The Cult of the Amateur: Everybody is Gutenberg in Web 2.0!
While browsing through the Virtueel Platform website, I came across the Anti Web 2.0 Manifesto (Adorno for Idiots) by Andrew Keen. The manifesto pinpoints in a very accurate way my sceptical, pessimistic thoughts on the whole Web 2.0 affair we’ve been living in for quite some years now (and perhaps also the up and coming semantic web). Like Andrew Keen’s book The Cult of the Amateur (a phrase he borrowed from fellow Web 2.0 criticist Nick Carr), as he admits himself, this blogpost is biased. Very much so.
If anyone can create a puddle of mud in a swamp, it is still amateuristic. You might say to me: ‘Hey, but you’re a blogger! Blogging is web 2.0!’ Sure, guilty as charged! But therefore this post is about awareness and not about creating fear. With that being said, does Web 2.0 provide us only with amateurs or do we still have time to foster real talent? One might think that Esmee Denters, a recent YouTube phenomenon from the Netherlands, might be such an example. But there are probably quite some vocalists out there who can do the same trick (although I do admit that she has a beautiful voice). Her marketing trick however is that the fans, who followed her from the beginning, share the idea that ‘they’ve know her from when she wasn’t famous’. It is no surprise that the slogan that goes with the product is ‘You Made It Happen’. To be precise, it was famous record producer and musical entrepeneur pur sang Billy Mann who made ‘It Happen’. It’s a variation of a classical egocentric quality of humans: Who didn’t brag about that guy or girl in highschool who is now a famous politician, musician, etc.? I know him/her! (…but I wish it was me)
In the Anti Web 2.0 Manifesto, Keen places himself as the opposite of Chris Anderson by stating that: ‘Digital utopian economists Chris Anderson have invented a theoretically flattened market that they have christened the “Long Tail”. It is a Hayekian cottage market of small media producers industriously trading with one another.’ Once again, one might not have to agree, one is perhaps not keen on agreeing instantly with Keen but it can’t hurt to think about it. Keen also mentions ‘a particularly unfashionable thought’ by saying that ‘big media is not bad media’ which put forth the likes of Hitchcock and Bono (I’d prefer to say U2 as a whole). They were supported and fostered by big record labels and the Hollywood studios. It is a small step to return to the example of Esmee Denters, who is fostered by major record label Interscope. Denters, a product of the Cult of the Amateur, was made into a ‘professional’ by the record industry.
Can I offer solutions here? No, because it’s an ongoing debate that will linger for a long time. Perhaps it is important to foster talent at the roots, and not let talent foster in the amateuristic puddles of mud. How long will users keep creating content for the Cult of the Amateur, will they lose their enthusiasm when they don’t get positive comments? When will they stop trying and what are the stories of users who stopped trying. The users who got tired of contributing their hard work to the Cult of the Amateur?
My thoughts are that we should foster talent. The professionals in the business are only fostering ‘talent’ at the top of the chain. A participatory culture, wherein the secrets of the industries are laid out in the open usable for the Cult of the Amateur, sounds like a utopia. But deep inside I believe, or hope, it not to be. In my personal utopia, I’d suggest we create places where people can firstly learn and secondly can contribute and are not stuck in their own puddles of mud of the great Web 2.0 swamp which encompasses a fixation on contribution. Let’s discuss new ideas, like Keen suggests in the video below. Below you can see a presentation from Andrew Keen at (what Keen proclaims to be) the ‘belly of the beast’, being Google HQ in Mountain View.
Written by newmw
August 10, 2007 at 11:31 am
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged with Academic, Advertising, Andrew Keen, Anti Web 2.0 Manifesto, Blog, Business, Chris Anderson, Commercial, Creative industries, Creative Industry, Cult of the Amateur, Esmee Denters, Google, Information Technology, Internet, Recommendations, Social Media, The Long Tail, University, Virtueel Platform, Web 2.0, Weblogs, World Wide Web, YouTube
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