Monday, September 21, 2009

The Cult of the Amateur

Though it might very well be the point, Andrew Keen's well-informed, but completely biased attitude throughout his book, The Cult of the Amateur, is extremely irritating. He sets out to provide the reader with a dissection of the current digital age we live in by exploring the various problems with sites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Myspace, Craigslist and the like. While some of the arguments he makes against these types of "user-generated" information pools is eerily truthful, the bottom line is, Keen seems to believe that most things online cannot be considered fact unless backed by higher education and a title.

Much like Mom used to say, "Too much TV will rot your brain", Keen argues that this "Web 2.0" state of being is next to cause intellectual decay. While no one can argue that plagiarism and information overload have become far too easy to fall prey to because of the amount of data available at the click of a button, one can say that this does not make an individual inable to decide what is truth and subjective opinion. Keen's fierce discredit of any one who has not been properly educated - and has documented proof of said education - was a little overwhelming. Though I will admit, my roommate- who happens to be younger-enough than me to be categorized in another generation- often references Wikipedia as her go-to source of valuable information and fact. And she is well educated. that further proves Keen's argument I suppose, and brings some backing to my cartoon.

Keen's not the only one who believes that the digital age is dangerous. Most of those who consider themselves to be anti-user-generated sites all agree on the fact that authenticity is at stake. And for that, I cannot dispute. However, suggesting that the mere presence of too much information leads to less knowledge, is hard to swallow. I can't stand to establish fact before allowing for proper research. But that's just me, and we are talking about the masses here. The masses tend to believe whatever it is that is most popular. That might be the most frightening of all, and perhaps what is genuinely at the heart of Cult of the Amateur. While I cannot say it will ever make it to the top of my suggested reading list (mostly due to author voice and tone), it is interesting to hear how those in the trenches of technology feel about the democratization of knowledge as found in Web 2.0.

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