Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Internet's impact -- good/bad?

Question: does the Internet move society forward?

Too deep? OK, let's get closer to home. Is this blog necessary? Not only "no" but "hell no." This ditty is just one of 90 million blogs.

But let's have a more knowledgeable guy discuss the Internet. Yesterday on PBS The News Hour, Jeffrey Brown interviewed Andrew Keen about Keen's new book, "The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing our Culture."

Here's some of their discussion:

JEFFREY BROWN: The subtitle is, "How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture," very provocative. What's the key argument you're trying to make?

ANDREW KEEN: The key argument is that the so-called "democratization" of the Internet is actually undermining reliable information and high-quality entertainment. By replacing mainstream media content, high-quality radio, television, newspapers, publishing, music, with user-generated content, we're actually doing away with information, high-quality information, high-quality entertainment, and replacing it with user-generated content, which is unreliable, inane, and often rather corrupt.

The value of Internet content

JEFFREY BROWN: And where do you want it to go? I mean, you said that you're not advocating getting rid of all of this; it would be impossible anyway. So you end with a chapter on solutions. What do you want people to -- how do you want to leave people, in terms of thinking about the future, thinking about their own use of the Internet?

ANDREW KEEN: A couple of things I would encourage people to think about. Firstly, if your listeners are using the Internet to express themselves, if they are one of the 70 million bloggers, the hundreds of thousands of people posting their videos on YouTube, the tens of thousands of people doing editing on Wikipedia, for them to ask themselves, "Is this really valuable? Do I need to tell the world what I'm eating for breakfast? Do I need to tell the world what I think of the latest TV show?" Much of the self-expression on the Internet is wasteful.

... I think the most corrosive thing of today's Internet is anonymity. That's what's creating such an uncivil world. It's a pre-social contract place. It's a state of nature. We're not behaving ourselves properly on it, very often because we don't reveal who we are. Much of the most uncivil conversation, much of the unpleasantness of the Internet is carried out by people who won't reveal who they are.

Back to me. This is serious stuff and worth thinking about in more depth. You can read the entire interview here.

Old schoolers will probably like what he has to say. Truants (from the old school) will not.

What do you think?

6 comments:

Jeff Hebert said...

The most telling line to me was this:

I think the key to citizenship means listening, and reading, and consuming high-quality information and entertainment.

If there's a more authoritarian, top-down, UNdemocratic sentiment than that, I can't think of it off-hand. "Your job as a good American is simply to consume what we put out. Don't think about it, don't opine about it, and above all, don't engage with it!" It's a very passive, one-way, mode of thinking that's typical of the insider. "If only the dirty fucking hippies would just shut up and listen to what we smart people know to be so, all would be well with the world."

He comes off as a pompous, elitist windbag whose message basically is "Your opinions don't matter, your betters -- who you can tell are better because they own newspapers and tv stations and have written books that get them on national radio shows -- will tell you the proper things to think about."

I hope the entire print run gets remaindered.

Sign me "Grumpy"

Anonymous said...

Well said, Mr. Hebert.

Sure, blogs are mostly inane, but in my hardly humble opinion so are most tv programs (especially from the major networks), most published books, most newspaper articles... and the list goes on. Excuse my cynic spasm, but I hardly think the mainsteam media is as high culture as it believes itself to be.

The internet is not something to be feared, it is not some sinister hive, and it will not likely make one a polymath (won't likely find that term in your regular dictionary, but Wiki has it!).

I find that the internet is a poweful tool best utilized in the hands of a skilled craftsman. However, if you are looking for intellectual junk food, inane ramblings, and smut, you will find that, too. I rather like having variety and free will!

Mr. Keen should remove his rose-colured bifocals and allow Adam Smith's "invisible hand"to work its magic.

Voraciously reading and researching via the internet for over a decade,

s.l.d. cowen

Anonymous said...

Since this is the only blog I habitually tune in to, I couldn't really comment on the others and their content. All I know is that I have to have my daily 'fix' of George's liberal views and ideas or I can't justify being a conservative. -----Goose

Anonymous said...

I say thank God for the "democratization" the Internet is bringing about... otherwise we wouldn't have a hope in hell of knowing what might really be going on in our world.

The mainstream press and entertainment are so highly controlled and manipulated by the vested interests that the mainstream populace swallows whole whatever is placed before it. The fact that the Iraq War was put over on us so easily is proof enough, but there are many other examples of how we are fooled into believing things are as they are not and meekly get into line.

This is, I think, why the films "The Matrix" and "V for Vendetta" have created such a strong following among young people.

The old geezers out there need to realize that many of our brightest and most high-potential young people are not fooled by the manipulators and have, in fact, been alienated from mainstream culture.

The South Plainsman said...

"..... The key argument is that the so-called "democratization" of the
Internet is actually undermining reliable information and high-quality
entertainment. By replacing mainstream media content, high-quality radio,
television, newspapers, publishing, music, with user-generated content,
we're actually doing away with information, high-quality information,
high-quality entertainment, and replacing it with user-generated content,
which is unreliable, inane, and often rather corrupt....."

He is flat wrong about this. He is assuming the mainstream media is not "unreliable, inane, and often rather corrupt." Of course it is, just like the Internet. Everything he says about what one finds on the Internet is also true of the mainstream media. Hell, most of them are on the Internet now. Anybody that would call what we get on TV "high quality" has to be nuts.

He is certainly right that one cannot just trust what one reads on the Internet. Most of it is crap. Virtually all of it is biased toward one or another point of view. But so is the media. One just has to read and make one's own decision, taking into account the biases and credentials of the writer, and all other facts and circumstances. If you don't do that with both Internet content and media content, you are a damn fool. Just my timid opinion.

I also have to agree with Jeff, and mostly with the anonymous bloggers, even Goose.

grouprod2 said...

The internet's impact is BOTH good and bad.

The internet's impact to society is greatly diversed. It is good because it allows a network of communication throughout the world. For example, I am continuing a group project through the internet outside of class.

The internet's impact is also bad because it can affect employment. For example, there are self-checkout lines in grocery stores where one can scan her own items and pay without the help of a cash operator. I can't emphasize enough the impact on the economy's employment.

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