Monday, June 11, 2007

Is Blogging Clogging the Internet?


Thanks to fellow SF writer, Crawford Kilian, I recently came across an interesting, though rather irksome excerpt in the Globe and Mail that featured a new book by Andrew Keen, a 47-year old Briton, entitled: "The Cult of the Amateur: how today's internet is killing our culture". Keen argues that basic notions of expertise are under assault amid a cultural shift in favour of the amateurism of blogs, MySpace and other popularity-driven sites, said the Globe and Mail.

"Millions and millions of exuberant monkeys...are creating an endless digital forest of mediocrity," wrote Keen. His polemic attacks the "cut and paste" ethic of Web users, who he claims are robbing professionals of their livelihoods by searching Google to copy other's work. Keen calls them "intellectual kleptomaniacs", "digital thieves of media content in a post-Napster era who spread gossip and scandal". The Globe and Mail went on to say "the Web allows anyone to post their most intimate thoughts, views or even outright lies, without any editing, under the assumption that the crowd will correct any mistakes. Keen calls for efforts to balance out the Web's powers of instant publishing against society's need for accountability."

I find Keen's position elitist and undemocratic. And dangerous.
 It tastes rather sourly of intellectual fascism and promotes the very opposite of what I believe the internet embodies: freedom of expression by ALL people for ALL people. And, yes, with freedom must come tolerance and inclusion, including the tolerance for the presence of mediocrity. But this is who we are, what we are, from the mundane to the glorious. I personally find it thrilling that I'm able to communicate effortlessly with a truck driver in the UK, a miner in Poland, a writer in Saudi Arabia, a gardener in France or an industrialist in the US and so on. Does it matter that information from one site is shared among others? Such cross-pollination in a multi-cultural world can only bode well for gaining an understanding in the diverse cultures of our world. What I believe is most important here is that we are sharing... sharing in a world community! Surely, the greatest gift blogging has provided our global community is communication. Finally, we have a platform where we all can freely communicate. Hello world!

16 comments:

Jennifer Rahn said...

I think that guy is insecure and wants essay writing to remain an elitist art. If anything, opening it up to everyone raises the bar!

sfgirl said...

Yup! I agree that fear is driving his view, not hope (the opposite).

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

It does sound pretty elitist, but he does have a point. I take pride in my blog work (though I am by no means a pro) but there is a lot of sloppy stuff out there. People want to communicate with others and that is great but they don't capitalize their "I's" or use the wrong they're/there/their. That stuff just looks bad. Then you get to the people who think it's funny to change the P to an F on Puck's wikipedia page.

Now I think I'm starting to sound elitist. I think that there's a lot of crap on the Internet, but there's good stuff, too. And it doesn't have to be spectacular writing, just good writing.

In his case, he has a job. He shouldn't be worried that some Myspacer is going to take it, right? If he's as good as he thinks he is, then the cream will rise to the top.

Jennifer Rahn said...

Exactly, Jon. If it's bad writing, no one will read it. Keeping it open gives the "bad" writers a chance to improve their craft. Why take that away?

sfgirl said...

Well said, you two! As Charles Bradlaugh said: "Without free speech no search for truth is possible...no discovery of truth is useful...Better a thousandfold abuse of free speech than denial of free speech. The abuse dies in a day, but the denial slays the life of the people, and entombs the hope of the race."

Lisa said...

I'm more concerned about the sites that are nothing but advertisement for some Ebook or product. I think blogs are great. Viva la difference!

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Quite right, Nina. The web is open for all. For someone to come along and say amateuers are polluting it is insulting. I agree with Jon, though, as I also take pride in my blog work.

Ian Parnell said...

The proliferation of blogs and sharing of subject matter can be overwhelming, but if you persevere, it's a great way to learn how to critically filter information and also to learn that there's never just two opinions on a topic. Here's my vote for bloggodiversity!

sfgirl said...

"Bloggodiversity"...I really like that! Good points all!

Dagmar said...

Yes, some people are worried for it is so easy now to publish information across social and country borders. Blogging isn’t really about the use of perfect English. It isn’t about accurate reporting. People blog to share their point of view or innermost thoughts they may not would otherwise. Blogging is a tool for expression, marketing – yes marketing – and most importantly a wonderful means to learn about people in countries we may never get to visit otherwise. Viva la blog. Tonight I might just want to curl up and read a good book or favorite magazine instead.

S. Camille Crawford said...

I agree and I think there's a place for traditional journalism... a place where you go when you want to be able to trust that what you are hearing can be counted on to be true. Among the the general populace of internet users, trust has to be earned and you have to learn to trust your own judgment or corroborate your findings or just simply be free to be gullible if you like. It is a wonderfully free world and for the most part, if I don't like or believe what I see and hear, I'm free to move elsewhere. Still, when I want to know the source of information and to find out if something is true, I usually turn to the mainstream media. Some people are just grumpy because the internet shakes their booty... and they have to think a little harder about what they are doing. There is a lot of information out there...

sfgirl said...

Extremely well said! I totally agree with Dagmar and Camille. It's the expression of self and sharing across cultural borders that excites me. And scares others...

SQT said...

I think of blogging as cyber socializing. I talk to friends I have made online and exchange ideas and opinions. I have worked as a professional journalist and I don't see any conflict between blogs as online journals vs. professional articles. If Andrew Keen doesn't have enough faith that his own work will hold up as significant among all the cyber-chatter out there, then perhaps he isn't the talent he would like to think himself to be.

sfgirl said...

Right on, SQT! I totally agree. It's a sign of insecurity.

Gingr W said...

He forgot or doesn't know that the Internet is for the PEOPLE, not for some elitist guys like him. :D

sfgirl said...

Ginger, you rock! As always! You said in twenty short succinct words what it took me six paragraphs to say... :)