Andrew Keen: Luddite?

There is new book getting national press that tries to articulate the “dangers of Web 2.0″.

I’m surprised at the level of exposure this book is getting in Big Media. For instance, the New York Cult of the Amateur - Amazon Book Cover ImageTimes did a review a few weeks ago. The chances of a relatively unknown author getting a NYT review are somewhat small…unless the editorial staff consider the topic timely or important.

Author Andrew Keen says in The Cult of the Amateur: How today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture that:

The only way to efficaciously fight back against the radical democratizers is by exposing Web 2.0 to serious public scutiny. People outside Silicon Valley get it when they are exposed to the Web 2.0 nonsense. Teachers, politicians, business leaders, editors, librarians, broadcasters, and, above all, parents are aware of Web 2.0’s destructive consequences…The intellectual life of our society is at stake. This is a critically serious debate that will determine the credibility and the very viability of our information economy. If we want our kids to be ignorant, then accept the fashionable inanities of Web 2.0. If not, join the cause. And fight against the flattening of our culture into a wasteland of collectivist nonsense.

I don’t agree with Andrew at all, but it’s nice to see someone take a clear position Big Grin

There is an increasing schism in larger society between Old Media / Big Media, and New Media. This tension has clear parallels in education’s “product”….knowledge. The politics of knowledge is filtering the debate in education over access vs. control of information, traditional textbooks and materials vs. Open Content, proprietary vs. open systems and thinking in both K-12 and Higher Education organizations.

Clay Shirky says that both Keen, and fellow Brittanica blogger Michael Gorman base their criticisms of Web 2.0 on the premise that, “technology is one thing, but the way it is used is another, and that the two can and should be separated”.

Andrew Keen’s Positions

Michael Gorman’s Positions

Shirky argues that Keen and Gorman are Luddites, and in doing so he captures nicely some of the things I’ve been talking about here on this blog in a less articulate fashion This one is definitely worth a read:

Andrew Keen: Rescuing ‘Luddite’ from the Luddites

Clay does a great job drawing out the real roots of the Luddite Rebellion, and makes an excellent, and useful parallel to current calls for control of technology to protect the current winners in the market place.

There is no revolution without someone losing, folks. The players in Old Media / Big Media, textbook publishing, vendors of proprietary & closed solutions for K-12 and Higher Ed are going to be the losers in the coming struggle.

I believe that there will continue to be room for both ends of the extreme, but these traditional information markets, and others inextricably linking profits to ideas about “expertise” are going to suffer. They will not give up without a fight any more than the Luddites did. The lines are really being drawn now.

I’ve talked before about the false economy of knowledge, and the fight now centers around a conservative backlash against the product of Internet – user-driven, “democratized”, open and free information – not the technology itself. Shirky is right in that they are not discrete and separate things.

It will be interesting to see how this continues to develop, and at want point the political forces at work will become more widely recongized on the national level. There are tentacles that reach out from this debate into many institutions and markets. Stay tuned.

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