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“Cult of the Amateur” – Andrew Keen. Innovation Reading Circle: 05: Amateurism, culture and excellence

Congratulations to Nico Macdonald for another interesting Innovation Reading Circle, attended by Andrew Keen, the author of “Cult of the Amateur”.

Charlie Beckett of Polis has written a succinct review of the evening, noting in particular that Andrew blames the internet (and the undefined “Web2.0”) for:

pornography, gambling, death of quality literature and music, the death of newspapers, a celebrity-ridden, naricissistic culture, decline of democracy, end of the family

Charlie continues:

Unfortunately, for all the people who share these fears about the internet, at a seminar he told me that he doesn’t really believe his own work:

“I am not interested in abstract forms of justice, I am interested in building my brand as an author and a polemicist”

My own comment, posted on Charlie’s blog follows:

Good summary, Charlie, and I agree it was an interesting evening. My main disappointment with both the book and Andrew’s argument in person was the superficial level of the debate: as if the provocation alone equates to reasoned argument. For someone decrying the death of even-handed, quality investigative journalism the sweeping generalisations about the ills of the internet, the lazy characterisations of “Web2.0” and the inconsistencies (eg decrying Craiglist for undermining classified ad revenues while later decrying Google for creating an ad-funded business model) sadly masked interesting and important areas of consideration. What are appropriate and sustainable business models for ‘the Working Web’ (a better term that Web2.0 imho)? What can we learn from the ‘assault on standards’ occasioned by lowest-common-denominator TV, and to what extent does the anonymity and check-less state of the web reflect those trends? Isn’t it too easy to confuse ‘self expression’ with publishing, and therefore the anti-blog vitriol is largely pointless – tilting at windmills?

Overall, this book rather “stole my time”. While outspoken and purposely provocative views have their place in a soundbite interview or a networking event in the valley (“Gee, isn’t that Brit an eloquent firebrand?” etc), when put in print I can’t see that it’s any different from the assertive, blinkered myopia of the extreme blogs Andrew so despises. Clearly, other authors less immediately concerned with the splash they can make will need to reflect more fully on the important topics that Andrew jogs past in his climb up the Amazon sales ranks.

That said, he seems to be enjoying himself. Maybe he should blog 😉