Commercial: The Cult of The Amateur
Not a full-blown review of Andrew Keen's book, which is the text for the next Innovation Reading Circle, but instead a emailed response to some of the points he made in a recent FT-hosted debate. I neglected to mention the fact that there's a lot of evidence out there which actually suggests that people want - and are consuming - more 'serious' media content.
- "need to treat newspapers or independent media as a public utility" - Well, that's what we know as public service broadcasting, which isn't immune from the pressures on mainstream media at all. Plus, who is he expecting to guarantee freedom from the market if not the state? And the last 500 years in the history of media has been publishers attempting to move away from the state's clutches, for obvious reasons.
- "media literacy" - he's right, but it's nothing that Ofcom and others haven't been banging on about for the last few years. See specifically Sonia Livingstone of the LSE's work in this area.
- "For most of us, however, looking at the Internet (ie: ourselves) is a sobering and rather shameful experience." - Who's shame? What's he looking at? It's perfectly possible to go weeks and months without coming across anything offensive. You have to go and find it. A statement like that rather gives the lie to the idea that he's only being polemical in the book (and reinforces that point that he comes across like a Catholic priest attempting to hold back the Vulgate Bible).
- "We shouldn't be shy to aggressively fight organisations like the Creative Commons which peddle a lot of seductive nonsense about the common ownership of intellectual content." - That's a coffee spluttering out of mouth moment. Seductive nonsense? About the idea that intellectual property should be renewed and available for all of use to use, and make our own intellectual property - even simply increase our personal intellectual capital with? If I was feeling paranoid, I'd suggest at this point he's simply being a paid apologist for an industry which knows its business model based on outdated and unfair copyright regimes is dying, and can't be bothered to innovate a new future for itself.
- "an increasingly narcissistic world" - this he may have a point on. But I still think it'd be interesting to do a comparison of his analysis with Cass Sunstein's vision of the 'daily me', which was far more insightful in terms of damage to democracy, because of the inability of the polity to inform themselves sufficiently.
- "I don’t have a problem with amateurs expressing themselves online as long as they remain consumers of professional media content. " - Strikes me as being anti-democratic, that. As well as ignoring the fact that, for most people, they do precisely remain consumers of MSM. Few blogs don't refer to MSM outlets and stories - and indeed prove and/or disprove their facts. Who doesn't incorporate some RSS feeds from an mainstream news publisher into their mix? This idea that people will live in a bubble of amateur media consumption is rather like suggesting that a majority of people will only ever watch am-dram theatre, because they find it 'better'. Nonsense.
Gosh, I'm rather prejudicing my reading of the book here. I do, however, remain surprised at the a-historicity of his arguments. His analysis could have been applied to the 18th century and the development of the free press in the UK, the 19th century and the birth of radical trade unions/labour newspapers associated with the movement. And heavens, wasn't the penny dreadful and the anonymous satirist given wing in radical London? We as a society seem to have been able to survive those cheapening moments in intellectual discourse without too much damage.