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The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen

  • Newsnight
  • 5 Jun 07, 02:07 PM

The Cult of the Amateur
How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy
by Andrew Keen

amateur_203.jpg“If we are all amateurs, there are no experts.”

Andrew Keen’s new book, The Cult of the Amateur is the latest addition to the Newsnight book club. In it, the author expresses his concern for the profligacy of online amateurism, spawned by the digital revolution. This, he feels, has had a destructive impact on our culture, economy and values.

He says, “[They] can use their networked computers to publish everything from uninformed political commentary, to unseemly home videos, to embarrassingly amateurish music, to unreadable poems, reviews, essays, and novels”.

He complains that blogs are “collectively corrupting and confusing popular opinion about everything from politics, to commerce, to arts and culture”.

He claims that Wikipedia perpetuates a cycle of misinformation and ignorance, and labels YouTube inane and absurd, “showing poor fools dancing, singing, eating, washing, shopping, driving, cleaning, sleeping, or just staring at their computers.”

He warns that old media is facing extinction – “say goodbye to experts and cultural gatekeepers – our reporters, news anchors, editors, music companies, and Hollywood movie studios.”

What do you think? We’ve published two extracts from Andrew Keen’s book below. Have a read and share your thoughts – is he being alarmist about the effects of the Web 2.0 revolution, or raising genuine concerns? Are we at the mercy of the amateur? Can kids tell the difference between credible news sources and the amateur’s blog? What, in any case, can be done?


Extract from CHAPTER 1 – THE GREAT SEDUCTION

… democratization, despite its lofty idealization, is undermining truth, souring civic discourse, and belittling expertise, experience, and talent. As I noted earlier, it is threatening the very future of our cultural institutions.
I call it the great seduction. The Web 2.0 revolution has peddled the promise of bringing more truth to more people—more depth of information, more global perspective, more unbiased opinion from dispassionate observers. But this is all a smokescreen. 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.
Moreover, the free, user-generated content spawned and extolled by the Web 2.0 revolution is decimating the ranks of our cultural gatekeepers, as professional critics, journalists, editors, musicians, moviemakers, and other purveyors of expert information are being replaced (“disintermediated,” to use a FOO Camp term) by amateur bloggers, hack reviewers, homespun moviemakers, and attic recording artists. Meanwhile, the radically new business models based on user-generated material suck the economic value out of traditional media and cultural content.
We—those of us who want to know more about the world, those of us who are the consumers of mainstream culture—are being seduced by the empty promise of the “democratized” media. For the real consequence of the Web 2.0 revolution is less culture, less reliable news, and a chaos of useless information. One chilling reality in this brave new digital epoch is the blurring, obfuscation, and even disappearance of truth.
Truth, to paraphrase Tom Friedman, is being “flattened,” as we create an on-demand, personalized version that reflects our own individual myopia. One person’s truth becomes as “true” as anyone else’s. Today’s media is shattering the world into a billion personalized truths, each seemingly equally valid and worthwhile. To quote Richard Edelman, the founder, president, and CEO of Edelman PR, the world’s largest privately owned public relations company:

“In this era of exploding media technologies there is no truth except the truth you create for yourself.” 1

This undermining of truth is threatening the quality of civil public discourse, encouraging plagiarism and intellectual property theft, and stifling creativity. When advertising and public relations are disguised as news, the line between fact and fiction becomes blurred. Instead of more community, knowledge, or culture, all that Web 2.0 really delivers is more dubious content from anonymous sources, hijacking our time and playing to our gullibility.
Need proof? Let’s look at that army of perjurious penguins—“Al Gore’s Army of Penguins” to be exact. Featured on YouTube, the film, a crude “self-made” satire of Gore’s pro-environment movie An Inconvenient Truth, belittles the seriousness of Al Gore’s message by depicting a penguin version of Al Gore preaching to
other penguins about global warming.
But “Al Gore’s Army of Penguins” is not just another homemade example of YouTube inanity. Though many of the 120,000 people who viewed this video undoubtedly assumed it was the work of some SUV-driving amateur with an aversion to recycling, in reality, the Wall Street Journal traced the real authorship of this neocon satire to DCI Group, a conservative Washington, D.C., public relationships and lobbying firm whose clients include Exxon-Mobil.2 The video is nothing more than political spin, enabled and perpetuated by the anonymity of Web 2.0, masquerading as independent art. In short, it is a big lie.
Blogs too, can be vehicles for veiled corporate propaganda and deception. In March 2006, the New York Times reported about a blogger whose laudatory postings about Wal-Mart were “identical” to press releases written by a senior account supervisor at the Arkansas retailer’s PR company.3 Perhaps this is the same team behind the mysterious elimination of unflattering remarks about Wal-Mart’s treatment of its employees on the retailer’s Wikipedia entry.
Blogs are increasingly becoming the battlefield on which public relations spin doctors are waging their propaganda war. In 2005, before launching a major investment, General Electric executives met with environmental bloggers to woo them over the greenness of a new energy-efficient technology. Meanwhile, multinationals like IBM, Maytag, and General Motors all have blogs that, under an objective guise, peddle their versions of corporate truth to the outside world.
But the anticorporate blogs are equally loose with the truth. In 2005, when the famous and fictitious finger-in-the-chili story broke, every anti-Wendy’s blogger jumped on it as evidence of fast-food malfeasance. The bogus story cost Wendy’s $2.5 million in lost sales as well as job losses and a decline in the price of the company’s stock.
As former British Prime Minister James Callaghan said, “A lie can make its way around the world before the truth has the chance to put its boots on.” That has never been more true than with the speeding, freewheeling, unchecked culture of today’s blogosphere.

1. “Liquid Truth: Advice from the Spinmeisters,” PR Watch, Fourth Quarter 2000, Volume 7, No. 4.
2. Antonio Regalado and Dionne Searcey, “Where Did That Video Spoofing Al Gore’s Film Come From?” Wall Street Journal, August 3, 2006.
3. Michael Barbaro, “Wal-Mart enlists bloggers in PR campaign,” New York Times, March 7, 2006.


From THE LAST WORD

At the 2005 TED Conference, Kevin Kelly told the Silicon Valley crowd that we have a moral obligation to develop technology. “Imagine Mozart before the technology of the piano,” he said. “Imagine Van Gogh before the technology of affordable oil paints. Imagine Hitchcock before the technology of film.”
But technology doesn’t create human genius. It merely provides new tools for self-expression. And if the democratized chaos of user-generated Web 2.0 content ends up replacing mainstream media, then there may not be a way for the Mozarts, Van Goghs, and Hitchcocks of the future to effectively distribute or sell their creative work.
Instead of developing technology, I believe that our real moral responsibility is to protect mainstream media against the cult of the amateur. We need to reform
rather than revolutionize an information and entertainment economy that, over the last two hundred years, has reinforced American values and made our culture the
envy of the world. Once dismantled, I fear that this professional media—with its rich ecosystem of writers, editors, agents, talent scouts, journalists, publishers, musicians, reporters, and actors—can never again be put back together. We destroy it at our peril.
So let’s not go down in history as that infamous generation who, intoxicated by the ideal of democratization, killed professional mainstream media. Let’s not be remembered for replacing movies, music, and books with YOU! Instead, let’s use technology in a way that encourages innovation, open communication, and progress, while simultaneously preserving professional standards of truth, decency, and creativity. That’s our moral obligation. It’s our debt to both the past and the future.


Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 03:15 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Martin wrote:

yes, he's right. Blogs are shit.

  • 2.
  • At 03:18 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Iain mackenzie wrote:

Your email inviting amateur comment says it all, and with zero payment at that, ao I've kept this short..
Cheers,
Iain

  • 3.
  • At 03:20 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Sean Girling wrote:

I agree with his sentiments. However, that's only my opinion.

  • 4.
  • At 03:21 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Walter F Plant wrote:

I just need to say that my wife and I have tried all the chat sites and quickly came to the opinion that most were inhabited by teenagers or younger but the tragedy is that they all appeared to have had no education.

  • 5.
  • At 03:24 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • David wrote:

I don't see it quite so pessimistically. In the future, great cultural works, will be acknowledged as such on their own merits rather than by successful marketing.

In the 'old media' world, it was easy for mediocre material produced by overpaid celebrities to be heavily promoted by the 'mainstream' recording industry and movie studios. Not to say all mainstream material is bad, but there is plenty that is.

And whenever was the 'old media' news unbiased. (Newsnight excepted of course!)

Basically Andrew Keen hates free speech because the internet is the only vehicle the people has left for genuine freedom of expression. I won't be buying this book and thankfully I don't know anybody who would.

  • 7.
  • At 03:28 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Ross Langford wrote:

It's hard to tell from the extracts whether Andrew is more worried about the quality of 'new' content or the threat to restricted access that [he and the rest of] the chattering classes maintained as an exclusive privilege.

Yes, there is plenty of trash out there, but there was plenty of it before in mainstream media. I'd be willing to bet the proportions are roughly the same now as before the democratisation of hyperspace.

Maybe the cultural elitist meejah should revise it's role and become a filter of legitimate public and expert opinion instead of on-screen or in-print dinner table bores (with some notable exceptions, of course).

Of course Andrew Keen is correct. Luckily, at present, there is still some good news writing on the web largely because professional print journalists' work is duplicated on the web.

What frightens me is that as people become more reliant on the web as a news source, newspaper circulations will decline, with more journalists' jobs being at risk. The quality of writing on the web will decline sharply as broadsheet newspapers are forced to merge or close.

Then we shouldn't forget the BBC's own much visited website that might be assisting in the decline of regional newspaper's sales as people look to it for local news.

And then of course, there's Google, who just borrow other people's work and regurgitate it!

I fear that in the future there will be a lack of news analysis and original thinking and a growing obsession with the banal.

Who was it who said that most blogs have one reader? Their author. And who am I saying this too - a message blog? Could the web be the opiate of the people? I'll stop there......

  • 9.
  • At 03:30 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Jan McManus wrote:

He complains that blogs are “collectively corrupting and confusing popular opinion about everything from politics, to commerce, to arts and culture”.

