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Monday, 9 April 2007

Keen, but not Peachy...

Idly flicking through Saturday's Grauniad - well, it's so *slow* the print media, isn't it? Does it *really* matter if you're a couple of days late dropping it in the recycling bin?? - I come across an article commemorating the 10th anniversary of blogging. Yes, apparently, the first entry on Scripting News was posted just over a decade ago and since then, as the piece affirms, "blogging has gone from an unnammed or even nebulous concept [so *they've* read GWAOTM too!] to helping form a nascent community and then to the fundamental evolution of the social web." No, I didn't understand a word of it either, but happy birthday anyway Blogosphere - and, if you're in on the old Gore Vidal joke, a meretricious to you too!

But to be serious for a nano second. In time-honoured, balanced journalism, two sides to every coin, "we are not a home to sanctimonious, self-important ranting here" Old Media style fairness, the Graniad [sic - it was a typo, but I think it fits the bill as we're talking about *old* Me-Jah here...] feels compelled to show that all is not sweetness and light in the whizzing cyber world of the ones and noughts. To whit, they wheel out Andrew Keen - author of CULT OF THE AMATEUR: HOW TODAY'S INTERNET IS KILLING OUR CULTURE, (apologies for shouting, but that's *exactly* how he types it up on his *own* blog [some of you are *way* ahead of me here, but the rest of you will doubtless see the irony of that statement shortly] who says that "although it is enticing to believe that online diaries are empowering, the hype is dangerous." Yep, I can live with that. But then Keen by name, but less so by nature, he goes on:

It's seductive in the sense that it convinces people to think that they have more to say and are more interesting than they really are. The real issue is whether it adds any more to our culture. Most of it is just so transient and ephemeral.

Ah, now I get it. Before the days of the internet, when I thought I had more to say than I did and was more interesting than I really was, I was just a deluded, self-aggrandising moron. *Now* my "digital narcissism" is a threat to culture itself! Thanks for the tip off Andy - I'll buy a faster computer!

Anyway, purely in the interests of extending this over-opinionated, nowhere-near-as-interesting-as-I-like-to-think-it-is rant, I decided to find out a little bit more about Mr. Keen. First stop, AfterTV where we find not only a lovely picture of him (ahh, not a *smitch* of narcissim...) but also the following blurb:

Born in North London... attended London University ... First Class Honours degree in History....British Council Scholar... University of Sarajevo....Yugoslavia during the mid Eighties ... graduate work at the University of California at Berkeley.... fellow at the Macarthur funded Berkeley-Stanford Program on Soviet International Behaviour... lectured about politics, history and modern culture ... number of New England schools including Tufts, Northeastern and the University of Massachusetts...

The boy done good.

So, we read on:

A second confession: I am a media, culture and technology junkie. I have written extensively about music, cinema and politics for many magazines and newspapers in both America and Europe. My own media obsessions include the movies of Alfred Hitchcock, the music of Bono and U2 and the books of W.G. Sebald. My three most cherished pieces of media all happen to be called Vertigo: Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), Sebald’s Vertigo (1999) and U2/Bono’s “Vertigo” (2004). Beyond Vertigo, I like to read other people’s anti utopian visions -- particularly those of Franz Kafka, Edmund Burke, William Gibson, George Orwell and Jorge Luis Borges. What particularly interests me about all these dystopian writers is the way that their work exposes the great seduction of their particular age.

Ahh a Vertigo stalker...I've heard of them...Anti-Utopias? Yes, a valid and interesting area of research. But U Bloody 2?!?!?

Anyway, each to their own. Then, next stop is his The Great Seduction site where we find, eventually once we've accustomed our eyes to the glare of all the plugs for CULT OF THE AMATEUR: HOW TODAY'S INTERNET IS KILLING OUR CULTURE (I wish he wouldn't keep shouting like that...) a link to a recent interview (plugging - you guessed it - CULT OF THE AMATEUR: HOW TODAY'S INTERNET IS KILLING OUR CULTURE, naturally). And when I say plugging, I *mean* plugging - this guy is *good* (...and coming from me, that's high praise indeed) I counted *seven* *UPPER* *CASE* plugs for his newest book, The CULT OF THE AMATEUR: HOW TODAY'S INTERNET IS KILLING OUR CULTURE in this six question interview alone. He seems to have been given quite an easy time by blogger (?) Strumpette (which has, incidentally, always been my favourite style of pasta...) - the blog's legend reads: A Naked Journal of the PR Industry. Wow - nudity *and* PR; could there *be* any more vices in there?

