Andrew Keen Q & A: still hates the Internet

As I wrote in an earlier blog post about Andrew Keen — author of Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture — we had a Q & A with the notorious Web 2.0 skeptic at globeandmail.com today, but despite my best efforts we didn’t get nearly as much back-and-forth as I was hoping. The full version is here (and, as is often the case, there’s some good responses in the comments) and James Robertson has some thoughts on the Q & A here.

Rachel Sklar, the lovely and talented Huffington Post blogger (and a star panelist at mesh) asked Keen:

“Who gets to be the arbiter of what is Good For Culture and what is Bad For Culture – some snobby on-high culture dude logrolling his buddy’s crappy book of “art” photos or the public, who votes with their eyeballs and their mouse clicks and their time?”

To which Keen responded:

here has always and will always be an arbiter of taste. Web 2.0’s idealists suggest otherwise — but behind their “democracy” is either an algorithm (easily gamed) or a new elite of generally anonymous tastemakers who are shaping wisdom of the crowd sites like reddit and digg. I like professional arbiters — reviewers, editors, agents, talent scouts.”

And I think Eric Berlin of Online Media Cultist and Blogcritics.org made a good point when he said:

“You’ve described “The Cult of the Amateur” as “not designed to be particularly fair or balanced.” What standard would you hold to the blogs that exist in your “digital forest of mediocrity”?

Is it possible in your view that some small percentage of the many millions of blogs add to the overall culture by some broad definition?”

To which Keen responded:

“Good question. I think that the percentage of good blogs is lower because the system has no filters. At least mainstream media has professional filters which, if not ideal, certainly gets rid of some of the dross and finds some jewels.

Professional filters don’t always work and tend toward somewhat conservative, populist and predictable taste. But I prefer to have my culture served up to me by professional tastemakers than an algorithm or by anonymous people on the Internet acting in the name of the virtuous crowd.”

In the end, that is the question — would you rather restrict yourself to the populist and predictable that gets served up by professional tastemakers, or do you enjoy a little more variety and spice, and are prepared to wade through a little dross to get to it? We have Keen’s answer.

And just between you and me, I have a feeling Mr. Keen is probably a lot less bombastic in his views than he makes out — extreme opinion gets lots of attention, as all good Internet trolls know. Kevin Marks puts Keen firmly in that camp, and so does Doc Searls.

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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