Erm, surely Blogs *are* the popular opinion.

Evolvution is a good thing.

  • 10.
  • At 03:30 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Stuart Sutherland wrote:

What a load of arrogant rubbish.

Pretty much was said at the same time the printing press was invented. They were wrong then and Andrew Keen is just as wrong now.

Empire building comes to mind.

  • 11.
  • At 03:30 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • John Coombes wrote:

Andrew Keen is the "poor fool" who has completely missed the true significance of the web.
Never in our civilisation's history have we been able to communicate directly with each other, without political, religious or corporate bias influencing the message.
This new found ability will hopefully see an acceleration in our evolution as a species as we begin to understand each other better in our direct conversations.
It is early days and we are currently experiencing the inhibitions and restrictions of millennia being thrown off with this new found freedom.
Once this new freedom has had a chance to influence our process of maturing maybe we will see a society that can benefit from the input of all, and not the traditional bias and vested interest of the few.
After all, is it not the academics of the past and present who are responsible for civilisations present plight - and a continued belief in their own self obssessed views that is taking us absolutely nowhere, and rather worsening the situation?
A little more compassion and a little less arrogance would make a more useful contribution to the present uncertain climate in my opinion.

  • 12.
  • At 03:38 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • roland wrote:

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

good riddance I say! if peoople want a pretentious idiot's opinion to inform their cultural enlightenment, then they can go and buy a broadsheet. I'm much happier to find out what real people think.

people who understand the nature of blogs, enjoy watching mindless drivel on you-tube, and the ease with which you can look up anything on wikipedia are the future I'm afraid.

who needs hollywood movie studios and record companies when all they churn out is bilge? look at the way in which the quality of chart music has improved now that downloads count. manufactured bands and blockbuster films rip people off and feed a culture of greed.

editors and news 'reporters' don't like it because now everyone has the power to offer their view of what's going on. does Keen really think that what we are being offered by news corporations is some kind of pure truth - if so, he is even more deranged than the bloggers he looks down his nose at!

  • 13.
  • At 03:41 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Pete wrote:

I'm surprised he didn't mention 'Snakes on a Plane'. Hollywood listens to the web and we end up with something that's not so good.

On the other hand I wonder if his wailing could be seen as a piece in the broadsheets complaining about the tabloids. I can imagine broadsheet journalists complaining that the tabloids were employing journalists that hadn't been to Oxbridge.

  • 14.
  • At 03:42 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • TerenceW wrote:

Will his book be available online???

  • 15.
  • At 03:42 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Ravi Mulchandani wrote:

There may be some truth in what he says but its all very narrow-minded it think...but what about professionals who also fail to use "deep analysis" or "considered judgement".

For example, most professional journalists and advertisers consistently distort truths to make profit, there profit making them professionals, not the quality of their work. If you tube is rubbish so is most of terrestrial TV and virtually all of cable and satellite TV.

Also why should the media be dominated by a small section of society namely professionals? Why should Oxbridge and universities only have the chance to write encyclopaedias and dictionaries?

Wikipedia is the best thing on the web. Rather than being fed ideas from above, we get the chance to get involved. This is the most democratically participant form of society, far more exciting than consuming traditional television and newspapers!

Ravi

  • 16.
  • At 03:44 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • G. Tomlin wrote:

I think readers of BLOGs are discriminating of what they read, as are readers of newspapers and lookers/listeners of TV or Radio newscasts. The behavior of peoples' perceived irrationality, as seen or heard by others is just a behavior mode, mostly not serious but irritating at times.

Hard luck mate, this is post modernism in action, the revolution may not be televised but it will be blogged and shown on youtube.

Yes I agree (that means I am opinionated too) that most of youtube is dross, but then so is much of what is published by mainstream publishers, written in newspapers and shown on TV.

There is some good stuff out there, but I would say that as it is mine :)

  • 18.
  • At 03:52 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Jonathan Lea-Howarth wrote:

So Andrew Keen thinks reporters, news anchors, editors, music companies, and Hollywood movie studios are "experts and cultural gatekeepers". Never have I heard such a load of rubbish.

Music companies have done a wonderful job of forcing recording artists to live in a form of slavery, whilst producing the mass market crap that record company bosses think the public wants. Billy Ray Cyrus? Puuurlease!

Hollywood has done an even better job of churning out one mindless film after another. Whether its Oceans 27, or the latest Chuck Norris flick.

Finally, the news media, worst of all, because they are the ones who are supposed to deal in reality, yet seem unable to tell the truth about the world we live in. Just watch CNN or Fox news for a few moments if you want the proof in this.

Is Mr Keen scared that the internet wil open up new worlds of talent both in movies and music? Is he afraid that allowing 'normal' people to make the news will somehow threaten the fabric of lies and assumptions that they ask us to swallow every night?

Or does he just lack the necessary taste and intelligence to see Hollywood, the music Biz and the corporate media machine for the sanitised, deintellectualised, mindless tripe they are?

If Mr Keen feel more comfortable listening to these "cultural gatekeepers and experts" then he is welcome to continue obtaining information and entertainment this way. The rest of us are intellgent and independent minded enough to act as our own cultural gatekeepers.

  • 19.
  • At 03:52 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Andrew S wrote:

although most of us live in a democratic society it has not been easy to make one's voice heard, a letter to the newspaper being most people's only recourse, leaving aside such in-your-face methods as a placard or a soapbox - so now we have blogging, the perfect forum for giving people a voice.
Take it for what it is - just people having their say, no one ever said it was the truth, besides is it any less truthful than what one reads in the paper?
And let's not forget, the great public choose to make their own mind up anyway, for example opinion polls continue to show the majority of people don't believe that Diana's death was an accident, despite what they are told on the TV or read in the papers.

Blogs are therapeutic for the underemployed people with low self- esteem, but who cares. They have as much right to squander their time as I have for making this comment.

  • 21.
  • At 03:58 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Aaron wrote:

Let's hope Newsnight has not missed the obvious irony in their last paragraph before the extracts (beginning "What do you think?"). Now we know whose side Newsnight is really on! Yahay Newsnight! Go with the people! Oh wait, maybe they are being ironical on purpose?

  • 22.
  • At 03:59 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Aaron wrote:

There are two ways of interpreting Keen's remarks. (1) People are generally stupid and ill-informed, so we need to shut them up and only listen to "trusted experts". (2) There is a problem with the new internet publishing technology, or at least with its implementation, and we need to re-think. If Keen had something intelligent to say about (2), he might be worth listening to. Sadly, it seems as if Keen's rant is confined to a long-winded and pompous articulation of (1). This marks him off as someone who is himself rather amateurish at what he does - has he nothing intelligent to say?

Please stop asking us what we think. What does it matter what we think?

Please stop asking us what we think. What does it matter what we think? We're the audience.

What John Coombes says is fine, if you believe that everyone has something worthwhile to say. Whereas in fact, there are plenty of people who are ignorant, uninformed, prejudiced, lazy or simply not really qualified to speak about the subject they're discussing. Can society really benefit from the input of all? Should I ask everyone how to wire up a new junction box in my kitchen? And assign equal weighting to all the suggestions I find on the internet? Or should I ask a professional, who knows what she is talking about? That's not arrogance, it's simply a recognition that many areas of life need a bit of intellectual rigour applied to them.
In the past, to have your ideas broadcast, you had to be rich (or powerful), or more likely, persuade someone rich (or powerful) that your views were liable to make them richer (or more powerful). No magazine, newspaper or TV producer would employ you unless you had achieved a basic level of capability in areas like fact-checking, neutrality, ability to follow an argument.
I accept that amateur-generated content on the internet has a value in some areas. But there is also a lot of stuff written by stupid, pompous, self-regarding people.
I don't see any way out though. Perhaps we're all doomed?

  • 26.
  • At 04:16 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Innes wrote:

Where there is change there will always be opposition.

"The Luddites were a social movement of English textile artisans in the early nineteenth century who protested — often by destroying textile machines — against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt threatened their livelihood".. from Wikipedia so might not be true, mind you how do I, or you know what true?

  • 27.
  • At 04:18 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Alan Addison wrote:

I read blogs, laugh at the stupid videos on youTube and consult Wikipedia.

But when a big news story in breaking I go to the BBC news website. And buy a heavyweight newspaper to get their spin on the story.

I have a huge collections of DVDs, CDs and books that I have paid good hard cash for. And that I still add to.

Its not Web 2.0 or traditional media. You can mix and match. But, as always, you get what you pay for.

  • 28.
  • At 04:19 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Unreadable poet wrote:

When identity begins to steal away,
And the web ensnares your solitary thought,
Extinguish that blank gaze, reclaim the day,
Lest it render human codes all for naught.
There is no engine that will seek your dream,
No string can bind you to your lover’s heart,
Blameless as the first illicit byte may seem,
Who e’er found paradise whilst being apart?
The eyes that see your eyes are those that see
The current surge and flow as we connect -
Heed this error message, access random memory,
Consider which data you most need to protect.
He who toils unceasing, all relentlessly alone,
May come to find those who once waited, gone

What a load of bo**ocks!!To insinuate that all bloggers or youtube fans are daft and unable to discern fact from fiction is a joke. the fact that youtube is so popular is getting some tv stations scared that their veiwing figures have fallen, as more and more people turn to the web. Certain media outlets do have biased reporting, but the public are more than able to decide for themselves what is and isn't true, and then have action taken against them. The only problem about wikipedia is that anyone can contribute/erase it, so reliability can be rather iffy. As long as Newsnight's on, I'm happy.:-)

Yes, of course some blogs are bad and wikipedia is not 100% reliable, but then a lot of mainstream writing is ill-informed and bad too. Is YouTube really more corrosive and stupid than television? Take a look at American Idol and Big Brother, and let me know.

The essential problem for people today has not really changed: there are a lot of sources of information and we must somehow decide which ones to trust. We must check our facts from several sources and beware of politicial bias. Of course many were not doing this when using the traditional media like newspapers.

