“The Cult of the Amateur” is a book that has gotten a lot of press coverage, and started a lot of conversations in the social media realm. So I’m glad to have finally gotten a copy of it.
My take on it? It’s an intriguing book, that’s for sure. He presents an interesting theory. I can’t say I agree with it, but it’s definitely something to think about.
Being quite involved in the social media realm, though I can’t say I agree with what he writes. I won’t go into the factual fallacies as much as Larry Lessig did (there’s plenty of that on the web already), but I do want to talk about the general point.
The thing about Web 2.0 – wikis, blogs, etc – is not that it takes away trust from the experts. It’s that it gives everyone the chance to contribute. It levels the playing field, such that everyone can be an expert, by interacting with and learning from experts. I myself am testimony to this. I won’t consider myself an expert in any of this yet, but I am learning. Without Web 2.0, there’s no way a 17 year old from Singapore could connect with the likes of Seth Godin, Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan, Connie Reece, etc; the list is endless. That’s the true value of Web 2.0 – it opens the playing field.
Yes, I do agree that in some things (scientific areas, for example), we need experts to help. But the thing about Web 2.0 is that the experts do have a part in it. On Wikipedia (an example that Keen pointed out a lot), experts can – and do – participate. It’s just not exclusive, and that’s certainly not a bad thing. Even experts are fallible, as shown by how Wikipedia found errors in Encyclopedia Britannica.
The other thing I want to point out is how Keen argues that Web 2.0 is taking away jobs. Well, that might be true. But that’s true for any revolution, isn’t it? For progress to be made, risks have to be taken, things have to change. You can’t have progress if you want to protect the status quo. The industrial revolution took away the jobs of many farmers as well, didn’t it? Society needs to adapt to the progress, and move forward as well, not try to go against it.
Yes, there are problems and questions that need to be sort out. For example, anonymity is still a big problem, one that Seth Godin pointed out 3 years ago. But the extent of Keen’s criticism is overly extreme, if you ask me.
What do you think? What are the strengths/shortcomings of Web 2.0?