Sunday, March 01, 2009

Cult of the Amateur and The Best Laid Plans

I was the guest speaker last week at the Quebec Technology Association with Andrew Keen. Keen wrote a book called, "The Cult of the Amateur".

In reading the book, it is hard for me not to get my back up because the gist of the message is that Web20 (read blogs) and other user generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values.

There is one thing he says that I do agree with is the anonymity on the internet can be very damaging. I believe anyone who is willing to blog under their own real name with real background definitely has more creditability.

He was particularly hard on Wikipedia as not being authored by experts.

One area that I disagree with him is he claims that no one should have the right to any journalism unless they have been properly trained and that only proper editors and journalists can pick the wrong content for us. This is quite an elitist view.

I rarely read fiction but someone recommended, "The Best Laid Plans", a novel by Terry Fallis. Interesting enough he approached many publishing companies to publish the book and when he couldn't find a publisher, he self-published it. He then submitted his book to the Stephen Leacock awards and actually won an award for humor. Of course after that it was picked up by the mainstream press. The gist of that message: did the publishers really know what was best and recognize good content? And I enjoyed the book as did thousands of others.

Keen also goes on to slam the internet for its role in gambling and according to March's Reader's Digest, 3% of Canadians suffering from gambling addition. To lay the gambling problem at the foot of the internet seems completely unreasonable.

What Keen seems to be missing is just because a tool can be used in a negative way doesn't mean the tool itself is negative. He seems to be trying to cling to the past on the theory that the past is better. What I will say is the past will never return so let's get used to it and let's grow in the future.

Read the book to get a counter view. To stimulate thought. Then keep reading my blog anyways.

Changing subjects - I am very proud of my daughter, Elizabeth, who won an award for creative teaching of nutrition.


At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always find it stimulating, when encountering opinionated statements, such as the ones mentioned by Andrew Keen.

Indeed, it's hard to see how can one blame the Internet or Blogs for destroying our culture and values. The problem, of course, is not the technology or the "tools". After all, why should I blame my VCR (OK, PVR) for the lousy programming it plays. (It was my choice!)

However, Andrew Keen has some very good reasons to worry. You see, information appearing on our displays assumes legitimacy (and factuality), just because it's in "print" (on the tube).

If one is not a critical and knowledgeable reader, it's easy to be mislead by erroneous (or malicious) information, say on Wikipedia, just because it's "printed" there.

Unfortunately, if one keeps and open mind...a lot of garbage get's thrown in.

What the Internet doesn't foster, is critical thinking.

At 9:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The internet is naturally full of poor quality content, however, knowing this limitation I have assumed that most people seek multiple references before accepting as fact that which they read on the web and that people would gravitate towards credible sources.
A while ago I started article marketing but stopped when I discovered the amount of poor quality content on many of the article sites.
If people really believe everything that they read, then I hope someone tells them the truth soon.

At 12:37 AM, Blogger Donnie Berkholz said...

I don't understand what kind of action he expects his audience to take. The Internet is here to stay, deal with the constraint and figure out how to move forward.

At 6:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's nice to have freedom of choice and that's what the internet gives us.

I'll have to get a copy of Keen's book before I comment further.

John Mooney

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Tim McDonald said...

This sounds very similar to the study released yesterday that students using Facebook had lower grades than those that did not use Facebook. The study went on to mention that those studied, using Facebook, spent 1-5 hours studying per week, while those studied that did not use Facebook spent 11+ hours studying. The exact hours I don't recall exactly, but there was a significant difference in study times. Naturally, the conclusion was that those using Facebook were getting worse grades, not the obvious, at least to me, that those that studied less, received poorer grades.

This story came from 'professional' journalists occurring in more than one source.

While comments and opinions posted on the internet should be taken with a grain of salt, or a gritting of the teeth, I find it a greater leaning tool than limiting oneself to published material. Not only will you find different descriptions and experiences of events, you get a greater understanding of just how different seemingly similar cultures are.


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