Actually, blogs allow more experts to air their views in public, and they can also tackle narrow areas of interest with great detail, where coverage in the traditional media does not exist or is too cursory.

In the 'old world' media, the 'experts' were chosen by an elite such as producers, editors and proprietors who could indeed have their own agenda, and their own desire to spin the story. With blogs, as with everything else we must exercise our judgement and experience to decide which voices to trust and which we can safely pass over.

  • 31.
  • At 04:25 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • bailey wrote:

The problem here is with Mr Keen holding the view that only expert opinions matter. Whilst they may be more informed, that does not necessarily mean they are right.

The same is with Art, what the snobbish have long criticised as no good, has been reveered by many, Jack Vettriano is one of the best selling artists, but the establishment rejects his work.

we all make our own choices, and what Web 2.0 is doing is broadening our options, and so expanding our tastes. The web presents an unprecendented opportunity to cross cultural divides, it allows us to ask the questions we daren't ask for fear of upsetting politically correct sensibilities, what you could say is that it is turning us all into micro experts.

People have a wealth of info at their fingertips, and so their research on individual topics and issues is second to none. Whatever question I ask in gogle is responded to with a hundred different opinions, and allows me the opportunity to come to my own conclusions

  • 32.
  • At 04:26 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Nigel wrote:

Pompous!

  • 33.
  • At 04:27 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Kim wrote:

To state that the dissemanation of information in the world was anymore truthful in the past than it is at the present strikes me as naive at best and dishonest at worst. Andrew Keen seems to postulate that the professional media institutions are somehow losing a much regretted expertise and integrity because of a proliferation of bloggers on the Internet. He seems to ignore the fact that some of these bloggers are as competent as any professional and that a portion of their initiatives illustrates fully his wish for technology to be used 'in a way that encourages innovation, open communication, and progress, while simultaneously preserving professional standards of truth, decency, and creativity.'
At any rate if the cultural vacum he so describes is indeed being created, isn't it up to the 'professionals' to adapt and ensure that their craft distinguishes itself from the untruthful and talentless hacks Andrew Keen deplores. The market for professionalism and judicious and truthful journalism remains as srong as ever.
The BBC (and Newsnight in particular) has blogs, do they make the institution and the professionalism of its staff any less competent?
Evidently, much depends of the quality of content of the blogs in question. One can pick and chose and make an informed judgement of what is being conveyed. Something akin to the difference of journalism between Tabloids and more intellectual publications. I find Andrew Keen's conclusions somewhat offensive in the light of the good points the Internet has yet to offer. The idea that things are being sullied by the intrusions of the talentless masses versus an oligarchic team of experts is far more dangerous than anything he denounces. They are gems and rubbish alike on the net. Keen speaks of artistic endeavours such as film and music, the band The Arctic Monkeys for instance came to prominence precisely through the means he is denouncing. On a purely subjective note, I find their music far more compelling and representative of the world than anything offered by the likes of programs such as the X factor and other so-called professional institutions.

I also wanted to add that I can't believe you've put Andrew Keen's crapoli book in The Newsnight Book Club, yet you haven't put Jeremy's book "On Royalty" on the show at all, which is more than worthy of being in the Book Club. Grrrrrrrr

There is an underlying assumption in the argument that the old media is all good. Actually, it's just as patchy as the new media. Most of it is not worthwhile, just as most of what's on the web is not worthwhile.

But bloggers - at least, those with more than one reader - inhabit small communities, in which there is a heirarchy, and in which it is not possible to pretend for long. One reason why old media types misunderstand blogging is that they think starting their own blog is enough - they do not seem to understand that it is a two-way street, and that therein lies the value. (I think that is probably also true of Wikipedia, which is a useful starting place, a great deal more useful than an out-of-date Encyclopaedia Brittanica.)

I find that, in my sphere (food blogging), other bloggers are a great deal more interesting to read than hacks like, say, Nigel Slater who used to be interesting, but now churn out a rehashed version of the same stuff over and over again, and expect us to pay for it (sorry Nigel, it's not just you). There's some great writing on the web, and the more of it I read, the less interested I become in newspapers (to which I have had a lifelong addiction).

  • 36.
  • At 04:38 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Matt Dyer wrote:

I find it funny that a person should write a book based upon some sweeping generalisations. Suggesting that every person who uses the internet either uses chat Rooms, or writes Bloggs is silly. I do neither.Most people are able to form there own opions about the quality and accuraturacy of News.
The impression I get is that most people who use chat rooms are children or people who are bored and students. Do we want to copy the chineese and allow the government to filter what we can do and say?
We all know that the only place to gain an accurate account of the news is the BBC, perhaps the Author of the book should be educated.

Matt

  • 37.
  • At 04:39 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Ralph wrote:

One is left asking the age old question 'what's the difference between a duck' and the obvious answer is 'one of it's legs are both the same'.

  • 38.
  • At 04:48 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Theo wrote:

Personally, I find those extracts pretty unreadable. But if you're asking whether kids can tell the difference between credible news sources and the amateur's blog - well, experience will teach them eventually, and their underatanding of the media as a whole will be the better for it.

There is ALWAYS a lot of dross about, but as history shows us that the dross is generally forgotten, I'm pretty confident that the "problems" of 2.0 will resolve themselves quite naturally as audiences become more sophisticated.

I think he is missing the point utterly.

His main issue seems to be that much user generated content (UGC) is poor quality, and that the ease with which it can now be published and reach an audience because of facilitating technology is therefore a bad thing, because poor quality content pushes out the considered, well informed contributions to the media.

This is simply not the case, on a number of levels.

Bad UGC tends not to reach an audience. The poor quality, ignorant rant on MySpace will not reach any audience significant enough for it to do any damage. Since most people producing UGC tend to want an audience, there is actually an incentive against creating ill-informed, poor quality content because anyone with two brain cells to rub together will be able to work out that it will have a negligible reach. Those without the aforementioned brain cells will continue to produce bad content, but hardly anyone will read/watch/listen to it. And no-one forces him to watch those 'poor fools' on YouTube.

There is no threat posed by 'lower quality' UGC to good quality content. The risk to the 'old media' is that they fail to maximise their routes to content and thus as people become less likely to buy a newspaper, their reach decreases. So long as an old media entity produces content and makes it accessible in as many ways as possible, they will continue to be a powerful voice in our society.

The new media revolution has, in fact, increased good quality content in real terms. A long tail has been created, much of which is of real value. The technology sector perhaps has the most developed media ecosystem (simply because it was the first to adopt the new technologies, and has therefore had the longest to mature), and is a good example of this.

The democratisation of media has brought profound benefits. The work of the charity MySociety is an excellent example of what the internet can do to promote good governance and make a positive difference in peoples' lives. More people can become involved in the running of their country thanks to better communication. More people can feel enfranchised, a powerful weapon in fighting dangerous political apathy. To dismiss all of this based on the increased availability of drivel, which does no harm and he is not forced to watch, is ignorant and unhelpful.

  • 40.
  • At 04:50 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Steve B wrote:

I could only manage about the first paragraph before I choked on the words, but found the democratic selection of comments much more interesting and readable. Stuart Sutherland is right on the money when he says that much the same thing was said about the printing press. Democratisation and a plurality of views are a good thing, and he underestimates other people's ability (clearly he thinks he can) to tell the difference between opinionated rubbish and informed debate. Lots of people read the Sun, but that doesn't mean they entirely trust what it says.

And what of today's media? The sound-bite culture? Didn't Tony Blair put something on YouTube because he could use it to put his entire message across without it being edited down by some Rupert Murdoch lackey?

And while methinks the BBC (and other media companies) very much do care what the audience thinks, it is certainly a moot point whether this discussion matters at all. Web 2.0 maybe hyped out beyond the solar system, but it's happening any way, and there's nowt Andrew Keen or anyone else can do to stop it, so we'd all better get used to it.

  • 41.
  • At 04:50 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Alan wrote:

This is complete arrogance.

As with most of what you might overhear in a pub or on a bus most blogs are complete rubbish. But that doesn't mean that people are not entitled to express their opinion - no one forces us to listen.

Until recently newspapers and televison/radio have been the only way to communicate widely and the costs involved mean that what we have learn't has been decided by a relatively small group of publishers/broadcasters. Now the internet means that anyone (in the developed world at least) can pass on their thoughts and views. Of course 99.9% of this is rubbish, but the point is that it changes the rules - no longer can the collective media decide what we should or shouldn't know.

The challenge for the media is to persuade people to watch/listen/read amoungst all this background noise. They can do this through the quality and authority of their content. Unfortunately there are too many cases where the media seems to just be the mouthpiece of government or corporate PR departments.

Nothing here except the printed ramblings of a luddite!

this book is an unimaginative waste of energy and resources and further evidence that the old media needs to shout in order to get heard.

Let this industry mature before you deny its merits.

Oh and watch out for Mobile Social Networks which have (through the inbuilt micropayment ability) the potential to revolutionise the value of bloggers by enable the respected amateurs to get paid...after which you're income will fair and squarely depend on your ability to engage an audience.

  • 43.
  • At 04:53 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Ray Thomas wrote:

Mr Keen is clearly a half-is-glass-empty kinda guy! Yes there's ill-informed ranting out there, but that's just a byproduct of a much greater benefit, whereby millions of people can now instantly stay informed and make their opinions felt. As for his comments on YouTube and the demise of 'cultural gatekeepers', these suggest to me a humourless elitist!

  • 44.
  • At 04:54 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Flan Monkey wrote:

Intelligent people interpret and incorporate the information they obtain dependent on various factors, such as received source, trustworthiness etc. An elite few shouldn't control what we do or don't 'know', and the circumvention of this elite 'intelligentsia' would appear to be what Mr. Keen is most afraid of. He also seems highly concerned about the economic effects of such moves, but from where I stand, any change in societal (or more pertinently governmental) focus on Economic systems is welcome - the present economic systems haven't done us proud really, have they? (And when I say 'us', I mean the world...)

