The Sky is Falling!

J and I were watching Dork TV C-Span over the weekend, and there was discussion on the media and the Internet that featured Andrew Keen, the author of the book called The Cult of the Amateur:  How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture. 

Keen is no fan of cultural effects that blogs, My Space, You Tube, and other sites that allow individuals to freely post their thoughts, images, and music for all the world to see.  According to Keen, the “Web 2.0” (i.e., Social networking though the Internet) has the effect of “flattening” our culture by elevating mediocre expressions of culture to heights greater than they should be.  It’s the classic struggle between “good” culture produced by elites and “bad” culture produced by the great unwashed masses. If you’ve read Plato, Nietzsche, or just skim Keen’s book, you know that cultural expressions that reflect all that is “Good” “Noble” and True” elevates the entire culture toward “The Good.”  And when you have the opposite happening, you get away from the ideals that supposedly make your culture great.

The problem with his view is that in the U.S. we don’t have one culture.  Ours is a lovely mess of styles (derived from many culture mores) that has produced wonderful things like jazz, and absolute crap like Paris Hilton.  Since I don’t have access to Keen’s books, DVDS, iPod, or what Internet sites he bookmarks, I’m not sure what, to him, are examples of “good culture.” But if he’s saying elites are the saviors of our culture, he’s not really paying attention to what elites are producing for cultural consumption.

For every Hitchcock film playing on TV, there are four channels of home shopping, 6 to 7 so-called “reality shows,” 3 channels of “Shout TV” that passes for news, a bunch of lame sitcoms, sports, and the never-ending celeb gossip shows.  All of these programming decisions are made in part by elites so they can make money.  Although Keen knows that the profit motive is the real motivator in most elite cultural production, he’s kind of in the clouds when he makes statments like this:  “The purpose of our media and culture industries–beyond the obvious need to make money and entertain people–is to discover, nurture, and reward elite talent” (Full article HERE). 

Maybe I’m missing the point here.  Maybe Keen is really throwing darts at elites for failing to live up to their purpose because they are discovering, nuturing, and rewarding less-than-stellar talent while great bands, filmmakers, and actors are overlooked.  But where are these unknown great artists expressing their creativity?  You got it…probably on the Internet.


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