was said pretty well yesterday at Daily Kos.
Keen tends to claim that the participatory web is destroying traditional media at great cost to our culture. I’ve always thought that the mainstream media has done a great deal to destroy itself. And I don’t think I can say it better than this:
The media — newspapers, radio, and television — is not made up of reporters running on a sparkling field of journalistic integrity. Those reporters are instead embedded in a machine intended to do the one thing that Mr. Keen sets as the mark of professionalism — make money. And the way the media has chosen to make money over the last few decades is, perversely, by devaluing their own product.
I’m not just annoyed by Keen in interviews and panels. I think his completely uncritical acceptance of the traditional corporate media as a guarantor of quality is destructive to the very discourse he claims to embrace. “Debate” about the participatory web that is sparked by arguments like Keen’s tends to look like this:
Andew Keen: But the problem is that gatekeepers — the agents, editors, recording engineers — these are the very engineers of talent. Web 2.0′s distintermediated media unstitches the ecosystem that has historically nurtured talent. Web 2.0 misunderstands and romanticizes talent. It’s not about the individual — it’s about the media ecosystem. Writers are only as good as their agents and editors. Movie directors are only as good as their studios and producers. These professional intermediaries are the arbiters of good taste and critical judgment.
David Weinberger: Actually, I’d suggested you take a look at the Top 40 songs. Of course you’re within your rights to cite the New York Times best-sellers list instead, but that’s indicative of the problem with your method. Are you seriously maintaining that pop culture off line is represented by six good books on the New York Times hardcover non-fiction list? Why do you find it so awkward to acknowledge the obvious point that the gatekeepers of commercial publishing and production — the producers of TV shows, magazines, pop music, movies, books — are usually driven not by high cultural standards, but by the need to reach a broad audience? Do I need to remind you that “The Secret” is likely ultimately to outsell all six of those worthy books combined?
Weinberger, or whoever is engaging with Keen-ish arguments can sit there taking home-run swings at Keen’s blind approval of the “media ecosystem” — making the earth-shattering argument that the mainstream media wants to reach a broad audience and make money. I want to see what Weinberger says when really pushed about the limits and value of the participatory web. Keen, regrettably given how much attention the media gives him, never provides that push.
And in libraries, the same thing goes on when Michael Gorman writes on these topics – because he has the same kind of un-critical acceptance of traditional scholarly methods as Keen does of mainstream media producers. We need serious discussion about the implications of the read/write web for scholarly knowledge production, and that can only happen if we turn the same critical eye on traditional practices as we do on the new. But as long as one can engage with Gorman by saying “peer review isn’t perfect” – that real discussion doesn’t have to happen.
(For an example of what I mean by “real discussion” – the March issue of First Monday is a good start)
(And let me say that I have a lot more sympathy for Gorman than anyone who would make the claim that movie studios these days, minor subsidiaries of corporate conglomerations as they are, have a clearer picture of quality than directors)
I haven’t read the comments on this piece – I don’t usually see Daily Kos because there’s too much discussion there and I know I won’t resist the comment threads even though I can’t keep up – so thanks to Copyfight for the pointer.