  • 45.
  • At 05:03 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • David Stockdale wrote:

Andrew Keen is absolutely correct, the internet has allowed the feeble minded extroverts to express their ill founded thoughts and accusations without
any form of accountability.
The sadness of it all is that there is a multitude of shallow thinkers who revel in their mindless diatribes.

  • 46.
  • At 05:10 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Richard Marriott wrote:

It is surely self evident by now that "more does not mean better". You only have to look at the proliferation of television channels to see that 99% of them produce a diet of dumbed down nausea. But this is the result of democratisation. This is the result of anti-elitism. If we want creative geniuses who can wow the world with their talent, then we have to accept that there is an elite. But this is the antithesis of full democracy. Every society needs an elite. I am an elitist - the question is - are you?
Just one last thought though - isn't this an online blog????

  • 47.
  • At 05:13 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Gordon wrote:

It's irrelevant, progress is progress, in whatever guise. A piano, a computer, the internet etc. Web 2.0 is progress and despite it's pluses and minuses it will be used my many for both good and bad. It's up to the taste and quality of the user to determine what is good and worth using and what is bad and worth dismissing. In the same way as it has always been. Only now it may be easier to access everything...

Way-hey! The gauntlet is down. And like a petulant, ego-maniacal latter Robin, what blogging, web two-pointer worth his or her salt could resist drawing up their bow and, in fine homage style, ‘aim close to the target’s centre, letting the splinters of the previous champion’s split shaft fall where they may’.

So... “If we are all amateurs, there are no experts.”

Or... looking at it another way: “Leave it to the experts, because they have done such a good job so far. Not.” Discuss.

First, though, I have a few, I guess amateur, questions....

What, exactly, is ‘informed political commentary, seemly home video, proudly professional music and readable poems, reviews, essays, and novels”?

Or, perhaps I should rather ask; who is to say? Those unelected, self-serving ‘club’ members who have been doing so until now? I think... hope... not.

If blogs are “collectively corrupting and confusing popular opinion about everything from politics, to commerce, to arts and culture”, what can be cited from the mythical, godly mainstream that has, is and will not?

How about a liberal-left quick-hit on the TV about the Middle East, or a paper campaign on plastic bags or 4x4s, when only today I found out, and blogged on, a real and massive effort to tackle the real big issues facing the climate (link in my signature... I’d appreciate the reader numbers. You see we amateur types fancy getting paid for what we create, too, but by owing allegiance to no one what we often have to say is less prone to... influence).?

If Wikipedia perpetuates a cycle of misinformation and ignorance, then more fool those who read it without a well-cocked eyebrow. If YouTube is inane and absurd, then, er.... don’t watch it.

And if old media is facing extinction, who is more to blame?
I for one am quite happy to bid farewell to all experts (who qualify as such how, again, exactly?) and cultural gatekeepers (ditto... plus who put them in charge anyway?), if these are those who have decided what I get to see and hear based on very human motivations, ranging from self-interested to greed, and agendas that are much less edifying if not down right sinister.

That you ask what, in any case, can be done, is too facile and hilarious to really try and answer. Go Canute... go, man, go! The tide is coming, and you might squeeze a few more ratings out yet before you end up being, as well as looking, very wet.

ps: Some great replies, fellow posters. Ta for a good mid-pm read and a mind-expanding giggle or two. Peace out.

  • 49.
  • At 05:27 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • towcestarian wrote:

Anyone who thinks that You Tube is a threat to the Royal Shakespeare Company has been smoking too much weed as a teenager and is now seriously paranoid.

And when the so-called professional political commentators are as biased and poorly informed as the BBC news department, then hooray for political blogs.

  • 50.
  • At 05:28 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Alan Duncan wrote:

Whats the use of spending years gaining knowledge and experience, working for a university or college degree if the world is to inundated by ignorance and self aclaim.

Let the bloggers go to college before you read them.

  • 51.
  • At 05:46 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Themos Tsikas wrote:

Why didn't you put "Guardians of Power" by D Edwards and D Cromwell on your reading list instead? Not controversial enough?

  • 52.
  • At 05:51 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Sue wrote:

I agree with Andrew Keen. We should admire those with special talents and accept that we don't all have them. The web gives us all the freedom to have a go - in music, writing, performance - in an environment free of quality control. The resultant flood of mediocrity just contributes to a world of lowest common denominator everything.
Words are cheap and the endless capacity of the web encourages an unstoppable flow, making it harder to find the wheat in so much chaff. I give you Robert Benchley US actor, author, & humorist (1889 - 1945)"Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing." I can't help wishing that more would heed his words.

  • 53.
  • At 05:58 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • d line wrote:

i have to smile at this man. he is in the media and he can say other people lie and are fools hahahahaha what a clown, that's all you media people do lie distort and sensationalise, and even if it is all crap on the internet its still free speech,

  • 54.
  • At 06:02 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Robert Brewster wrote:

High quality vursus low quality, what's new? thats why some of us watch Newsnight and others read the Sun, or (God Forbid) watch News 24. Each to their own (God help those watching News 24 though.)

  • 55.
  • At 06:16 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Robert Brewster wrote:

"Let the bloggers go to college before you read them."

The most elitist, ignorant, misinformed and twisted people I have ever met, I met at college...

...and that was just the tutors, you wouldn't be one would you?

  • 56.
  • At 06:22 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Zambo wrote:

I wouldn't be too worried about the poor lambs being led astray by the nasty bloggers. According to WPP's research (that's proper research, not a dodgy social polling web site) bloggers are less trusted than sportsmen, journalists, government organisations and celebrities. In fact the only group in the survey less trusted than bloggers were politicians.

Which suggests that all those people aren't getting into blogs and wikis because they're looking for some kind of objective truth.

And maybe it is equally naive to think we all used to consume newspapers for the truth or "culture" to somehow better ourselves.

  • 57.
  • At 06:23 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Farhad wrote:

America's culture the "envy of the world"?

LOL.

I thought this was a serious book!

  • 58.
  • At 06:31 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Aberhonddu wrote:

Andrew Keen should be careful of what he wants, lest he gets it.

Several countries I can think of already exercise thrillingly bracingly firm control over their citizens' ability to expose themselves to the online perils of which he writes.

The controlling authorities aren't exactly staffed by high-minded seekers after truth or defenders of the right to self-expression, though.

Got to go now - but please call me when it's time to gather round for a spot of chanting. You know: "On paper, good. On-line bad. On paper good. on-line bad."

  • 59.
  • At 06:54 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Stuart Sutherland wrote:

>> Let the bloggers go to college before you read them. <<

If you went back in to five or six hundred years you would have heard a similar sentiment expressed. Only this time it would have been "let all the writers learn Latin before than can be published!.

How many writers speak Latin these days.

It doesn't take a collage degree to have an opinion or to be able to express it. Education is no guarantee of getting the facts right either, not in a million years.

  • 60.
  • At 07:09 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • J. Westerman wrote:

Can it be that his book is the off-line version of the online product that he is complaining about?
There will always be those who can discriminate and those who can't.

I haven't read the book and I don't intend to.

However if the author also implies that amateur software developers are also in the gutter then I say thank you for amateur software developers, because without them we would not have the countless thousands of top quality and excellent programs that far exceed the standards laid down by the software giants of today.

Without this software, all that would be on offer from software retailers like PC World would be limited, expensive, bug ridden and stiffled.

Without amateur software developers we wouldn't have any kind of alternative to Windows such as Linux. And the internet would be controlled by propriortry systems charging stupid amounts of money for anything you do online.

  • 62.
  • At 07:16 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Kris Jones wrote:

Of course the Internet is full of inanity. However, that has always been true of ‘old media’ too. In consuming the more established media, many of us have learned how to filter the important, insightful and intelligent from the inane. The fact that ‘old media’ goes through a process of mediation – competing for scarce space and being edited for consumption – does not, unfortunately, spare it of inanity. There are many authors and newspaper columnists whose insights I do not care for, and many programmes that I refuse to listen to or watch because they are poor. We filter for ‘new media’ just as we do for the old.

Some of the best content on the Internet challenges that produced by those whose pedestal is built on a having a privileged voice in scarce and exalted ‘old’ media. It is in their interest to defend their position by ignoring the good, and pointing to the vast majority of the poor.

I suspect every new media advance since the advent of the printing press has met with opposition. I don’t suppose the literate enjoyed the prospect of illiterate masses being educated. I recall hearing that when Parliament was debating whether to allow commercial television in the UK, one Lord said that he wanted a nation of boring television, and the only way to ensure that was to leave it in the hands of the BBC.

  • 63.
  • At 07:30 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Richard Tugman wrote:

You may be interested in Professor Numberg's commentary on the topic of Wikipedia as aired today on National Public Radio's Fresh Air program here in the US.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10731811

  • 64.
  • At 07:41 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Richard Tugman wrote:

You may be interested in Professor Numberg's commentary on the topic of Wikipedia as aired today on National Public Radio's Fresh Air program here in the US.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10731811

  • 65.
  • At 08:40 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • tegan wrote:

Sounds like the death throws of a lumbering, soon to expire dinosaur to me. The mainstream media have lost. They let us all down by allowing themselves to be hijacked by elitist establishment and corporate interests. You've told us lies and deceived us for too long and we've had enough. Thankfully the internet has exposed you for what you are - the mouth piece and cheerleader for the rich and the powerful. We now have the tools to make our own minds up about the issues of the world without needing your version of what to think. Time leave, your time is up.

  • 66.
  • At 09:06 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Machiavelli wrote:

The people are only stupid because they watched too many shows like newsnight!

After a while on youtube, theyll be shouting, "How could i have being soooo stupid???"

The "threat of democracy" is looming large!

And sooooo, the end is near, Now i fac.................

Bye Newsnight:-)

The internet amateur pales to insignificance when compared to the amateur politician, voted into power by the amateur electorate.
The internet fits the term “having a laugh” which seems to be today’s main aim – so be it. But now that the world is having a laugh at a Britain characterised by Archer, Blair, Cameron, Goldsmith et al, it is to politics we should apply our thoughts. My solution is a Certificate of Voting Competence, to be studied for, and awarded by, examination. This would herald in a very different political age – it might even solve the internet problem. Pigs might fly.

