start a book and then leave it unread: it may be a few weeks before I get around to finishing it, but well over 90% of the time, I eventually do.) 

In reality, I made it to page three, at which point I encountered this sentence: 

          "If we keep up this pace, there will be over five hundred million blogs by 2010, collectively corrupting and confusing popular opinion about everything from politics, to commerce, to arts and culture."
This may not be the most frustrating sentence I have ever come across, but it certainly does rank up there. 

Politics: I hardly think that this website can be accused of corruption and confusion, especially when compared to the fear machine that is the mainstream media and the communications arm of the Republican Party known as FOX news. 
      I may not be a reader of "commerce blogs" (I actually might have a hard time picking one out), but somehow doubt that they are any less valid than the wild speculation that seems to take place in print sources.
      Andrew Keen seems to be unaware of one very fundamental lesson concerning art: it's nearly impossible to define, and even harder to place limits upon. He can hardly say that brilliant modern computerized illustrations isn't art... or at least not any more than I can say that all Michaelangelo did was hack at a bit of rock. In fact, the internet has created democracy in music on an unprecedented scale (a likely topic for another post.)
Culture is something defined by it's very definition: a hundred years ago, it was white linens, opera, and expensive coats. Nowadays, it's quite different, to say the least, and people generally consider "culture" synonymous with snobbery.

Of course, his justification for these "exceptions" is that simply enough, if you give an infinite number of monkeys (read: computer users) and infinite number of typewriters (internet enable computers) they are bound to come up with at least a few worthwhile objects.

I beg to differ. None of those sites are accidents, and precious few of their creators would have had their talents put to nearly as significant use in the mainstream media. If they were given a chance at all. 

No longer can only a few create, and count on everyone else consuming what they produce simply because that's all that exists. Now, everyone has a voice, and an intelligent voice has a much better chance of being listened to. 

For that, I'd put up with some apparently useless blogs and a few million pointless YouTube videos any day.

1 comment:

  1. I'll be the first to admit that perhaps I didn't give it a fair shake.... but to be honest, I'm not sure if I could have.