Customer Review

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A waste of time, 27 May 2008
This review is from: The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy (Paperback)
A month ago, I went to Felix Meritis in Amsterdam, where Andrew Keen held a debate about his book "The Cult of the Amateur". I heard of him before, and consulted his blog a number of times, which did not draw my attention very much. I thought he made a point through exaggeration, and nothing wrong with it if, at least, there is some data and reasonable argumentation backing his statements. I was quite interested if he would convince me, because I thought it was good to hear something about the negative side of Web 2.0. And negative it was.

It turned out to be pretty disappointing, both the lecture of Keen, which was somewhat engaging, using many examples and being very enthusiastic and cynical, and the reply by the other persons who were invited. Although examples can be engaging and create more understanding about a subject, you can hardly generalize them into always-true statements, since.. well, they are examples. But that was exactly what Keen was doing, examples prove his point of view.. a pretty childish way of argumentation, which he used extensively in his book as well.

Andrew Keen is an angry man. He is angry at anything that resembles Web 2.0, he despises creations of amateurs online, filesharing, remixing of content, and he embraces everything that came before Web 2.0. In his anger, it must have been very hard for him to follow a consistent line of reasoning. The argumentation in the book is so lousy, I think I have never seen such sloppiness. And I don't get it. Although he admires and continuously points out the advantages and necessity of cultural gatekeepers, working at traditional media companies, it seems like he had not had any editor at all. This was exactly the point made by Stanford Law professor Lawrence Lessig, in his very funny review about the book ([...]

The basic argument in the book is that Web 2.0, or the ability of anyone able to contribute anything (from news to videos to music) online, diminishes the traditional structures and organizations in the media industry. This will damage our culture and in the end ruin it. Because anyone can put anything online, the quality is becoming less reliable of what you read and see, and more intertwined with commerce etc. There are so many flaws in this piece of rubbish, that it seems a Sisyphean task trying to document them. Maybe.... in a collective effort we could do that, as has been intended by Lawrence Lessig ([...]

Although the book flaws in a substantial way (factual errors & bad argumentation), the basic point made in the book has some significance: quality of information and trust in people and information is decreasing in an ever-expanding online information space. There is a lot of rubbish online, and maybe, it has become less easy for kids and adults to distinguish high quality from low quality. Still, technology also enables people to overcome these problems.
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Location: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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