  • 68.
  • At 09:37 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • richard wrote:

Not only pompous but an arrogant moralist.

We are now enjoying a communications revolution that puts the Western invention of printing in the shade. So long as we keep fighting Govt's needs to control it.

  • 69.
  • At 09:42 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Michael Needleman wrote:

The idea that there is one authentic cultural/critical voice is palpable nonsense. If Andrew Keen is correct then who is consuming this deluge of "uninformed political commentary, to unseemly home videos, to embarrassingly amateurish music, to unreadable poems, reviews, essays, and novels" and why? Clearly, the audience are getting something they value from the content otherwise they wouldn't bother with it.

Most research appears to indicate that people who read blogs, particularly current affairs & political ones, seek more sources of information than consumers of "traditional" media. Through the internet, I've been delighted to find ideas and opinions that are normally dismissed out of hand if acknowledged at all. There never has been a purely objective, independent media. Generally, the blogosphere rarely tries to claim that it is.

I'm trying to recall when I was ever aware of the "rich ecosystem of writers, editors, agents, talent scouts, journalists, publishers, musicians, reporters, and actors." Nope, can't.

  • 70.
  • At 09:43 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Patrick Haseldine wrote:

If you want to know what colours Andrew Keen's view of the Internet, and especially Wikipedia, have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Keen.

Mr Keen is clearly the consummate "amateur", and a self-publicist to boot!

Yes, but isn't it fun...

  • 72.
  • At 10:27 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Emmanuel wrote:

It's quite true that the web gives amateurs a chance...

On the other hand, where it concerns the admittedly few and perhaps impossible arcane fields of knowledge in which I can claim some expertise, nearly everything I have ever read from the hands of professional journalists, was at best very much oversimplified and at worst total nonsense.

Because, let us admit it, the "ancien media" reserved public communication for people who may have been professional communicators, but usually non-experts --- amateurs --- in the field they were reporting in.

So I fail to see why giving amateurs a chance would be a change for the worse, indeed, would be much of a change at all. And meanwhile, the web also gives the experts an opportunity to express their opinion.

  • 73.
  • At 10:40 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Horseless Headsman wrote:

A fine attempt at generalising the Internet and its participants. But also a failed one. Intelligent people will be drawn to intelligent content, and inane people to inanity. But even that is not fixed; there is scope for both evolution and devolution. As in most walks of life there is far more chaff than wheat, but the separation of the two is a learned discipline and its benefits speak for themselves. Everyone has their own tolerance limit for empty-headedness, just as it is possible to get all too serious about 'things'. But sooner or later the chaff-lovers acquire a taste for wheat, and rarely look back.

What impresses me most is that there is a hunger for detail and investigation in relation to mainstream newsFEEDS, which often settle for so little in the way of content and tenacity. The freedom of communication the Internet provides is becoming ever more tentative, and is threatened on several fronts. Keen's opinions will offer nothing in its defence and will only bolster those who would dare to suggest that such scope for communication, however amateur or sharp, is not for the peasants, but only for the 'elite'. Whatever its failings the Net keeps folk thinking instead of sleeping. If you need a sleep, though, watch the TV.

  • 74.
  • At 11:07 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

Jan McManus wrote:

"He complains that blogs are “collectively corrupting and confusing popular opinion about everything from politics, to commerce, to arts and culture”.

Erm, surely Blogs *are* the popular opinion."

Excellent point.

Another good point made was that the old media is also notoriously biased so all we get to see by reading more blogs is how many biases there are surely? The indterminacy of natural language is a function of its intensionality (with an s) which means that we often just accept what we read because of the way it is writtem. The blogs should, in theory, make it easier for us to resist being easily led by those who own/control the old media.

There's no conspiracy there, it's just that the old media isn't as evidence driven and accurate when 'reporting' as it likes to make out, as even in science, theory is in fact logically underdetermined by evidence, meaning that there are alternative ways of making sense of the same facts.

The more perspectives the better, so long as one iterates towards what's pragmatically most likely to be true in the end.

What *is* disturbing is when some of the old media run blogs (like The Guardian CIF) but pull comments whic they don't like (or which some readers don't like). Now that is Orwellian and it makes a mockery of their raison d'etre, namely "Comment Is Free" as clearly it is not, and freedom of the press requires one to be prepared to speak out, even if it offends!

http://www.zpub.com/un/chomsky.html
http://www.zmag.org/Chomsky/ni/ni-overview.html
http://seedmagazine.com/news/2006/09/noam_chomsky_robert_trivers.php

And of course, the BBC isn't immune from criticism:

http://www.badscience.net/?p=418

  • 75.
  • At 11:26 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Stuart Colley wrote:

What a load of elitest twoddle! Can't you tell that this individual has a book to peddle. He assumes that the traditional media is in some way reliable and honourable. Experience has proved this view to be rubbish. the vast majority of us that use the internet are as capable of smelling bull shit when we encounter it and Andrew Keen falls into that catagory. i am surprised that he is not also calling for curbs on the print media too.

  • 76.
  • At 11:27 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Jim Lambert wrote:

When CB radios came out they were defined as "a place for people who had nothing to say, to say it." The Internet, with blogs and u-tube is the new CB radio. With that said one might think I agree with the book about "professionals in the news media." What makes one professional? Is it the fact that one is paid? Or is it the fact that one is good at what one does? Who defines good?
I don't read blogs and I take Wikipedia with a grain of salt. I do subscribe to several online newspapers from around the world on both sides of the issues and try to read between the "spin" from the "professionals" who in reporting the news from their own perspective try to sway their readers. One does not have to be very old to have seen a few retractions by the "professionals" to know they don't all do as much research as we are led to believe. Maybe Andrew Keen is worried that the public will learn that it has to think about EVERYTHING it reads and sees rather than following blindly behind the so called professional.

The 'Web 2.0 revolution' has caused greater freedom of information and expression. It is in no way "a cycle of misinformation and ignorance," but a cycle of development and improvement.

User generated content is an infinitly faster chain on improvment than traditiional media, with so many people involved it is constantly being updated and made better (better being more accurate or more amusing depending on the circumstance). Of course there are bound to be people making jokes and spoof posts but the must be taken for what they are, fun and nothing more.

As for the "poor fools" on Youtube, how is their dancing and joking a bad thing? It has enabled people from all over the world to feel connenct on a level more intimate that ever before. With the threats of terrorism, global communities on the web are more important and powerful than ever.

Stop being afraid of change.


  • 78.
  • At 11:29 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Neil wrote:

Andrew Keen complains that blogs are “collectively corrupting and confusing popular opinion about everything from politics, to commerce, to arts and culture. Newspapers have been doing this for years!

  • 79.
  • At 11:31 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Laura Marcus wrote:

I take Andrew Keen's point that maybe a lot of people are getting all their 'information' from the web and assuming it must be true because it was on the internets but... haven't people always done that? Relied on unreliable sources? I heard it from a bloke in the pub so it must be true, kinda thing?

Sure there's tons of crap on the interweb. But there's also some stunningly good stuff.

  • 80.
  • At 11:31 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Stuart Colley wrote:

What a load of elitest twoddle! Can't you tell that this individual has a book to peddle. He assumes that the traditional media is in some way reliable and honourable. Experience has proved this view to be rubbish. the vast majority of us that use the internet are as capable of smelling bull shit when we encounter it and Andrew Keen falls into that catagory. i am surprised that he is not also calling for curbs on the print media too.

  • 81.
  • At 11:31 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Stuart Colley wrote:

What a load of elitest twoddle! Can't you tell that this individual has a book to peddle. He assumes that the traditional media is in some way reliable and honourable. Experience has proved this view to be rubbish. the vast majority of us that use the internet are as capable of smelling bull shit when we encounter it and Andrew Keen falls into that catagory. i am surprised that he is not also calling for curbs on the print media too.

The 'Web 2.0 revolution' has caused greater freedom of information and expression. It is in no way "a cycle of misinformation and ignorance," but a cycle of development and improvement.

User generated content is an infinitly faster chain on improvment than traditiional media, with so many people involved it is constantly being updated and made better (better being more accurate or more amusing depending on the circumstance). Of course there are bound to be people making jokes and spoof posts but the must be taken for what they are, fun and nothing more.

As for the "poor fools" on Youtube, how is their dancing and joking a bad thing? It has enabled people from all over the world to feel connenct on a level more intimate that ever before. With the threats of terrorism, global communities on the web are more important and powerful than ever.

Stop being afraid of change.


  • 83.
  • At 11:32 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Stuart Colley wrote:

What a load of elitest twoddle! Can't you tell that this individual has a book to peddle. He assumes that the traditional media is in some way reliable and honourable. Experience has proved this view to be rubbish. the vast majority of us that use the internet are as capable of smelling bull shit when we encounter it and Andrew Keen falls into that catagory. i am surprised that he is not also calling for curbs on the print media too.

  • 84.
  • At 11:33 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • suzanne molloy wrote:

I did have something erudite to say, but at No 75, I don't think anyone will still be listening/watching/reading ....zzzzz

  • 85.
  • At 11:33 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Stephen Jones wrote:

The Web 2.0 media hype needs some good critics - but God help us, on this performance, Andrew Keen isn't one of them.


Humourless, patronizing and supercilious - Keen leaves no choice between his moralizing sermons, where all technology is evil, and mindless technology evangelism, where it's all positive.

Unfortunately the BBC played right into his hands.

Can't we have better technology, please? Without Keen or the Web 2.0 idiots? Each one is as cynical as the other.

We deserve better please, Newsnight.

  • 86.
  • At 11:33 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Stuart Colley wrote:

What a load of elitest twoddle! Can't you tell that this individual has a book to peddle. He assumes that the traditional media is in some way reliable and honourable. Experience has proved this view to be rubbish. the vast majority of us that use the internet are as capable of smelling bull shit when we encounter it and Andrew Keen falls into that catagory. i am surprised that he is not also calling for curbs on the print media too.