All well and good - there's clearly a lot in this "digital narcissism" thing. But these are just a couple of the things he has to say that leaped out at me from the interview - the typos have been left [democratically] uncorrected (bloody bloggers, eh?):

As I demonstrate in CULT OF THE AMATEUR, the blogosphere has no formal editorial checks ot [sic] balances and is thus structurally corrupt and corrupting.

So all those comments people leave at the bottom - they're just....[..tails off..]Nevermind. But then, it transpires that Andy hasn't written this book, THE CULT OF THE AMATEUR: HOW TODAY'S INTERNET IS KILLING OUR CULTURE for us "Web 2.0 radicals". No, we will probably disagree with him and make mincemeat of his theories in an ordered debate. So *this* one goes out to,

parents, business people and educators -- who are troubled by the more extreme cultural and economic consequences of the hyper democratic internet. I expose the dangers not only of "citizen media" like blogging and wikis, but also of online pornography, gambling and identity theft.

Quite so - that's the thing about this democracy lark isn't it. Like infaltion - it's OK until it goes hyper. Then you get all the peaceniks and alternative lifestyle lot out in force and next thing you know...

[... gentle clip-clop, accompanied by a lazily plucked gee-tar...]

"Ours was a peaceful town 'til those Blog rustlers turned up here with their scantily-clad goth girls splattered in feck blood and their fancy Teddy Sheringham's 666 poker nights..."(North London, eh? - I wonder, I wonder....)

But, fear not, pardners, because...

... CULT OF THE AMATEUR [yes, we get the idea by now Andy....] addresses many ordinary people's concerns about the way that the digital revolution is undermining the core tenets of American culture.

You mean there are *non* *ordinary* people out there trying to undermine our *ordinary* ambitions to be able to occupy and firebomb Middle Eastern cities without these atrocities reaching the attention of the people who not only bankroll them, but in whose collective name they are perpetrated.

Well, looky there.

So, please Andrew, tell us more. Specifically what you'd say to the bloggers in places like Iran and China who live under regimes who have more in common with that described in the post below than our own and who are fed up with being told by puny little bureaucrats and ideologues what they can and can't look at. Or say. Or think.

I think you'll find, when you can tear yourself away from The Unforgettable Fire that if you remove the hyper- what you have left tends no longer to be describable as democracy.

And one last thing - the blog thing. Alright for you, but not for the rest of us? Bono sang the following:

And I must be an acrobat
To talk like this
And act like that...

Yes, an acrobat for sure. Or, in plain language, a hypocrite.

L.U.V. on y'all,


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  1. Is Web 2.0 the one where Spiderman stops that runaway train?

    I've not read Keen's book and I shan't bother as he's a U2 fan.

    But as for that Strumpette...would you?

  2. The thing that annoyed me about what he said in the Guardian article was his dismissal of what "ordinary" people have to say (I'm having to quote from memory because, ho ho, the paper's in the recycling bin now) - "why should I care what someone on the West Coast of America thinks about the situation in Iraq?" Why indeed. Should we all queue up in front of Andrew Keen tugging our forelocks before he decides if we're allowed to express our opinions on anything?

  3. Yes, I saw that too and was so underwhelmed that it didn't even annoy me.

    Apart from the 'it convinces people to think that they have more to say and are more interesting than they really are' bit that you highlighted Bob.

    Does it never cross any of *their* minds that bloggers JUST LIKE BLOGGING?

  4. I was quite interested to read the article and then got bored REALLY QUICKLY. Sorry - was I shouting? It imparted nothing new or particularly well-informed. I used it to soak up the floodwater from the freezer in the shed that had suddenly decided to defrost itself without warning on Saturday.

  5. Next thing, they'll be letting all these damned amateurs have a say in selecting the government, or something! What a stupid, tedious little man he sounds like, I won't be reading that particular book but enjoyed this post ripping it to bits - thanks!