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The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture | [Andrew Keen]

The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

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.

©2007 Andrew Keen; (P)2007 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Andrew Keen is a brilliant, witty, classically-educated technoscold, and thank goodness. The world needs an intellectual Goliath to slay Web 2.0's army of Davids." (The Weekly Standard)
"Mr. Keen...writes with acuity and passion about the consequences of a world in which the lines between fact and opinion, informed expertise and amateurish speculation are willfully blurred." (The New York Times)

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  •  
    Michael Fielden San Jose, California 07-11-07
    Michael Fielden San Jose, California 07-11-07 Member Since 2011

    thegeekchannel.com

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A painful voyage from a single perspective"

    I struggled through "The Cult of the Amateur" for a variety of different reasons, but what sticks with me most vividly is the overwhelming feeling that the author had an alternate agenda - as if at some point I would become a part of a sophisticated infomercial for some far away product. Fortunately, that was not the case, but the struggle to get through it was no less painful.

    At the end of the whole thing I found myself wondering what the point was - knowing because it had been pounded into me throughout the story - and not believing that there's anything wrong with the "amateur" challenging the common professional or even the "expert" that might know what he's read or learned in years of experience. I believe, as most Internet people probably do, that sometimes the expert doesn't know what's best and the "amateur" will come up with the next best thing and/or the right idea. The author's hypothesis was quite a bit different, suggesting that the amateur is taking over and that the power is nearly destroying what we know as expert opinion and knowledge. Quite different from how I and most of my peers view things.

    Hope that helps for those of you considering this book - perhaps enough to save your credits and wait for it to hit the sale rack.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Eau Claire, WI, USA 12-28-07
    Robert Eau Claire, WI, USA 12-28-07
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    "Save your money...."

    The author's core hypothesis is basically something along the lines of "work of professionals is increasingly not valued, so they're not making money like they used to", and he attributes this to "amateurs".

    There are a few nuggets of good information in this book, but they're few and far between. I think the author could come up with a five-page theme paper that would cover all of his points - the rest is redundant (and sometimes irrelevant) examples.

    He gives an example of a company having a "design our next ad" contest, where the winner got paid some amount (I believe it was $10,000) for the ad. He then said that a "professional" would have charged, on average, over $300,000 to do the same ad. He then states that this was a bad thing, presumably because a "professional" lost out on work.

    This neglects to mention that if the "amateur" doesn't do as good of a job as the "professional", the company won't hire the amateur next time. They'll hire the professional, and value his services even more. If the ad is the best ad they've ever run though, who's to say that the company did the wrong thing by shopping around? It's really pretty simple.

    By the way....my very act of posting a review of his work, since I'm not a "professional" reviewer of audiobooks, makes me (in his eyes) unqualified to render any valid opinion about his work. Very convenient, that.

    If you're willing to take my "amateur" advice, save your credits and your money.

    22 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gerald Helena, MT, USA 03-17-08
    Gerald Helena, MT, USA 03-17-08 Member Since 2002
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    "Whiny with few solutions"

    Saw this book in a store and from the dust cover, thought it sounded like a good read (or listen since Audible had it). My enthusiasm for this book quickly waned. The author's arguments are weak and for the first 9 chapters he offers almost no solutions. Many of the problems he mention existed before Web 2.0, they just have been intensified or focused in recent years, but according to the author these problems are because of Web 2.0.

    The author is also the narrator and part way through the book I found him very pompous. Thinking I might be thinking this because of his British accent, I went online and read book reviews that accused him of the same thing.

    Because I had such high hopes for this book, I continued listening to the complaining and hoped the author was just setting me up for some awesome finish.

    I am somewhat happy that in the last chapter the author does offer some solutions and success stories. Unfortunately they are way too late and he does not talk as passionately about them as the problems.

    If you are looking for a book to argues why Web 2.0 is bad, then this book is for you.

    If you want a realistic or objective book on the problems of Web 2.0, look elsewhere.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    NAR206 06-16-07
    NAR206 06-16-07 Member Since 2004
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    "Totally unbalanced and unprofessional"

    The author of this book offers only one side of the issue, avoiding discussion of any virtue offered by the technologies, while pointing out what the author feels are faults in websites like YouTube and (in the most degrading of terms) those that use them.

