Keen Observations

Andrew Keen’s book, “The Cult of the Amateur,” got a bit more life New Year’s Day when a rebroadcast of a 2007 interview, along with Xeni Jardin of Boing Boing, NYU’s Clay Shirky, and Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia. The broadcast got me to go back and look at a lot of what was said. Lessig in a parody calls him a self-parodist. Many note he made a lot of mistakes in his own book, so became his own debunker in asserting books are more accurate than the Internet. Boing Boing goes on at length. And Jarvis debunks Keen perfectly by pointing out how the crowd hauled Jarvis himself in, pointing him to the crowd-sourced Wikipedia, so he could update and correct a mistake in a post he’d written about Keen’s book. Jarvis refused to debate Keen live but I can agree with Jardin for doing so. What’s wrong with the live, broadcast version of debunking akin to the blog commenting conversation? More people are hit with the message that way, and more may be swayed.

Now, a word about some oddly guilty feelings I have about writing about this now, a half year after its first wave of information and commenting. I have the journalist thing in me where I need an excuse to write something now because if I’m commenting on something from months ago, it can no longer be valid. It’s been out, people have had their say, it’s done. But while it’s important to be aware of the conversation, generally, there are so many concurrent conversations it’s impossible to keep up on all of them at the same time, and sometimes you have something to say a long time later that still may be relevant, especially in looking over some old material. That, in a way, is what academics do, to great effect. They study past data and narrative and so on, picking out the most truly relevant information, analyzing and digesting it, and bringing new intelligence to it. I’m not that -- at least not formally -- but I can try to use their techniques.

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