I just got back from Andrew Keen's lecture at Felix Meritis. Keen has made a fortune during the last year's by writing a bestseller called The Cult of the Amateur where he attacks the Web 2.0 phenomenon. According to Keen, we are not witnessing growing democracy but public masturbation of narcissists and a race to the bottom. As Keen puts it:"Most of us aren't talented. Most of us have nothing to say." According to Andrew Keen true democracy is not handing people the tools for self-expression, it is providing articles of professional journalists globally to everyone. "One learns about the world by listening to experts", he points out.
People like Keen frustrate me. He has found a segment in the market and hit it by simplifying his arguments to a cynical provocation piece. Personally I find it so sad when I witness professional writers choosing full pessimism as their final resting place. According to Keen, Web 2.0 is not about Wisdom of the Crowd, he thinks it is the Rule of the Mob lead by oligarchs such as Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page of Google.
I am right on the hit list of Keen's attack. We launched today a new version of www.strangerfestival.com which links videos by those vicious amateurs thematically and allows just everyone to even comment on them. Already now the thematic map shows fascinating aspects such as the amount of violence compared to religion. Come and have a look.
I get annoyed by attacks such as Keen's which blame user-generated culture for everything from drop in CD sales to falling subsciption rates of newspapers. Keen consciously forgets that at the same time as the Internet fosters blogs which are all about Me-Me-Me, it also creates opportunities for more people to reach quality and share quality. It allows people to gain recognition and creates a sense of belonging. Borrowing an idea of Karen Spaink from today: the goal of videos like the ones in StrangerFestival is not to prove that amateurs are as good as journalists and artists, not at all. We are talking of a new culture which creates its own narratives, frameworks and rules. Sometimes the goal is to change the world, sometimes it is just to share a feeling with friends of like-minded. Sometimes you reveal systematic torture by governments, sometimes you tell about struggling sleepless nights with a newborn, at times you want to show your holiday pictures to your loved ones and sometimes you tell about losing your legs in a bomb in Iraq.
Pessimism like Keen's is easy but not helpful. As Karen Spaink asked smartly:"So should we just tell people to shut up?" Maybe it my studies in political science but according to me this does not sound like spreading democracy, Mr Keen.
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