  • 87.
  • At 11:35 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Stuart Colley wrote:

What a load of elitest twoddle! Can't you tell that this individual has a book to peddle. He assumes that the traditional media is in some way reliable and honourable. Experience has proved this view to be rubbish. the vast majority of us that use the internet are as capable of smelling bull shit when we encounter it and Andrew Keen falls into that catagory. i am surprised that he is not also calling for curbs on the print media too.

This piece was absurd, ill-informed and sensationalist (and I'm referring only to the intro-piece on Newsnight tonight). Using wikipedia images for two british politicians to attempt to demonstrate the unreliability of the internet? Come on BBC, we all know that as a aging media conglomorate you try to pretend that you are 'hip' and 'young' and with the internet, but this piece showed your true colours.

Furthermore, the author of this dreadful piece's assertion that the 'masses' are unable to critically assess the reliability of something that they read on the internet is ridiculous - what would you then do mate? Restrict editorial access of the internet to journalists or authors? What a fucking travesty. If a website is unreliable, biased or untrue, people realise this and don't visit it anymore. That's why extremely popular websites that consistently update with quality and relevant content are the most popular. To suggest otherwise just reflects depressingly on the covert or overt view that the majority of traditional media hold of the internet.

I believe that this bias simply stems from the (justified) fear that the internet with its infinitely large number of opinions and views is overtaking traditional media. If traditional media simply embraces the internet and empowers their audience - by truly taking on-board the potential of community or 'social' media (have a look at digg.com if you are not aware of these buzzwords) then sites like bbc.co.uk/news can actually maintain relevance on the internet and hence, increasingly, in the new media world we live in today.

  • 89.
  • At 11:36 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • nicole wrote:

Andrew Keen is right, the Internet can give some of us a false sense of knowledge.
Try translating with the help of the web...
A cul- de- sac will become "the arse of a bag" and Newsnight "Nouvelles Nuit" (yes).
Je repose ma valise for you linguists out there !
Bonsoir.

  • 90.
  • At 11:37 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Stephen Jones wrote:

The media hype Web 2.0 needs some good critics - but God help us, on this performance, Andrew Keen isn't one of them.


Humourless, patronizing and supercilious - Keen leaves no choice between his moralizing sermons, where all technology is evil, and mindless technology evangelism, where it's all positive.

Unfortunately the BBC played right into his hands. Can't we have better technology, please? Without Keen or the Web 2.0 idiots?

  • 91.
  • At 11:41 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Martin wrote:

What a complete prat - and barely literate either: he referred on Newsnight to 'THIS media' - media is plural, keen Andrew.

Perhaps he's bitter about having some drivel edited out of Wikipedia... or maybe he also works for Murdoch (pure objectivity!) or the Publishers' Guild of America or something.

And I guess five hundred years ago he'd have been cheering as translators of the bible were burnt at the stake - obviously common people need a priesthood to explain the world to them.

Wikipedia is fantastic, the BBC website is fantastic, the Guardian even has some very well-informed bloggers. Various political blogs (Guido in England, for example) provide valuable new channels of information that would previously have been censored by print editors. And being able to search digitally through millions of pages, rather than having to leaf physically through thousands of printed books, marks a fundamental revolution in the use of information.

There's a hierarchy of information on the internet, and you have to learn how to use it - but then you have to learn how to use print media too. The idea that anyone might believe 'everything they read/see on the Net' is utter nonsense, because, unlike state- or Murdoch-controlled media, the Net presents lots of conflicting perspectives and stories, which force people to think critically, perhaps for the first time.

When I want to check what's 'really happening' behind the highly edited newsfeed that I use as my main primary source of information on 'current affairs', I use Google and a certain amount of critical intelligence to find elements of the Truth that are filtered out by the slow, selective and conservative channels that were just about all that was available to 'ordinary people' until 10 years ago.

This guy himself resembles the kind of half-baked blogger that I'd skip on from after a few seconds on a Google trawl for real information and serious comment.

If the Web 2.0 is all about being able to write you either charge for access for other to read and thus need to introduce authentication and authorisation
subscription mechanisms or you let it all be free, and try to make money from adverts.

BBC an ITV thing mirrored, same old battle.
It was hearing that Google made more money from advertising than ITV
did ( end of 2006) that got me into this "creating content", writing a book online.

As far as the content is concerned it's people like me that create systems that mean my content will appears in the first page of results that sways things in favour of my content being found. Creating good content is not enough.

  • 93.
  • At 11:48 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Ilya K wrote:

The phenomenon of gullible people taking something more seriously than is objectively warranted because it is written down is far from new and unique to today's Internet. One of the earliest and most widely circulated traditionally published books was the bible and no-one today who would claim to be primarily rational (please note the proviso before disagreeing) today regards this as an accurate record of (at least) the history or science it purports to convey though through the ages many people took it all unquestioningly as (I don't know if Gavin Essler was being deliberately ironic) "god given". In my view it is in many ways good that publishing is no longer confined to the "professional", who may be learned and accurate, or may be politically or religiously motivated and misleading, and beguilingly authoritative. Although it is debatable how education standards have changed, it appears to me that larger numbers of people are learning to be more critical of all sources of information and that is a good thing. No system has ever prevented misinformation, only skewed the predominant type or source(s) of misinformation. Peer-reviewed wikipedia articles are, I find, more reliable than e.g. newspapers (both tabloid and broadsheet). Personally, I agree that much of the rubbish on the internet is unnecessary and its publication has negative effects. Unfortunately, I have not (yet) been appointed sole arbiter of what is accurate useful and permissible and until that time I guess I'd rather live with multiple viewpoints, from careful filtering of which one might discern something of value. As far as a brief review of this hard copy, professionally published, book under discussion goes, it appears to say little more than "there's a lot of rot on the internet and it's sad that some people believe it". Bet you could learn more you didn't know by browsing wikipedia than reading the book!

  • 94.
  • At 11:50 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Pablo K wrote:

Can I just point out that, having lambasted Wikipedia for having the wrong pictures of Brown and Milburn (is that really the best you could do?) it is more than slightly ironic to find that Newsnight used a picture of Lembit Opik MP for Gareth Thomas MP, the DfID Minister, in tonight's vulture funds item, oh, 20 minutes before talking about how all of us open-source interactive users are so damn ignorant - and on the SAME NIGHT that they had the ACTUAL Gareth Thomas on as well - how many editorial nets did that slip through?

  • 95.
  • At 11:53 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Neo wrote:

Darwinism 2.0

Andrew Keen is both right and wrong. If anyone thinks that there was a golden age where journalists, editors and proprietors of media were paragons of virtue they should get themselves a copy of Noam Chomskys Manufacturing Consent, in the words of Citizen Kane himself "You provide the pictures, I'll provide the war.". There is one notable exception, peer reviewed work, whether Brittanica, Nature magazine or The Lancet, this is because of the high barriers that must be crossed and the cost of error. He is right in that people should be more skeptical, whether it's a badger as MP on Wikipedia or the BBCs famous reporting of an uprising in Basra during the invasion of Iraq, while Al Jazeera, who were actually in Basra showed there was no uprising. The first casualty of war is truth, and we are in a war, a war not of Civilisation but of Reality, those that have the intelligence to better discern reality will do better than those that fall for Badgers and Basra uprisings, those that are in Darwins terms "unfit" will perish and those that are "fit" will survive, welcome to Darwinism 2.0.

  • 96.
  • At 11:53 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Neo wrote:

Darwinism 2.0

Andrew Keen is both right and wrong. If anyone thinks that there was a golden age where journalists, editors and proprietors of media were paragons of virtue they should get themselves a copy of Noam Chomskys Manufacturing Consent, in the words of Citizen Kane himself "You provide the pictures, I'll provide the war.". There is one notable exception, peer reviewed work, whether Brittanica, Nature magazine or The Lancet, this is because of the high barriers that must be crossed and the cost of error. He is right in that people should be more skeptical, whether it's a badger as MP on Wikipedia or the BBCs famous reporting of an uprising in Basra during the invasion of Iraq, while Al Jazeera, who were actually in Basra showed there was no uprising. The first casualty of war is truth, and we are in a war, a war not of Civilisation but of Reality, those that have the intelligence to better discern reality will do better than those that fall for Badgers and Basra uprisings, those that are in Darwins terms "unfit" will perish and those that are "fit" will survive, welcome to Darwinism 2.0.

  • 97.
  • At 11:54 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Ilya K wrote:

The phenomenon of gullible people taking something more seriously than is objectively warranted because it is written down is far from new and unique to today's Internet. One of the earliest and most widely circulated traditionally published books was the bible and no-one today who would claim to be primarily rational (please note the proviso before disagreeing) today regards this as an accurate record of (at least) the history or science it purports to convey though through the ages many people took it all unquestioningly as (I don't know if Gavin Essler was being deliberately ironic) "god given". In my view it is in many ways good that publishing is no longer confined to the "professional", who may be learned and accurate, or may be politically or religiously motivated and misleading, and beguilingly authoritative. Although it is debatable how education standards have changed, it appears to me that larger numbers of people are learning to be more critical of all sources of information and that is a good thing. No system has ever prevented misinformation, only skewed the predominant type or source(s) of misinformation. Peer-reviewed wikipedia articles are, I find, more reliable than e.g. newspapers (both tabloid and broadsheet). Personally, I agree that much of the rubbish on the internet is unnecessary and its publication has negative effects. Unfortunately, I have not (yet) been appointed sole arbiter of what is accurate useful and permissible and until that time I guess I'd rather live with multiple viewpoints, from careful filtering of which one might discern something of value. As far as a brief review of this hard copy, professionally published, book under discussion goes, it appears to say little more than "there's a lot of rot on the internet and it's sad that some people believe it". Bet you could learn more you didn't know by browsing wikipedia than reading the book!

