Seems that there’s a problem on the internet. That problem? The internet. Andrew Keen’s “Cult of the Amateur” is a book I can’t wait to not read. Why? It’s a reactionary “Day After Tomorrow” screed against the democratizing nature of the internet, and it sounds like trash. Mr. Keen would have enjoyed the similar debates that surrounded the invention of the printing press, the car, airplanes, the computer…
Key section of the story:
What’s more, Keen doesn’t seem to understand that mainstream media and user-generated content are enjoying a symbiotic existence. Bloggers and amateur videographers spend so much energy reacting to traditional staples of pop culture that they wouldn’t have much to do if they didn’t exist. Even if mainstream media is dying, Webheads will feed off its bloated carcass for the foreseeable future.
The Viacoms and Time Warners of the world likely will cede some ground to amateur creators. But there is another way professionals and amateurs will co-exist: The best of those amateurs will simply be co-opted by the professionals. It isn’t quite the either-or equation Keen imagines it to be.
“Cult” applies a blind faith to the media powers that be without ever considering that this creative Internet subculture he rejects is getting traction precisely because the studios, networks, etc., aren’t quite perfect, either.
This is akin to the “online writers are hurting traditional writers” argument which spawned the Pixel Stained Techno-Peasant giveaway. The idea at work is that gatekeepers are a necessary part of consumable culture. Without gatekeepers the masses will wallow in their own filth. Eventually someone will smear feces on themselves and call it art and everyone will go gaga over it. The only problem with that argument is that all that fecal-smearing has already been done. People are drawn to what they are drawn to, and web-based writers, filmmakers, musicians, artists, etc. fill in the gaps between what the mainstream cultural gatekeepers (i.e. huge publishing conglomerates interested in reaching the widest possible audience to sell the most product) finds marketable. Note that I didn’t say what they find “acceptable” or “artistically meritorious.” Marketable.
This got me thinking about the “culture” that Mr. Keen seems hell-bent on saving. That would be the culture of “According to Jim,” “Yes, Dear,” “Paris Hilton*,” “Girls Next Door,” Rob Schneider, Ashlee Simpson, David Hasselhoff, and Clive Cussler. That would be the culture that Mr. Keen sees as threatened? This is marketable culture, according to the gatekeepers.
* “Paris Hilton” is in quotes because she is actually a robot.