Parks Associates Blog

Thursday, June 07, 2007

In Response to Andrew Keen

In his new book, The Cult of the Amateur, Andrew Keen categorizes the Web 2.0 space as,

“…millions and millions of exuberant monkeys—many with no more talent in the creative arts than our primate cousins—are creating an endless digital forest of mediocrity.”

Obviously, much of the content being created by users is junk and Keen raises many fair points. I would like to offer a few quick thoughts in response, however:

1) Yes, many of the people producing content now are just kids and (shock! surprise!) kids act goofy, think it's funny to curse, and like to play make-believe. The only difference today is that now we get to see everyone else's kids acting goofy, not just our own. Moreover, the kids are much less inhibited (shudder) because the Internet allows them to goof off more anonymously.

2) Yes, much of the content being produced is inaccurate and of low quality. Technology is making content production cheaper which means more junk is being created. For the same reason, however, the absolute amount of quality content will increase. Moreover, the Internet hardly has a lock on poor quality content. TV, radio, and print media have a long and inglorious track record of producing shallow (soap operas) crude (shock jocks) and inaccurate (tabloids) content.

3) The problem is not that people can't distinguish good content from bad, it's that they genuinely desire bad content. Lip syncing teenagers are never going to be confused with Lawrence of Arabia. Factless demagoguery is clearly distinguishable from objective journalism. Yet we still watch the lip syncing and demagoguery because that's what we're looking for.

Web 2.0 opened a content floodgate by allowing consumers to produce. Unsurprisingly, the results have been amateurish. However, the democratic and chaotic production process should not be confused with anarchy. There is an method to the madness and quality content is being produced.


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