  • 98.
  • At 11:54 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • Ilya K wrote:

The phenomenon of gullible people taking something more seriously than is objectively warranted because it is written down is far from new and unique to today's Internet. One of the earliest and most widely circulated traditionally published books was the bible and no-one today who would claim to be primarily rational (please note the proviso before disagreeing) today regards this as an accurate record of (at least) the history or science it purports to convey though through the ages many people took it all unquestioningly as (I don't know if Gavin Essler was being deliberately ironic) "god given". In my view it is in many ways good that publishing is no longer confined to the "professional", who may be learned and accurate, or may be politically or religiously motivated and misleading, and beguilingly authoritative. Although it is debatable how education standards have changed, it appears to me that larger numbers of people are learning to be more critical of all sources of information and that is a good thing. No system has ever prevented misinformation, only skewed the predominant type or source(s) of misinformation. Peer-reviewed wikipedia articles are, I find, more reliable than e.g. newspapers (both tabloid and broadsheet). Personally, I agree that much of the rubbish on the internet is unnecessary and its publication has negative effects. Unfortunately, I have not (yet) been appointed sole arbiter of what is accurate useful and permissible and until that time I guess I'd rather live with multiple viewpoints, from careful filtering of which one might discern something of value. As far as a brief review of this hard copy, professionally published, book under discussion goes, it appears to say little more than "there's a lot of rot on the internet and it's sad that some people believe it". Bet you could learn more you didn't know by browsing wikipedia than reading the book!

  • 99.
  • At 11:54 PM on 05 Jun 2007,
  • betty wrote:

Please can someone tell me who the extremely well informed gentleman guest who was debating the topic of the "cult of the Amatuer" with Mr Keen, was, tonite???

I would be very interested in reading his comments in paid publication or online in future.

I didn't manage to catch it at the end of the programme!

I think most people understand that a blog is like a chance to gossip and share one person's opinion. Ok, Mr Keen might find content purile, so he shouldn't read it! He would probably find the Daily Sport equally tasteless, and he doesn't choose to read that and cry out that this newspaper has a circulation of readers and what the information they read in it might be doing to their minds.

There is a big difference inane blogs and other high cultural information, which can be found for FREE on the internet.

I personally have started reading the entire metaphysical writings of Aristotle, posted on the internet.

Amazing.

Ok, someone with a particular agenda could chose to mispost these writings, but I think I would always be able to cross reference what I learnt.

I thought the guest in the studio defended Wikkipedia very well.

It has always seemed to have a lot of integrity as a sourse of information, to me.

The guest's historical comments regarding the debate surrounding the opening of libraries, and how some people argued against public libraries at this time because the "masses couldn't be trusted with information" is a very interesting point.

I myself, am very scared about the death of libraries, but I think that free access to information on the internet has helped make important information accessible to people who wouldn't otherwise have the resources to find it, too.

The only problem with internet is that it does still discriminate against the poorest as they will not be able to use it as much, not having broadband and instead having to pay as u go for internet cafes, as library access is poor.

I thoght some of Mr Keen's comment's were very alarming.

I personally hate the use of the word "masses".

Does Mr Keen want the "masses" to be burnt on bonfire's like D H Lawrence and his contempories?

Why is Mr Keen so scared of people publishing their own texts or songs?

Yes, newspapers, publishing houses and multi national music companies may lose a little revenue, by cutting out the middle man "professionals" but would that be such a bad thing?

Forgive me if I stick to Aristotle and give Mr Keen's book a miss!


  • 100.
  • At 12:07 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • Simon J Brown wrote:

Andrew Keen is absolutely right. There is now an incessant stream of political propaganda, masquerading as information, coming out of the USA and elsewhere. Look behind the blogs and many newspaper articles and you'll find a US right wing so-called think tank. You get to recognise the style after a while but it dupes an awful lot of people, which is the purpose.

I recently came across a country assasination, as opposed to a character assasination, piece that was obviously untrue, to me, in a reputable US newspaper. I traced the author to a know source of disinformation, on behalf of the right, and the source of his quotes to a Neocon funded organisation that specialises in providing distorted translations from the Middle-East.

There is relatively very little information you can take at face-value on the Internet. As Keen says Wikipedia is not immune. Try looking up Israel. You won't find anything of its origins in terrorism. The history of Israel is being rewritten on the Internet. Educated people will even tell you that the UN created Israel in 1948. No so, a UN partition plan was subverted and Israel created in defiance of the UN. About the only place where you can find truths like that is the UN website itself.

What makes the picture even more depressing is the response of so many Newsnight viewers. Unaware fools. We have a serious problem that everyone should be aware of. Our schools should teach not just the likelihood of being subject to propaganda on the Internet but give explicit examples and exercises on how to find and identify relatively reliable sources.

The BBC is pretty good but not unbiased these days. Main news viewers will have seen a serious strategic issue between the US and Rusiia reduced to to it being a matter of Putin would simply like some respect.

I've mentioned Israel and criticised the BBC. What chance of being published? Go on BBC, impress me.

  • 101.
  • At 12:07 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • Nigel Bland wrote:

Keen's comments on Newsnight were rendered laughable by his belief that newspaper are a reliable source of information. As far as I can see, the vast majority of newspapers can only be relied upon to twist the facts to fit their pre-existing view of the world .The Murdoch owned TV news channels seem to work along similar lines too. In short, the demise of old media is largely self-inflicted - they are every bit as unreliable as any internet source.

  • 102.
  • At 12:10 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • John Nixon wrote:

While DIY information like that found in Wikipedia can be useful in a general context, for it to be used, as it often is, by professional journalists without cross-checking is shabby and irresponsible. I recently saw a report in "The Independent", no less, which stated that gaberdine (technically a type of weave although generally applied to smooth faced cloth) was invented by Thomas Burberry. This is nonsense as Burberry was a tailor who used gaberdine cloth to make raincoats. No big deal but annoying, nonetheless.

  • 103.
  • At 12:18 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • Gino wrote:

It seems that an awful lot of people here are falling into a very basic trap. This arrogant attitude that most posters here have is that their opinion is as valid as professionals is fundamentally skewed. What is you opinion based on? Have you been to Iraq recently and seen for yourself? Information needs to begin somewhere and it needs to begin with the truth, or as close as the truth as possible. There is self opinion of course, but professional information producers like Reuters are there to try and communicate truth!

Do you really want to live in a world without professional reporters, Reuters and other news agencies? Where does the truth begin and the net end? The concern is the net is killing these sources!

Keen’s major concern is that professional options are being marginalised by a barrage of ill informed rhetoric from whoever fancies a ‘reckon’. Information is a path that leads from one point to another. Your own opinion is created from your personality and the information you get from external sources. As the information you consume becomes less reliable so will your grip on the reality of the world. This is a very real fear and need to be discussed. In wartime information is distorted to indoctrinate an opinion of the world in the consumer. The internet now might make it impossible to hide the truth in wartime, but it also might make it impossible to see the truth!

The professional media groups are going down the plughole due to people now getting information from the web. The decline of professional media outlets like Reuters is a major concern for all of us. Everyone thinks that their opinion is important, but what information is it based on? If the information is flawed and you don’t know what the truth is, what’s the point in having an opinion at all?

Ironically the people who are most likely to post here are the very people who are likely to confuse self opinion with professional information. Keen isn’t saying that the masses can’t make up their mind, he is saying that in a few years there will be no professional voices, no reference points just a noise of even more ill informed information. And this world will be even easier to manipulate by those in a position of power than before.

  • 104.
  • At 12:24 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • Benjamin wrote:

Despite all the benefits televised media has over the internet, every once in a while it's nice to hear the opinion of somebody who doesn't live in a mansion.

  • 105.
  • At 12:24 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • Matthew Porter wrote:

I welcome the article & debate. Free not freedom. Informed information usually has cost burdens, the cost of books for example for anyone with limited means on an educational course. I am always worried about the lowest common denominator in social interaction - the point as always, is it takes a lot of mental work to work out what the dross is and escape amateurism. Millionaires who left school at 16 with no qualifications will always be cited. People need listening to and their level of criticism, and don't forget serendipity.

  • 106.
  • At 12:26 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • Jon Hartley wrote:

The web is just another form of publishing. The invention of the printing press allowed millions to be duped by (for example) Hitler's Mein Kampf, the Czarist secret police forgery The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, and the Zinoviev letter (in the Daily Mail). Even today there are countless books being published that claim crystals can heal, wi-fi causes ill-health, and homeopathy works. Any form of publishing will be used by those seeking to exploit the gullible, the stupid and the vulnerable. The challenge, as it always has been, is to critically read and question what is published. Just because it's on parchment, in a book, magazine or newspaper, on a webpage or in a blog doesn't mean it's true...but it doesn’t mean it isn’t.

Having said that, the existence of the web does mean that the idiots, fools, charlatans, conspiracy theorists and liars find it even easier to disseminate their nonsense. Reader beware.

  • 107.
  • At 12:33 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • Yid net v Yob net wrote:

Whatever has happened practicall experience takes authentic whiles to create...

Everyone knows the economic minded only believe in their values their beliefs... in the kind of lives worlds and futures where they and their kind win...they have ambiguous ideas but small minds that are prejudiced, single minded, greed is good, risk and fear, closed epicurean, and deterred into fighting for the money pies of the pecking orders classes...they fight to win the take and defeat the motivated ....bettering themselves by changing the odds...

But most of humanity are motivated to play for all and any opportunity...as customers and community contributors of popularisable choices...seeking the togetherness of shared company around many topics of common purpose and common expectation but different satisfactions of angle and rewards that only materialise at the end of the work... often via the internet... for great worlds with bizarres of options for communities to discuss and progress forward with different contributions and motivations of investment...

It is Yid net v Yob net...!

Yids are self employed high risk fighters...yobs are socially analogous community players of amour and sympathy...

The tale of two cities... yobs have the nouse to explore all stories with humanity as a support... yids have to limit their economic risk to the perceived wisdom of the creditable...rather than the ever growing knowlage of the companionable...

