Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Are there 'amateurs', and is it a 'cult'?

I read a book called 'The Cult of the Amateur' by Andrew Keen, the book is described as the Anti-christ of the Internet age. I found myself getting irritated reading the book, although I welcome reading different opinions to my own, the author, in my opinion, spouts a lot of insults and conjecture with vey sparse evidence and very little objectivity.

But he does raise some interesting arguments which may have merit if toned down and argued rationally by someone else. He basically believes the abundance of media, blogs, songs, videos and so on posted by people on the Internet is destroying our culture and values; destroying the idea of expert information and depleting the talent pool. In short, the Internet is doing everything short of tying the damsel in distress to the train tracks and twisting its moustache in glee.

He argues that when communicating opinions and art work without agents or barriers, the quality and reliability of work will dissapear. He also believes it is narssicistic to post opinion pieces.

The problem with his book is the unfounded assumptions he makes. He assumes that people read blogs and Wikipedia for serious research, and that these things will replace 'professional' work. Most people use blogs and Wikipedia for casual research, entertainment or to learn the opinions of ordinary people. If people want to do serious research, they will consult the vast array of articles written by experienced, educated people on the Internet (there are ways to find reliable files on the net such as the University Search Engine or Google Scholar), in books or in journals. Most people use a variety of mediums in their life, assuming that people who use the Internet are somehow hypnotised by the Web to never watch TV, read a book or newspaper again is one of the faults that Andrew makes.

Andrew glorifies traditional media, even though media and 'professional' experts have and will lie or make mistakes, as everyone knows. His use of the word professional states that media contributors to books, tv or newspapers are professionals, and people who use the internet are automatically 'amateur'. This is faulty. Many musicians and novelists of the past had no education, and had to get their start performing on the street or sending in their manuscripts to surly publishers. How is it any worse for a newcomer to an industry to use Youtube or Facebook to advertise their work, how is it different? Andrew seems to use the word professional in an opinionated way. Also, many educated and experienced individuals do use the Internet as a medium to post their work as well as other traditional mediums.

While there are issues regarding copyright on the Web, the ability to cut and paste is tempered by the ability to search people's websites with search engines like Google. I believe copyright can be protected on the Web. He claims that students are plaigarising material off the Web in large numbers for their assignments, and then posts one example of one university where plaigarism rates have gone up recently. I think this is facetious, as he should present to us a study of a large amount of Universities to prove this. From my experience plaigarism in Uni is fairly low, as it is obvious if you have not done your own work and punishments are high. Also, students do not use Wikipedia or blogs for references when they use the Net, they will use academic articles posted on the web, books, journals and a combination of sources. Ofcourse some students might use non-academic web sites if their assignment studies online media, but they will have to use plenty of academic sources as well if they want to pass. If Andrew believes Wikipedia is supposed to be used academically, his assumption is not valid in the real world.

His book raises questions that might be interesting to discuss, but I think, in my inexperienced opinion, it lacks what I have been taught academic writing should be.

Look out for the epic, dark fantasy ebooks of Goodreads-rated author T.P. Grish at:  

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