[iDC] Keen as amateur media theorist

David Weinberger dweinberger at gmail.com
Fri Aug 24 19:27:55 UTC 2007

FWIW, I published a piece titled "Andrew Keen's Best Case" at
HuffingtonPost a few days ago: http://tinyurl.com/2bbvla

It tries to figure out what Keen's actual argument is. SPOILER: It
turns out not to be a very credible one.


David W.

On 8/24/07, Andrew Murphie <andrew.murphie at gmail.com> wrote:
> Ok - an anti-Keen manifesto .... he'd love it of course!
> As Alfred North Whitehead wrote, 'it is always possible to work oneself into
> a state of complete contentment with an ultimate irrationality'. So it seems
> with Andrew Keen.
> Keen seems the true anti-Whiteheadian in "amateur capitalist" style (by
> which I mean one who relies on quick fame to make a quick buck before being
> exposed as pulling rather empty strings and levers as per the Wizard of Oz).
> He deals in caricature rather than the complexity of media experience, and
> seems to want to impose the restrictions of caricature on everyone else, if
> only to validate his own importance and elitism.
> Keen doesn't really seem worth reading because he ignores the basic objects
> of his enquiry (having pre-decided what they are). So beyond several
> interviews and some breathless media panics about social media pushed by
> leading newspapers who quite rightly feel threatened, I haven't read much
> Keen.
> However, in true Keen-style, I won't let that stop me making a few brief
> remarks.
> In brief, Keen sounds like the kind of amateur in search of quick glory he
> pretends to deplore. All the rhetoric is the usual. The communists (!!),
> those who can't help themselves in their ignorance etc, the decline of
> culture ... while failing himself to analyse the failings of the elites, in
> a time when global warming, just to take one example, is still actively spun
> away by many of the media and other elites, in series of PR "big thinks"
> that would have done Edward Bernays proud. The echoes are those of ideas
> that have, at least since Lippmann and Bernays, mobilised the fear of the
> masses/the amateur/and ironically a fear of too much democracy itself, a
> democracy escaping from, and often brutally returned to, the control of
> "elites" since at least WW1. Such times - and such mobilisations of fear -
> were of course the cradle of the modern media industries themselves, and
> associated social sciences (from media and communication studies, to
> sociology and, perhaps most importantly, psychology - see Curtis' Century of
> the Self). Keen is therefore merely repeating the long history of media and
> social controls pitched against basic democracy (I don't mean communism
> here, I just mean democracy, as in voting even, as in the will of the
> people, etc).
> What does Keen want? Well he blogs and podcasts himself, so clearly he just
> wants to position himself among the bloggers ... he wants to assemble the
> basis for quick fame in the name of those who trade on media issues and
> fears, and via the conduits of the media industries who are always going to
> give this kind of thing a run ... while ignoring the ironic drop in basic
> standards of journalism that we now see in many parts of the world (down to
> the level of simple editing). And of course, all this is garnished with a
> crie de coeur concerning IP (we assume the "property" of the elites).
> What does he ignore? The fact that both traditional media and "web 2.0" are
> a mix of the amateur and the professional, the good and the bad. That once
> again, in this mix, the elites are starting to look like increasingly
> redundant Wizards of Oz. That IP is a complex affair of interests. etc
> It's not Keen, however, that we should be worried about. Despite the above,
> it's best to ignore him. We should rather be worried about a
> general,orchestrated "Keenism" one finds in the media these days as they 1.
> drop their own standards somewhat appallingly and 2. usually find it very
> difficult to deal with the kind of expertise a good blog/democratic media
> experience gathers around it. 3. project this outwards into the blogosphere.
> Of course, this is not how many journalists these days see it. Many are
> completely au fait with the whole social media deal (in fact, now we are
> getting a few younger journalists who have "grown up" with Web 2.0).
> Ironically, one sometimes suspects it is the general Keenism of some of the
> "elites" that stops the full "professional" expression that could (and
> despite everything, will) transform professional media. This transformation
> is currently happening and is increasingly fascinating.
> In the meantime, however, the attack on professionalism in the media is
> indeed to be lamented, but not along the lines, or  for the personal gain,
> of Andrew Keen.
> --
> "Take me to the operator, I want to ask some questions" - Barbara
> Morgenstern
> "Of course it is always possible to work oneself into a state of complete
> contentment with an ultimate irrationality" - Alfred North Whitehead
> "I thought I had reached port; but I seemed to be cast
> back again into the open sea" (Deleuze and Guattari, after Leibniz)
> Dr Andrew Murphie - Senior Lecturer
> School of Media, Film and Theatre, University of New South Wales, Sydney,
> Australia, 2052
> web:
> http://media.arts.unsw.edu.au/andrewmurphie/mysite/index.html
> http://adventuresinjutland.wordpress.com/
>  http://researchhub.cofa.unsw.edu.au/ccap/
> fax:612 93856812 tlf:612 93855548 email: a.murphie at unsw.edu.au
> room 311H, Webster Building
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David Weinberger
Fellow, Harvard Berkman Center
blog: www.JohoTheBlog.com
new book: www.EverythingIsMiscellaneous.com
mail: self at evident.com

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