[iDC] THE ANTI WEB 2.0 MANIFESTO (Andrew Keen)

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Wed Apr 25 06:58:15 EDT 2007

Here is some of my own commentary:

> 1. The cult of the amateur is digital utopianism's most seductive
> delusion. This cult promises that the latest media technology -- in the form
> of blogs, wikis and podcasts --  will
> enable everyone to become widely read writers, journalists, movie
> directors and music artists. It suggests, mistakenly, that everyone has
> something interesting to say.

I would go further than Guido and this, and indeed affirm that <everybody>
and I mean indeed everybody, has something interesting to say, but it
depends crucially on what topic, and on the context of exchange.

Peer to peer processes are based on the principle of equipotentiality, see
the entry here for a full treatment:

Jorge Ferrer expresses beautifully what it is about:

Everybody can be considered ...

"*equals in the sense of their being both superior and inferior to
themselves in varying skills and areas of endeavor (intellectually,
emotionally, artistically, mechanically, interpersonally, and so forth), but
with none of those skills being absolutely higher or better than others*. It
is important to experience human equality from this perspective to avoid
trivializing our encounter with others as being merely equal." (

Good participatory systems allow this to happen through self-selection
first, then through communal validation.

A problem can arise with the second process of distributed quality control.
Massification of judgment can lead to a bottoming effect, but not
necessarily. It can be configured in such a way that either affinity groups
or experts can play a privileged role in the validation process. The only
difference is that the control is a posteriori instead of a priori. The
advantage of a broader participation is that there is a greater quantity to
select quality from. Finally, it is based on the idea that "together we know
everything", and that even experts have limited and biased viewpoints.

The key point is that the "danger" that Keen points to is a matter of good
design principles and processes, not of the participatory process itself.

There are many p2p projects where experts, and pro-ams successfully work

My comments here also reply to point 2, where Keen simply repeats the
arguments that have always been brought against democratization, but each
time, democratization has brought more cultural creativity and diversity.

> 3. To imagine the dystopian future, we need to reread Adorno, as well as
> Kafka and Borges (the Web 2.0 dystopia can be mapped to that triangular
> space between Frankfurt,
> Prague and Buenos Aires). Unchecked technology threatens to undermine
> reality and turn media into a rival version of life, a 21st century version
> of "The Castle" or "The Library
> of Babel". This might make a fantastic movie or short piece of fiction.
> But real life, like art, shouldn't be fantasy; it shouldn't be fiction.

Isn't this the same old tired argument assuming that the real and the
virtual are 'separate' realms, where in fact there is just one embodied
life, using various tools. This is not to say that there can be various
'abuses' and 'exagerrations'  (people reading all the time, phoning all the
time, surfing all the time), but they are not different from physical
addictions (gambling, alcohol)

4. A particularly unfashionable thought: big media is not bad media. The big
> media engine of the Hollywood studios, the major record labels and
> publishing houses has
> discovered and branded great 20th century popular artists of such as
> Alfred Hitchcock, Bono and W.G. Sebald (the "Vertigo" three). It is most
> unlikely that citizen media will
> have the marketing skills to discover and brand creative artists of
> equivalent prodigy.

Of course, but lets turn his argument around. Not all small media are bad
media. Distributed media can aggregate so to achieve scale, and can produce
qualitative works as well. I'm thinking of the music in Bali, where every
musician has to follow a collective score, and can only change the score
through coordination with all other participants. This is just one polarity,
the other being the jazzband model of free individual creativity in communal
mode. Different production modalities will produce different types of
creative possibilities, which have to be judged on their own merit. Big
media has clear dumbing down effects, micro media, through wrong design, can
have as well.

> 6. Digital utopian economists Chris Anderson have invented a theoretically
> flattened market that they have christened the "Long Tail". It is a Hayekian
> cottage market of small
> media producers industriously trading with one another. But Anderson's
> "Long Tail" is really a long tale. The real economic future is something
> akin to Google -- a vertiginous
> media world in which content and advertising become so indistinguishable
> that they become one and the same (more grist to that
> Frankfurt-Prague-BuenosAires triangle).

The centralisation of sharing can , and will, have some of such effects, but
this is not the only future for micro production. True distribution can
avoid some of these centralisation effects. The key is to defend the
continued capacity to change hubs, since hubs will always exist through
voluntary choices (power law). But it is possible to design for autonomy and
diversity, to offset the protocollary power of invisible architectures.

Conclusion: againt Andrew Keen we must insist that participation (the peer
to peer process) and elitism (the selection for quality process), can and
will inevitable co-exist. The difference is that elites will be more
diversified and flexible. The role of the elite is to sustain a more and
greater creativity, not to put themselves as gatekeepers.

To quote John Heron, about leadership:

 *"The sole role of hierarchy is in its spontaneous emergence in the
initiation and continuous flowering **of autonomy-in-co-operation in all
spheres of human endeavor"

Michel Bauwens
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