wasting bandwidth since 1999

Of Monkeys and Cockroaches

In his recently published book, Andrew Keen portrays bloggers and other creators in the web 2.0 world as monkeys banging away on keyboards. Now he’s calling us cockroaches.

Well, that may be stretching his references to Kafka’s Metamorphosis, but not by much.

Is Web 2.0 a dream or a nightmare? Is it a remix of Disney’s “Cinderella” or of Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”? Have we — as empowered conversationalists in the global citizen media community — woken up with the golden slipper of our ugly sister (aka: mainstream media) on our dainty little foot? Or have we — as authors-formerly-know-as-the-audience — woken up as giant cockroaches doomed to eternally stare at our hideous selves in the mirror of Web 2.0?

That’s from just the beginning of a long conversation between Keen and David Weinberger in the Wall Street Journal in which they argue about whether all this user-generated content on the internet is good or bad for our culture.

The two writers are offering ideas from their new books, both of which deal with how the web is changing the way we receive and process information. Keen’s is called The Cult of the Amateur and Weinberger’s is Everything is Miscellaneous.

Weinberger certainly doesn’t need my help in presenting the view that the read/write web, for all it’s flaws, is still a positive trend.

However, since I’m the roach in this little corner of web 2.0, I want to jump in and take special issue with Keen over one of the central points of both his philosophy and his book.

Thus, the meteoric rise of Web 2.0’s free citizen media is mirrored by the equally steep decline in paid mainstream media…

The impartiality of the authoritative, accountable expert is replaced by murkiness of the anonymous amateur. When everyone claims to be an author, there can be no art, no reliable information, no audience.

Traditional media has done a good job in discovering, polishing and distributing that talent.

If by traditional media he means journalism, then please point me to the “impartiality of the authoritative, accountable expert”.

The vast majority of time on most programs labeled as “news”, as well as space in printed periodicals, is filled with talking heads offering little that’s authoritative, almost no impartiality, and flat out nothing in the way of accountability.

He certainly can’t be talking about the big media companies in the line about “discovering, polishing and distributing” talent.

If that were the case, the music distribution channels wouldn’t be filled with hundreds of American Idol clones with far more sincerity than artistry. And television wouldn’t be offering hour after hour of pseudo-reality crap.

Actually, I can appreciate much of Keen’s nervousness about the explosion in amateur media. As an educator and just a general member of society, there is plenty of stuff out there in the web 2.0 that make me a little anxious.

But he completely loses all credibility in this discussion with his glorification of what he calls “professional media” as saviors of civilization and vilification of all “free citizen media” as its destruction.

Anyway, it’s a long article but one that’s worth the time to read, especially if, like me, you enjoy your time in the web 2.0 world but still want to hear the views of a contrarian on the subject.

And if, instead of reading, you’d rather watch a discussion between the two authors, there is this interesting video from the Supernova conference held last month.

weinberger, keen, amateur, media


More Seat Time is Not Necessarily Better


Trust People, Not Filters


  1. The bottom line is that we live in a society, driven by public debate on topics that may be, in the beholder’s eye, mundane or thought-provoking. We don’t need the media to tell us what to think about or how we should analyse it.

    I’d much rather read commentary from a peer on a favored topic than to read some drivel from a supposed objective journalist.

    Oh, and by the way, just who on this planet is impartial, anyway?

  2. Tim

    Impartial? Why Fox noise, of course. Just ask them. :-)

    Seriously, though, all I’m asking is for some kind of differentiation between what is supposed to be journalism from opinion. Very few news organizations (possibly PBS?) even try.

    And I’m not asking the media to tell me what to think. I want them to report the facts about issues that actually impact people instead of the missing white girl of the week or the current celebrity rehab. A little international perspective would be nice.

    Am I asking too much?

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