A ‘Web 2.0’ refusenik cashes in

Well well well. What to do if you’ve made a bit (though not too much) on ‘Web 1.0’ and are looking for a new perspective that people will notice. Andrew Keenhas written some kind of book about the risks of social media etc called ‘The cult of the amateur’. It infected Page 3 of The Observer and appears to be based on his concern that bloggers distort the political process, truth does not matter and that we are going to be overcome by a deluge of prose from 11 year olds – drowning out any kind of real culture, killing print in the process etc.

Andrew raises some cogent points about people not distinguishing between expertise and ranting, the trouble of unifying artist and audience, the disproportionate influence of certain online voices in the US political process (particularly in my opinion in the freakazoid, election losing Michael Moore wing of the Democrats) and the booty call crassness of some social media. Yes. And?

This horse has long bolted and is across the horizon. The web has nothing to do with it. Anglophonic culture has been tending towards fetishising individual experience and opinion over expertise for a long time now. Turn on your TV or look in a newspaper- do failed ‘comic’ Sue Perkins and some guy from the Sunday Times whose dad is famous have any real basis to be commenting on the Edwardian diet, compared to someone who has actually studied it? What can Ulrika Johnsson tell us about addictive behaviour, rather than a doctor? What can a poop sniffing faux self-certified nutritionist tell us about healthy living? At least the web democratises the process beyond the sleb and dynasty (ever notice the nepotism in the national press?) based nature of much of the media.

Wikipedia comes in for a lot of Andrew’s ire. Yes, there is probably a lot more on there about Pamela Anderson’s plastic cleavage than the Suffragettes – but that is a comment on our trivialised and novelty obsessed culture, not on Wikipedia and the web. Like many that have complained about modern cultural phenomena, it looks like Andrew confuses symptoms with causes. There are battles against candy floss idiocy and ill informed guff worth fighting, but they are deeper and harder than luddite criticisms of the internet. MySpace et al are an easy target for barroom reactionaries. If they don’t like what they see, it would be better to consider the roots before attacking the leaves.


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