So, as promised, I read Keen’s book (The Cult of the Amateur. How Blogs, Myspace, YouTube, and the Rest of Today’s User-Generated Media are Destroying Our Economy, Our Culture, and Our Values). First of all, it’s important: Particularly important if Keen is as alone as he claims to be in his critique of the destructive powers of the internet. I agree to much of what he writes, but not everything. I also think he misuses some economic figures he cites. (For example, he claims that piracy ‘sucks money out of the [American] economy.’ As long as Americans don’t save (and they don’t), money just goes elsewhere. Into houses, cars, and flat-screen TV’s, for example.)
Important or not, the book is a disappointment. It is not particularly well-written (who am I to say that, by the way?); it doesn’t ‘philosophize’ over the issues it discusses in the same way Weinberger does in his ‘opposit’ book (the comparison may not be fair, but Keen do after all compare himself to Weinberger); it is actually quite short (which is nice since it was a disappointment, but I would rather have a long, interesting book); and, most important, it does not convince me. Or rather, I don’t find it convincing (as I said, on most issues I agree with Keen already).
The ability to convinc is maybe the most important feature of a book like The Cult of the Amateur. But it doesn’t tell me anything I didn’t know from before: It tells me that Wikipedia doesn’t work; that the internet is infested with porn; that social networks exposes us in dangeours ways; that Google is surveilling us; that we aren’t as anonymous as we think; that the net corrupts our kids; that digital piracy is putting pressure on some of our cultural institutions; and that the net isn’t democratic. I knew all those things, and most people should. (That most people probably don’t is a problem Keen’s book may help to alleviate and which makes Keen’s book important. Really important. This is much more important than that I didn’t learn anything new from it or didn’t find it convincing. Still, I relegate the point to a parenthesis, and I call him a bad writer…) I wish Keen would put that knowledge together in new ways or discuss them in a moral or philosophical context. Instead, I feel he just lists a long list of problems with the ‘web 2.0′; I’m not convinced by his suggested solutions. Go read ’em; I won’t bother discussing them here. (It may even be piracy!)
Ironically, Keen calls his blog associated with his book The Great Seduction: Having read his book, I feel seduced, indeed.
My posts on Weinberger:
- More on Knowledge & Weinberger
- Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger
- Wikipedia vs. Public Restrooms, and Social Knowledge
- Four Characteristics of Knowledge