In a world of shared knowledge...as yobs we have shares in controversy exploration nouse knowing worldliness opportunity power glory whodunnit working things out leadership opportunity proof by domination and our own stories ... yid briefly have shares in earnings and return on investment...the soapfistication of yids fights the explorationary nouse of us yobs... they might win their trivial games of life but us yobs beat them and drive them off our turf to conquer with all the truths and knowing we care about... amenetptra

  • 108.
  • At 12:40 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • Zacha Rosen wrote:

I might find Keen's argument a lot more persuasive if it was better written.

  • 109.
  • At 12:47 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • Campbell wrote:

The concept of Keen's book is bizarre. If the internet was being used to replace peer reviewed medical journals with blogs written by addled drug users with phony PhDs in Shamanism achieved through correspondance courses he might have a point; however, this is clearly not the case. The notion that the professional journalists writing science articles for broadsheet newspapers have an informed oppinion about the latest research in some obscure field of quantum physics, and are thus able to be arbiters of the truth, is completely farcical.

Perhaps professional journalists are better qualified to report information (or misinformation) than the average blogger. However, the point Keen fails to grasp regarding the benefit of the internet as a democratic media outlet is that it allows content to be published that might not have the popular appeal required to be printed in the mainstream media. This distinction leads me to the recognition of a strange paradox in Keen's argument.

Professional media outlets do not answer to the higher powers of truth and art, but rather to their shareholders. The output of most professional media networks is defined by a statistically analysed view of what it is that people want to watch or read. Professional content is defined by the wants of the people Keen sneeringly called "the masses" on Newsnight. How is it that such networks are defending and upholding culture if they are expressly catering to those people Keen dismisses as incapable of critical thought?

The content on the web may not be true or well informed - but then neither is most of what one reads in The News of the World. If you are unsure about the content on a website you are only a couple of clicks away from a second or thousandth opinion from an expert in the field. I hear that lots of bonafide tenured experts and artists have their own websites nowadays. Such a process of review is not possible when reading a newspaper.

Maybe Keen answers these points in his book; but I don't think I will read it in its entirety because he came across as a total arse on the professionaly rendered medium of Newsnight.

  • 110.
  • At 02:19 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • Paul D wrote:

Is Mr.Keen on the same planet as the rest of us? I have no brief for the peddlers of ill-informed opinion and factual inaccuracies frequently encountered on the web, but surely he realises that the authors are not challenging but merely mimicking the professionals he seeks to defend.

This, in case he has not noticed, is the age of populist tabloid journalism of the direst kind, of Big Brother and American Idol, a world in which everyone is encouraged by the mainstream media to believe Warhol's "everyone can be famous for 15 minutes" philosophy and most are severely disappointed.

His 'experts' have been accumulating fortunes peddling mediocre crass garbage. He can hardly be surprised if the amateurs follow suit.

As to his problem with Wikkipedia, he is doubtless aware that Britannica, OED and many other erudite sources of legitimate information are also available online. The web is basically no different from a motor car. If you can't drive, you are going to crash. If you know what you are doing, the possibilities are endless.

  • 111.
  • At 03:03 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • Len Burch wrote:

The amateurs, who are process-oriented usually know more about most things than do the professionals, who are product-oriented.

Those professionals working to objectives can never (by definition thereby) get you beyond the already known. They get obsessed with "relevance" and so with their own cultivated horse-blinkers.

The amateurs are the developers, while the professionals merely stultify.

See how those organisations, always started and developed by amateurs, will get little farther once the professionals take over. They then depend on there monopoly position for staying afloat.

  • 112.
  • At 05:52 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • David Patterson wrote:

Here in the US, we suffer from the professional media being intentionally transformed into misinformation and tabloid infotainment. We have very few options for getting the facts we need as citizens of a "democracy." This is certainly one reason I get my news from PBS and the BBC.
We also suffer from amateurish entertainment brought to us by cost-cutting media moguls. Those of us who are professionals, I in recording engineering, are left with very few options for a paying career. We have largely been supplanted by amateur "musicians" who wouldn't know a great recording if it bit them on the ass.
Can we expect better from a populace who twice elected an idiot (or did they?), and who think Media Player downloads sound great?
I think not.

  • 113.
  • At 06:35 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • C Hartman wrote:

What a load of twaddle. First of all, as an ageing engineer I quite often forget things that I learnt at University. As I don’t carry around a bag of textbooks anymore I look it up on the web! So far I have not found any rubbish in the subjects of interest.

Next, my whole family are avid web users, to the extent that we have 4 PC’s plus a laptop at home, which are all constantly being used for surfing the web. I would be disappointed if the conventional media and/or governments tried to censor and guide the web content. Fortunately, the web is so large now that even those governments that do try to censor what is uploaded, such as Iran are unable to. So what if people upload information that is rubbish or biased? The newspapers do it all the time and also book authors (not mentioning any names). Can he honestly say that many of the journals published in the world are not ‘State Controlled’ or promoting the interests of their owners? I remember when Video’s came out, people thought that that was the end of public cinemas. I think we can all have a good laugh at that now.

I don’t think that the web is a substitute for a paper, magazine or a book. If anything it complements the traditional media. I suggest that the reason for the layoffs he mentions is due to poor editorial content in those journals rather than being supplanted by the web.

Finally, I have just moved to Australia. Through the web, my children have kept their ties with their friends and our family in the UK and also it has given us access to immigrant community support sites that we would probably never have known about. Also it has been invaluable in helping me find a job, along with the ads in the newspapers.

  • 114.
  • At 06:53 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • Zahid wrote:

I think Andrew Keen is completely missing the point. It is irrelevant how many people are publishing blogs, video, music. After all, this should be regarded as a good thing, that at least the Internet is acting as the "Hyde Park Corner" of the world. However, the question he should be asking and analysing is why there are so many people visiting such sites. What is it that these web site are providing and the "established" and traditional medium are failing.

Is this the Soviet England where we must watch and listen to the continuous diatribe of pop journalism, cult of celebritism, non-ending and incestuous "reality-tv" because these are produced by large corporates with multimillion dollar budgets?. Why are these of any greater value or merit than shows with lower production quality, produced by "amateurs". Why is journalism or political commentary because its broadcast on the BBC, ITN, broadsheet or tabloid journals any more valuable? They may have access to the decision makers, but this in itself is a weakness. To ensure such access, are we certain that professional journalists have not sacrificed integrity?

In the field of technical journalism, except for peer reviewed journals, the level of knowledge and professionalism exhibited is often much worse than many technical forum sites. As with any source of information, the observer needs to have the ability to sort, cross-correlate and perform significant amounts of data mining to obtain useful information. However, how is the consumer of such "amateur source" any more disconnected from reality than the average reader of the Sun newspaper or viewer of Good Morning Britain?

I would rather read around a subject and find out the 'truth' for myself. The internet lets you do this.

Newspapers choose or bend stories to sell papers. Most TV stations have a priority for capturing audience share.

And when he is talking about quality and factual journalism from these esteemed 'gatekeepers' of truth - he obviously hasn't looked at the media for the past 30 years.

The serious news companies all have websites and feeds. Today I have more choice of how to receive this news and other information. The idea that I would log onto a blog and believe all I read is patronizing.

But then he has a book to sell; he has a pitch on a topical subject and is promoting it.

  • 116.
  • At 08:53 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

'Web 2.0' is really just a PR nonsense term for 'lots_more_illiterate/in
numerate_people_using_Windows_on_the Internet' as blogs are really just USENET with lots of colour and pictures which are easier to access for all.

When Windows 95 and the web came along, the groups which comprised
USENET started to degenerate in may user's eyes. That's because
initially USENET was ARPANET which tied together academic and military
researchers, and its userbase was therefore limited to an educated elite both by the expense and the relatively arcane nature of the technology and purposes of the system.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARPANET

It's true that once it expanded to cover academia and the general public (especially in 1995 when Windows 95 made the web based browsers easier to use) like everything else (satellite TV for example), once you open something up to 'the market' it comes to reflect the interests of the masses not the elite.

To that extent, Keen is right. The mean quality of what you find on the
net has gone down, and given that newspapers and writers cost, it's
inevitable that the web will cull them to some extent. Why pay for
something one doesn't have to, if one gets the news wrong, so what? All most people want is a story (see the Sun, People, News of The World etc) they don't much care if it's a true story, they just want stories, and that's all that natural language is really up to anyway, don't let the old media folk tell you any different either!.

The way that some have combated this inevitably worsening signal to
noise ratio has been to create Special Interest Groups or LISTs which require vetted membership to participate. So, ironically, in the end, the expansion of the net has meant that over time, much that used to be publicly on the web, no longer is, or is, but is restricted access. As others have said, that's 'market forces' or 'social Darwinism' for you.

We can't do much about it, China tries, so do other planned economy
states. In the end, I reckon we will too, just in the interests of government, as anarcho-capitalism, or Trotskyism (which is what all this is at heart) sows the seeds of its own destruction.

Just wait, you'll see ;-)

(We are dumbng ourselves down: see #19, #23 & #24 to see how)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2007/06/monday_4_june_2007.html

  • 117.
  • At 08:53 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • TraceyMPetsivas wrote:

Surely most people are aware that a blog is simply someone's opinion and not gospel truth? Its an on-line discussion.

  • 118.
  • At 10:10 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • Andrew wrote:

The internet is a pyramid building from the bottom to the top. It's a long journey but it's a democratic and fascinating one. No longer do people have to be treated like mushrooms in the dark and spoon fed information and stories by the mainstream media. We can make, write and report our own. Like any human phenomenon the good ideas and authors will eventually float to the top.

Mr Keen seems to be worried he will be out of a job, but clearly many people on here think this article is rubbish but have still read it and replied.

Kind of ironic wouldn't you say?


  • 119.
  • At 11:01 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • Steve Meese wrote:

I can't see what all the fuss is about myself as most of us have enough common sense to differentiate between "truth" or nonsense on the internet.

The so called "middle classes" control mainstream media outlets and as such it is only their opinon that has the right to call itself "expert" after we wouldn't want the "common herd" having their say now would we?

More power to the bloggers I say and who exactly decides what the real truth is anyway?

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