Friday, August 17, 2007

The Cult of the Amateur?

Last night, I indulged in watching the Colbert Report. The guest, Andrew Keen, had written a book called the Cult of the Amateur. From what I was able to gather, the author was bemoaning the ease with which everyone can publish these days. Unknown blog authors speak their minds with dubious spelling. Artists sell their beginning paintings on eBay. Advertising pays for video work on uTube. Oh, the horror!

Now, I have not read the book, but I did see the author and his reaction to Colbert's (definitely jokey, ironic, and not to be trusted) questions. The arrogance! The snobbery! Where does he think artists and writers and videographers get started? Do they just hatch fully sophisticated right out on to the pages of Art News? This is not to mention the gatekeepers. The publishing houses and other media companies, who have always had the audacity to either give us what they thought we'd like...or give us when they thought we needed, prescriptively.

What's happening is not a dilution of culture. It's just that there is now a more level playing field for exposure, and now the critics don't have a clue where they are supposed to look. The gatekeepers have control over their little plots of land, but everyone can put out their two cents...regardless if anyone is listening. This is truly the culture of the populace.

New formats are being created daily. Does poor filmmaking take away the art from a digital video? Do "texting-inspired" misspellings in that Chinese student's blog make it any less a passionate display of teenagerhood of this era, warts and all?

My feeling is that the internet is full of crap and advertising, but there are millions of paper bag luminaries out there. There's intensity, truth being spoken, less spin. There are intelligent communities being formed, of people who want to avoid bullshit elitism. Could it be that we are all getting smarter by self producing, putting content out on the internet?

Regardless of how people feel about it, the young people today have been raised with this connection to the internet. It is another channel of communication that starts to mimic our collective consciousness. They have an innate sense of how warped mass media can be, and they consume it with a grain of salt always. Just because it is on a major news channel does not mean it is unbiased. Just because it is printed does not mean it is Literature.

How long will it take the traditional media to get this? The physics of communication has changed. It's up to us to learn how to walk in a different gravity.


FranIAm said...

I did not see Colbert and I do not know this guy or his book.

However I do think that the free flow and exchange of any ideas, thought, creativity and more is very threatening to a certain ilk of people.

I used to be good friends with two highly educated (multi Master's degrees and one of them a Ph.D)While often complimentary of my own intellect, they mourned my "lack of classical"education. I stopped at BA.

As a result, it was hard for them to take anything I wrote seriously. And as a result, due to issues of my own, the "ink" stopped flowing.

Thanks to this blogworld and supporters and enablers (in the best sense of the word!) my words flow freely. Not always well, not always spelled correctly, but freely.

Now that's a great thing!

Thanks for yet another great post.

And thanks for Raincoat Flashers!

John said...

A wonder if Andrew Keen is simply taking an absurd position to sell his book? I would so *love* to 'debate' him.

My first question would be, "Why don't you believe in the right to free speech?"

As far as self-publishing goes, our most famous of Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, was a self-made man, without a formal education, and changed the world through self-publishing.

Blogs are as American as apple pie and this British tart Keen needs to realize that his country already lost that war