    Nothing could soften referring to the general public as "monkeys" whose narcissistic nature is, "Threating the very foundations of our culture.", but the way it is said gives impression that the work is meant to insult rather then inform. Any doubt of this is removed by the scathing tone the author uses in addressing the listener when reading his own work. It is unprofessional and unfit for any book attempting to educate its readers.

    23 of 25 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Benjamin Allen, TX, USA 12-07-08
    Benjamin Allen, TX, USA 12-07-08 Member Since 2005
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    "Stay away from this hypocrosy and mental vomit"

    "The Cult of the Amateur" is nothing more than an angry, washed up individual's blog vomit that was published due to it's siding with "traditional" media.

    Keen's views are nothing more than name calling and complaining, which boarders on childish. The entire title is depressing, since this is a topic that should be discussed and debated, but Keen's ability to do so is at the same level as the "infinite monkeys" on the internet. A book like this shouldn't try to win friends, but it also shouldn't alienate the entire culture while being extremely biased towards new cultural trends. Keen has a blind eye for traditional media, and many of the faults in the new "amateur cult" have been in existence within the traditional media for ages.

    A freshman honors student in high school could have discussed the topic with more authority and purpose than Keen is even able to approach. His discussion is kin to the cynical senile rampages a grumpy old man would go off on while chasing the neighborhood kids off the lawn.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daryl Kulak Westerville, OH USA 03-17-09
    Daryl Kulak Westerville, OH USA 03-17-09 Member Since 2007

    The Holistic Business Guy

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    "A Poorly Researched, Weak Screed Against Web 2.0"

    This is truly a terrible audiobook. The premise is that we shouldn't allow amateurs to provide content without the "guidance" of experts. However, the book completely skips the fact that the "experts" have let us down in every way. Judith Miller and all of mainstream news maintained total complicity with the Bush administration in the run-up to the war in Iraq. Dr. Scott Reuben faked 21 studies published in major medical journals to please drug companies. The mainstream news organizations focus on celebrity drunkenness to the exclusion of national issues. Television, radio and newspaper publish complete garbage entertainment (by anyone's estimation) and miss the creativity of artists, writers and actors who are pushing the boundaries and creating interesting content.

    One section of this audiobook rails against Wikipedia's inaccuracies, with no mention of the studies that show it is equally as accurate as any encyclopedia. Another section laments the disappearance of the newspaper, television and music industries, but totally misses the horrible decisions these companies have made.

    Another part of the audiobook discusses online gambling, sexual predators and credit card fraud, all of which are bad, of course, but the author makes no attempt to connect them to his premise that amateur content is hurting our culture.

    And finally, the author's solutions? More government regulation and more lawsuits. I'm so not kidding.

    I promised myself I would listen to this entire audiobook and I did because there must be at least one redeeming point. There wasn't one. No new fact, no interesting perspective.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    FjHarty Washington State 08-10-08
    FjHarty Washington State 08-10-08 Member Since 2007

    Frank

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Dull, Awful, Insulting and Boring"

    From the very beginning to the last word Keen spits out his diatribe as if it were acid in his mouth. He offers no solutions and repeats himself over and over and over again. Six hours and 22 minutes of his insulting and whiny tripe is about 6 hours too long. I bought this audio book because I was and am interested in the subject, but Keen’s presentation completely turned me off, he is almost completely unlistenable. Please save your money or credits and pass on this book. I wish I had something to offer as an alternative but I am just at the beginning of that search. I wish I could give this a 0 stars rating but it doesn't appear I can.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shelly M. Felton Gainesville. FL 06-14-07
    Shelly M. Felton Gainesville. FL 06-14-07 Member Since 2005

    shellian731

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "an amateur opinion"

    I wish I could have gotten into this book. I tried, I really tried. The author/narrator put me off with what struck me as a snobbish and misanthropic viewpoint. But what do I know? I'm just an amateur.

    34 of 42 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. Jackson Atlanta 09-22-08
    A. Jackson Atlanta 09-22-08 Member Since 2007
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    "Truly awful"

    A very long running complaint about "non-professionals" (as defined by Mr. Keen) taking over the media and the internet. Just whiny and uninteresting. Truly awful.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Fukuoka, Japan 01-09-08
    William Fukuoka, Japan 01-09-08 Member Since 2005
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    "Horrible"

    The voice of this sneering, pompous luddite makes you want to pop him in the nose. He must be preaching to the choir, because I found his reasoning to be utterly unconvincing. If I owned the actual paper book, I'd use it for kindling.

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
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