My thoughts on “If we are all amateurs, there are no experts.”


Andrew Keen’s new book, The Cult of the Amateur is the latest addition to the Newsnight book club. In it, the author expresses his concern for the profligacy of online amateurism, spawned by the digital revolution. This, he feels, has had a destructive impact on our culture, economy, and values.

Web 2.0 is a state of play by which anyone generating content can share it with an audience of hundreds of thousands or even millions depending on its mass appeal. As a result, the quality of media content that certain generations are taking in has gone down.

Whilst the occasional work on youtube may be good there are hundreds of thousands of clips that are absolute crap. They’re long takes with no editing, just letting things happen. One of these such videos is of a pack of buffalo by a stream. A pride of lions captures the young before a crocodile attempts to get its share of the kill. Unfortunately, it fails and the lions finally think their meal is ready. They didn’t plan on the herd coming back. The clip ends with the young buffalo rejoining its herd once more and the predators are still hungry.

What is annoying about these two clips are the duration and the window size. An editor would do his best to find the key moments. In taking the key moments and making a one minute subject the audience would have gained far more. It would also have saved us time. In HD I’m sure it’d be beautiful but as a small window on a browser, it’s disappointing.

That’s the issue with online material. Everyone believes that they can do what they want when they want and then share it with the world. One of the last twitters I received is from Ijustine which read “Just got yelled at for wearing ‘a webcam’” because she’s decided to do the same as Justin from justin.tv. What’s the point of this. I understand the appeal of something like twitter but the live streaming of video seems to be taking it too far. Why are so many people flooding the world wide web with such extraneous content? I don’t want to watch Ijustine sitting at her computer at 3 am as she’s doing as I type this.

Where is the media literacy training that should come with this new generation of web users? Who is to decide what is socially acceptable or not. Is it acceptable to strap a camera to your head and film everything that is going on around you or is that a breach of confidence? Is it worthwhile?

Who’s going to make sense of this new media landscape. Current TV is supposed to be one of the new waves of user-generated content but does it achieve this. How can you boast about creating a user-generated channel when it’s scrambled so that only through payment can you watch the channel. It’s contradictory.

There is a group of podcasters who do a good job of creating web content. The TWIT podcasts are one of these, Mobuzz TV is another to a lesser degree. NPR’s On The media is fascinating. These are examples of how technology can be used to provide high-quality content for a lesser price.

In summary, technology has made it easy for anyone with an idea for a program to distribute it widely over the world wide web. Most of it is absolutely terrible and no one would be interested in the content whilst other elements are brilliant. Whilst everyone is seeing this as a new form of communication there is a lot of material that will never appeal to a mass audience. We must simply wait for a new model to emerge whereby the flood of crap will decrease greatly.

I’m looking forward to the end of this transition period


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