Why It’s Great To Be an ‘Amateur’

amateur.jpgThere’s a guy called Andrew Keen who has been in the media a lot recently. He has been waxing lyrical about what he calls ‘the cult of the amateur’ (actually the title of his book).

According to him the blogger, the ‘citizen journalist’and those using the internet to make their voices heard are bad for society. He believes that web 2.0 is “undermining truth, souring civic discourse, and belittling expertise, experience and talent.”

An interesting opinion…and one I strongly disagree with. For a start, we – or at least I – live in a democracy and have as much right as anyone else to air my opinions. That’s precisely what they are – opinions. It’s up to other people in this supposedly fair and free society to decide what to make of them.

Facts are another thing – but it is simplistic to suggest that all ‘facts’ are objective. In any case I would argue that there is a lot of opinion, commentary, and as some recent libel cases have shown, outright lies in today’s traditional news that is presented as fact.

In societies where the media is heavily used as a vehicle for propoganda it’s the bloggers and those who are able to access and use the internet who are showing the world a more balanced and realistic picture of what’s going on.

Even in England – one of the supposed bastions of democracy – the media has been shown to be used as a tool for propaganda. Remember all the noise on the weapons of mass destruction that were going to blow up the earth in 6 seconds?? Hmmm…

Why should it be up to a handful of people – and those who choose them – to decide what the rest of us should hear, read or listen to? Surely that’s for us – the people – to decide? We all know there is more than one side to every story, and the traditional media sources often do not represent the whole picture.

Anyway, it really is not the case that there is an elite group of people up there in the news corporations who know so much more than the rest of us stupid normal folk. We are all part of society and have a right to comment upon it should we so choose.

As far as I’m concerned, every newspaper and media corporation has an agenda, which is reflected in a variety of ways including the stories it chooses to run. In an ideal world, they would be impartial and neutral bodies which report strictly on facts. But this is not an ideal world – and the question to be asked is can you separate news from the people who are reporting on it?

When I was studying Social & Political Science, we read ethnographic accounts written by Englishmen who visited Africa. At the time they were supposed to present un-biased, objective views on Africa and were taken as such. Those accounts are now highly controversial and are not taken as objective perspectives on Africa, because anyone who works in that field is acutely aware that it is virtually impossible to separate someone’s viewpoint of a situation from their internal beliefs about it. There is little objective reality beyond date, time and location. The same could be said for media – including bloggers – which is why it’s good to have access to multiple viewpoints.

I don’t know what Mr Keen is reading, but there are many bloggers out there who have valid, interesting, thoughtful and reflective contributions to make. People whose voices need and deserve to be heard, and otherwise wouldn’t be.

There is a lot of positive work going on in the Afrosphere, for example. In light of the state of some African nations, should we leave it to our leaders to dictate what the outside world hears? For example, maybe we should rely solely on Zimbabwean news coming out of Mugabe’s camp since according to Mr Keen, the traditional, controlled, handed-down-the-masses news is superior and most reliable?

Mr Keen is a dinosaur. Someone keen (no pun intended) to keep the status quo, and have life fossilized so that no changes ever take place, and big corporations are able to stay within their comfort zones while continuing to short-change their customers (like the music industry, which he cites as an example of having been damaged by democratization of the web).

Mr Keen’s comments encourage me to keep on blogging! All hail to the ‘cult of the amateur’!!

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One thought on “Why It’s Great To Be an ‘Amateur’

  1. Interesting post. I agree that new media and the internet are good things for democracy and for the whole world in my opinion. People just have to sort out the reliable information from the opinions.

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