Tuesday 26 June 2007

Significant new media ... or pointless bloggery? (repost from other blog)

Andrew Keen has published (using 'old media') a book about the evils of new media: The Cult of the Amateur. Naturally he wants to promote it on the Today Programme:

Click here for streaming audio
(the relevant piece is at 21'09" into this 26'22" clip)*

Download RealPlayer here

Sorry, Mr Keen, the new media is here to stay. It has its faults, just like old media, but your bleating about 'authority' and 'editors' won't make it go away. It's the lack of the old kind of regulation that makes the new media so attractive to its users.

(More later, when I've had time to collate my thoughts on this important subject.)

Now that I've listened to the clip again, and had time to consider, here's my take (note that I've not read Mr Keen's book):

Historically, people have been less likely to question the authority of the old media than they are to question the authority of the new media. Now, they are savvy enough to know that just because something is on a web page doesn't necessarily mean it's true.

When people read stuff on blogs, or MySpace, or wherever, they know it has no built-in authority and will interpret what they read accordingly. Youngsters growing up with the new media are fully aware that they are free to create stuff themselves, and they are also aware of how much authority they themselves have in doing so (that is, none at all) so they are naturally inclined to question what they read.

As a result of this default mode of questioning, they're likely to apply the same critical thinking to all media, new and old -- which can only be a good thing.

If you ask people whether they believe everything they read in a traditionally printed newspaper, they'll likely say, "No, of course not." But until recently if you questioned what someone was telling you about a reported event, they're likely to have told you, "It's true, I read it in the Daily Such-&-Such."

Wikipedia is often brought up as an example of how the internet shouldn't be trusted, but Wikipedia's self-correcting mechanism ensures that its information is mostly reliable. Not completely, but mostly reliable. Just like Britannica, as a December 2005 report has shown.

One of Andrew Keen's objections to the new media is that it has 'zero value'. By which I suspect he means it's free, and therefore worthless. Aside from any frustrations he might have with being unable to monetize his own internet-based efforts, this is a particularly blinkered view. Something is only worth what you pay for it? Hard cash or you're not interested? Tell that to Google. Tell that to Scott Sigler.

Web 2.0 is not, as Brian Appleyard incorrectly states in this clip, to do with interactivity -- we had that to some degree in Web 1.0 -- it's mainly to do with the separation of form from content, which is what makes the creation of web-content so easy for the non-technical user. Web 2.0 is facilitating a medium that allows people to make themselves heard -- to communicate, to create, to think. Long may it continue.

*UPDATE: If the streaming audio is unavailable, download the mp3 of the clip from RapidShare here: