Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Cult of the Amateur

Andrew Keen's new book, Cult of the Amateur is causing a stir. Keen is an internet entrepreneur whose book is touted as a slap in the face to all those who see the internet as moving society forward. Instead, he argues that it is a platform for the uninformed and the misinformed. That culture is being drowned in a sea of amateurism and populism.

At least, that's what I've heard. I haven't read the book yet. Is the premise correct? Well, not really. The trouble is that many in computing buy into the mythos that they are redefining our culture and our future. The fact is that the engines of the cultural elite -- magazines like the New Yorker, institutions like opera companies -- are still there. The internet hasn't replaced them. What it has done is to give anyone who wants one a place to publish and to speak their minds. Most of it is important only to the person posting and their friends. And most of those online are just fine with that. Its only amateurism if you expect something else. Blogs have replaced the water cooler, Dear Abbey, and the gossip pages. There is intellectual content online, even in blogs, its just that it is as elusive inside cyberspace as it is outside cyberspace.

Meanwhile, Keen's point was made quite well, and perhaps better, by British actor Ian Hart:

There’s a statistical theory that if you gave a million monkeys typewriters and set them to work, they’d eventually come up with the complete works of Shakespeare. Thanks to the Internet, we now know this isn’t true.

1 comment:

Westside Goth said...

that quote was great.