The Cult of the Amateur: How blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the rest of today's user-generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values

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Amateur hour has arrived, and the audience is running the show

In a hard-hitting and provocative polemic, Silicon Valley insider and pundit Andrew Keen exposes the grave consequences of today’s new participatory Web 2.0 and reveals how it threatens our values, economy, and ultimately the very innovation and creativity that forms the fabric of American achievement.

Our most valued cultural institutions, Keen warns—our professional newspapers, magazines, music, and movies—are being overtaken by an avalanche of amateur, user-generated free content. Advertising revenue is being siphoned off by free classified ads on sites like Craigslist; television networks are under attack from free user-generated programming on YouTube and the like; file-sharing and digital piracy have devastated the multibillion-dollar music business and threaten to undermine our movie industry. Worse, Keen claims, our “cut-and-paste” online culture—in which intellectual property is freely swapped, downloaded, remashed, and aggregated—threatens over 200 years of copyright protection and intellectual property rights, robbing artists, authors, journalists, musicians, editors, and producers of the fruits of their creative labors.

In today’s self-broadcasting culture, where amateurism is celebrated and anyone with an opinion, however ill-informed, can publish a blog, post a video on YouTube, or change an entry on Wikipedia, the distinction between trained expert and uninformed amateur becomes dangerously blurred. When anonymous bloggers and videographers, unconstrained by professional standards or editorial filters, can alter the public debate and manipulate public opinion, truth becomes a commodity to be bought, sold, packaged, and reinvented.

The very anonymity that the Web 2.0 offers calls into question the reliability of the information we receive and creates an environment in which sexual predators and identity thieves can roam free. While no Luddite—Keen pioneered several Internet startups himself—he urges us to consider the consequences of blindly supporting a culture that endorses plagiarism and piracy and that fundamentally weakens traditional media and creative institutions.

Offering concrete solutions on how we can reign in the free-wheeling, narcissistic atmosphere that pervades the Web, THE CULT OF THE AMATEUR is a wake-up call to each and every one of us.
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About the author

ANDREW KEEN is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur whose writings on culture, media, and technology have appeared in The Weekly Standard, Fast Company, The San Francisco Chronicle, Listener, and Jazziz. As the Founder, President and CEO of Audiocafe.com, he has been featured in Esquire, Industry Standard, and many other magazines and newspapers. He is the host of the acclaimed Internet show AfterTV and frequently appears on radio and television. He lives in Berkeley, California.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Crown Business
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Published on
Jun 5, 2007
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Pages
240
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ISBN
9780385523011
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Industries / Media & Communications
Computers / Web / Social Media
Social Science / Media Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Former Internet entrepreneur Andrew Keen was among the earliest to write about the dangers that the Internet poses to our culture and society. His 2007 book The Cult of the Amateur was critical in helping advance the conversation around the Internet, which has now morphed from a tool providing efficiencies and opportunities for consumers and business to an elemental force that is profoundly reshaping our societies and our world.
In his new book, How to Fix the Future, Keen focuses on what we can do about this seemingly intractable situation. Looking to the past to learn how we might change our future, he describes how societies tamed the excesses of the Industrial Revolution, which, like its digital counterpart, demolished long-standing models of living, ruined harmonious environments, and altered the business world beyond recognition. Traveling the world to interview experts in a wide variety of fields, from EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager, whose recent €2.4 billion fine to Google made headlines around the world, to successful venture capitalists who nonetheless see the tide turning, to CEOs of companies including The New York Times, Keen unearths approaches to tackling our digital future.
There are five key tools that Keen identifies: regulation, competitive innovation, social responsibility, worker and consumer choice, and education. His journey to discover how these tools are being put into practice around the globe takes him from digital-oriented Estonia, where Skype was founded and where every citizen can access whatever data the government holds on them by logging in to an online database, and where a “e-residency” program allows the country to expand beyond its narrow borders, to Singapore, where a large part of the higher education sector consists in professional courses in coding and website design, to India, Germany, China, Russia, and, of course, Silicon Valley.
Powerful, urgent, and deeply engaging, How to Fix the Future vividly depicts what we must do if we are to try to preserve human values in an increasingly digital world and what steps we might take as societies and individuals to make the future something we can again look forward to.
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