Last year I found an interesting a book, it spoke out against blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and all the user-generated content that is flooding the air waves and drowning out almost all forms of authority. Itís a growing fear that Iíve been reading about in other books like You Are Not A Gadget or The Shallows, and it covers a lot of the problems that I see as the death of culture. I finally had a chance to read it this month, and man was it a great read.
Andrew Keen begins with Wikipedia, giving examples of how credible scientist are practically banned from the community for trying to state the facts of global warming, because other people complained, saying that he was trying to push an agenda. The problem is, he was correcting the facts that opponents of global warming were changing. So Wikipedia is ruled by the mob according to Keen, and I think he might be right. The creators of Wikipedia tried something before it: Nupedia, but it was controlled by editors and had stricter standards, and never took off. People wanted to express themselves without the constraints of editors, and thatís what they got. The problem for us becomes the reliability of information thatís now on the web.
Keen also covers how music and movies have suffered tremendously by digital piracy, and while thereís no doubt that itís changing the industry, institutions like iTunes are going to be taking over distribution, and kids who pirate today will probably become the consumers of tomorrow. If they donít, and everybody thinks that we can get everything for free, culture will suffer for there will be no more artisans to create the entertainment that we all enjoy.
I do feel that his book is a bit alarmist and extreme. I donít like extremism in anything, from politics to news broadcasts, but he does bring up a lot of my own fears. Like as books move online and stores like Borders crumble, we all lose something when another cultural icon is a casualty to this digital revolution.