Andrew Keen is the executive director of the Silicon Valley salon FutureCast, a columnist for CNN and a regular commentator on all things digital. He is the author of DIGITAL VERTIGO, the international sensation THE CULT OF THE AMATEUR, which was published in seventeen languages, and the controversial new THE INTERNET IS NOT THE ANSWER.
"The Cult of the Amateur needed to be written and it needs to be read." -- Management Today, June 2007
About the Author
Andrew Keen is an English digital media entrepreneur and Silicon Valley insider whose popular writing about culture, media, and technology has been featured in many newspapers and magazines including The Weekly Standard, BusinessWeek, Esquire, and The Guardian, as well as on his own weblog, www.cultoftheamateur.com. He hosts the acclaimed podcast show, AfterTV, and his views have generated a firestorm of interest.
The most interesting thing about this book is, 7 years after it's publication, how both relevant and dated it is, even if it often reads like an old man confused as to why kids-these-days don't enjoy cola floats like he did. Keen may bemoan the closure of his favorite record stores, but as someone now in their early 30s whose memories are of grudgingly paying £25 for non-chart CDs in HMV, I can't say I share his sorrow at their fall from grace. Also, like many people, he forgets that most TV has always been bloody terrible, we just remember the shows that hit the zeitgeist. And on a personal note, while there may never be another Friends. Good.
As I said, the book is rather dated at times, though of course Keen cannot be blamed for getting things wrong. Still it's hard not to smirk at MySpace and Yahoo! (ask you're parents kids) being mentioned alongside Google and YouTube. More seriously, his criticisms of 'amateur' art and the death of narrative television have also not been borne out. Though it took a while, companies like Netflix and Amazon are now very much behind funding expensive TV shows. Equally, a lot of modern YouTubers and blogger are making a healthy living; while they are a tiny fraction of total content creators, is this any different from the success of one or two giant bands in the 'glorious years' that Keen wishes we could return to? I do find that Keens criticism of anything amateur comes across as the worst kind of elitism; one borne not from an appreciation of the product, but who made it. Yes there is a LOT of c**p on the internet but I, and I imagine anyone reading this, could post links to dozens of interesting, entertaining and well-made review-sites, web-comics, comedy acts, bands, short stories, well-referenced political blogs etc.Read more ›
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This is still relevant after all these years. I read this when it first came out and didn't think much of it. Andrew Keen comes across as a pompous Brit who still thinks he is in charge of an empire. But after all these years I wonder. Andrew Keen argued that behind every mouse lurks a sadomasochistic, anti-life, suicidal contradiction. The Internet basically is an epiphenomenon of the inner gnome in all of us. Jaron Lanier has recently written a better book called, You Are Not a Gadget which is better than this. Cult of the Amateur book is still well written, if very one sided. I suppose it gives the other side of the story so it is still worth your dollar. Plus, allot of what Keen wrote about back then had come true, so it is worth reading to see the evidence.
Andrew Keen, then, is the old fashioned pessimistic voice in the street market, shouting "culture is dead and the Internet has killed it"! I still reckon he is a British uppity guy, but he has some words of wisdom.
Usually we should tell these morbid types to pack their bags and move their sorry ars*s to China, but I was impressed by Andrew Keen. He gives the other version of the happy utopia and his 'Amateur Cult' image rings even more true today than it did when his book first came out. We see amateurs everywhere don't we? From lazy Amazon blogs masquerading as reviews, to 2 hour podcasts were the presenters giggle and fart most of the time. I love downloading philosophy and science podcasts, but I have to admit, no podcast I know of comes close in quality to BBC radio. So it is a decent book!
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Andrew Keen has the right credentials to address the question of the cultural impact of the web and it is a subject of interest to me, so I was intrigued by the title and the reviews. However, I was really quite disappointed by the book. I now have some suspicions, rightly anticipated by Keen himself, about the reviewers who said it is "beautifully written" and the work of "an intellectual Goliath".
The style of the book is polemical, which in my view detracts from, rather than strengthens, his message. Andrew Keen's hypothesis is that the internet, or rather the mass contribution of its content by "amateurs", is a threat to "our culture and our values" or something that might destroy "the institutions of the past". At the centre of this hypothesis is the argument that the millions of amateur contributors of free, unregulated, biased, poor quality and downright untrue web content are undermining, obscuring or preventing the contributions of professionals (amongst which Keen presumably counts himself) which are high quality, truthful and . . er . . costly.
Yet I find his arguments are weak and contradictory, and the metaphors and anecdotes he uses often cut both ways. There are so many examples it is hard to pick one as an illustration. Keen quotes from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four to provide a flavour of what might become of us through our mass ignorance and rejection of expert guidance - "Two plus two makes five" might eventually be considered true - but he misses the point that only in a totalitarian state could such an untruth be accepted as true. The "democracy" of the web is precisely the sort of mechanism that would prevent this being possible.Read more ›