Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thinking about Web 2.0.

A friend of mine, Jo Green, brought an interesting new book to my attention this week - Andrew Keen's "The Cult of the Amateur."

Keen points out that blogs, social networking sites, and other Web 2.0 phenomenon now bombard us with "superficial observations of the world around us rather than deep analysis, with shrill opinion rather than considered judgment.” By celebrating the opinion of the amateur over the knowledge of the expert, and by touting popularity rather than reliability, misinformation and rumors proliferate. We end up more news, more perspectives, more opinions, more everything, but most of it comes without filters or verification. All in all, he sees mostly danger in these developments.

This distrust of advances in technology isn't new. In Plato’s "Phaedrus," which was written about 370 B.C., Socrates bemoaned the development of writing. He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry in their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialog’s characters, “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful.” And because they would be able to “receive a quantity of information without proper instruction,” they would “be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant.” They would be “filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom.” Socrates wasn’t wrong - the new technology did often have the effects he feared - but he was shortsighted. He couldn’t foresee the many ways that writing and reading would serve to spread information, spur fresh ideas, and expand human knowledge (if not wisdom).

I believe Andrew Keen is correct in much of what he says but he is shortsighted too.

Perhaps Alfred North Whitehead was right when he observed, “Everything of importance has been said before by somebody who did not discover it.”

What do you think?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I would say that is certainly true in Hollywood!! Well said and very interesting as always.