Fri 9 Jan 2009
I don't get it. More than a year ago Andrew Keen, author of the useless book Cult of the Amateur, came to the iSchool and got absolutely flattened in a debate with Paul Duguid. He couldn't articulate any meaningful points at all against a debater and an audience who are well versed in research and practice in online contexts. He made a fool of himself, and ended up saying, in almost as many words, that he's just doing all this for the money, and he doesn't really feel strongly about it all.
So I guess we know why Keen is still talking, but why is anyone still listening? Keen is on NPR's Science Friday show right now, repeating the same old alarmist crap, denouncing online anonymity, promoting legislation on internet speech, and generally suggesting we should make new media more like old media.
But maybe it's easy to answer the question of why we're still listening too. It's a pretty well established phenomenon in social psychology that people tend to accept evidence that supports things they already believe and reject even obvious evidence to the contrary. It's all about cognitive dissonance – once we've committed to a position we work to avoid conflict with that position. So, for years the media primed us to believe that the internet was making us all ignorant porn fiends, that it was isolating us, creating a haven for terrorists, and exposing our children to pedophiles. Then, along comes Keen at an opportune moment, in search of some easy money, and applying the same old argument to the user-generated content phenomena around Web 2.0. I guess that's why people are still listening.