Monday, August 20, 2007

Cult of the Elitist
The other night when I was watching the Colbert Report, he had on the author of the book Cult of the Amateur: How today's Internet is killing our culture, Andrew Keen. Usually I like the authors that come on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report but this time I couldn't help getting exceptionally ticked off about this author.
Keen theorizes that because the Internet allows anyone to produce content and anyone to access that content for free, real art is being trivialized. Real artists cant make money so they get wiped out. Objective internet journalism is thrown out the door because of lying, cherry picking facts, and corporate sponsored bloggers. Additionally, pirating over the internet is preventing traditional content creators from making money.
Despite the flaws in his argument, what really annoyed me was that Keen also believes that we need well-educated people to provide us with the content with which to form our culture. Us pig farmers shouldn't be allowed to define our culture. Does Keen suppose that there's a committee out there carefully mitigating the deluge of media that gets into our heads so that minds don't implode and we all de-evolve into a bunch of monkeys, and that the internet is somehow circumventing this process?
Since the beginning of culture, culture has always and will always be built upon the democratization of ideas. Video killed the radio star, not because people were making videos, but because the people were willing to watch it en masse. Thus, the age of video was born. Did our culture die with MTV and America's Funniest Home Video? Some would say yes, but if that were true the internet wouldn't be able to kill a dead culture now, right? Did the automobile kill our horse-drawn carriage culture? Yes, but it didn't destroy our culture. Our culture has always evolved to accommodate the technologies that we embrace. Even today [despite its environmental effects] the American car culture has become one of the defining aspects of life in the US.
To further prove my point, that culture is essentially the democratization of ideas, lets examine the only times when a culture has successfully been killed. Take for example the ancient Mayans and the Incans. Their cultures were not destroyed until the Spanish annihilated the people's of those cultures. When a society is decimated like various the Native American tribes, the ones that are still alive keep their culture going regardless of their social status or education. If they all start running Indian casinos, then casinos will become part of their culture, even at the dismay of their ancestors nonetheless.
Perhaps Keen isn't really saying that the internet is killing our culture. Maybe he's saying that it's killing traditional media. Of course, how are you gonna sell a book entitled How the Internet Killed Traditional Media? Everybody already knows how. No... you'd have to cast a wider net to make book more evocative so somebody will buy it. So let's say that the internet is killing culture, but really write a book about the internet killing traditional media.

BTW, you can buy Keen's book on the culture killing internet from his own very webpage here:

See the Colbert Report interview below:

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