Mark Mikula's Reviews > The Cult of the Amateur: How today's Internet is killing our culture

The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen
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Jul 27, 09

Read in July, 2009

The Cult of the Amateur takes the view that opening up the web to all voices has a decidedly negative impact on our culture. With newspapers needing to layoff workers, Keen makes the point that expertise is being lost to masses of people who are, in many cases, ill-equipped to maintain journalistic standards. The web's cloak of anonymity and the amateur status of many bloggers and videographers also keep individuals from being held accountable for their views. Keen also questions how many individuals contributing to the web are actually shills for political parties or corporations, merely in place to add to the spin. With so much content available on the web and limited tools to estimate its value, users can easily be confused or overwhelmed.

He does not restrict his argument to journalism. He also presents the dwindling numbers of independent book stores and record stores as evidence of the trend. I found the book to be a compelling read, floating many ideas with excellent points of view from many people affected by the trend.

My minor quibbles: I think that the chapters could have been more starkly defined. The anecdotal evidence for the erosion of culture tries to stay on point, but the arguments for one industry do not stay in one chapter. They keep resurfacing. To me, it felt like the points being raised were diluted because the focus was returning to already covered ground.

Also, toward the end of the book, Keen brings up examples of Internet gambling and pornography, both of which he effectively ties into the argument for examples of web-supported industries that contribute to the erosion of culture. But his argument then goes in the direction of making a plea for parents to be gatekeepers for their children. These sections seemed ad hoc and more appropriate for a separate article outside of the book.

That aside, I strongly recommend the book, especially to anyone who feels threatened by the web or challenged by the difficult task of separating worthwhile content from electronic detritus.
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message 1: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Was this book (perhaps) cobbled together from articles written and published separately? If so, that would resolve (in my estimation) your first minor quibble.

I have 1 quibble with your assessment of the book: i disagree that porno & gambling "contribute to the erosion of culture." I try to maintain a descriptivist view of culture, though, rather than the much more popular prescriptivist view, which is to say that i think culture just IS and it doesn't get a value judgment on a continuum of Bad, Good, Better, or Best Culture. That's not to say that i think anything and everything Should Be Allowed, but rather that virtually every person with even a little knowledge of history who ever existed has looked at their culture--their present time--and thought, "Remember when it used to be better?" And then then point at the things they don't like and say, "THAT is what's making it worse today than it was yesterday."

OK, not such a minor quibble, but i still respect you in the morning, Marcus.


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