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

Front Cover
Doubleday/Currency, 2007 - Computers - 228 pages
2 Reviews
Amateur hour has arrived, and the audience is running the show

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.

In today’s self-broadcasting culture, where amateurism is celebrated and anyone with an opinion, however ill-informed, can publish a blog, post a video on YouTube, or change an entry on Wikipedia, the distinction between trained expert and uninformed amateur becomes dangerously blurred. When anonymous bloggers and videographers, unconstrained by professional standards or editorial filters, can alter the public debate and manipulate public opinion, truth becomes a commodity to be bought, sold, packaged, and reinvented.

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.

Offering concrete solutions on how we can rein in the free-wheeling, narcissistic atmosphere that pervades the Web, THE CULT OF THE AMATEUR is a wake-up call to each and every one of us.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

The cult of the amateur: how today's internet is killing our culture

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Keen (founder, CEO,, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and accomplished technology writer, has produced an extensive history and critique of the evolution of today's Internet, often called ... Read full review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

If I could give this book zero stars, I would. This book was part of my reading for a university subject and never have I ever hated a piece of text so much in my life.
Keen's short-sighted
limited views on participatory culture and the potentials of what can be achieved are dismissed by the mediocrity to be found on the internet, rather than the boundless potential it possesses. In fact, for every point that Keen makes, there is an abundance of counter arguments and examples just waiting to be thrown back at him.
The introduction begins with describing internet users as infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters, discussing the narcissism, inanity and mediocrity produced by internet users, completely disregarding that this level of narcissism, inanity and mediocrity is inherently captured within the human condition in general- it's just less 'in the way' since there are editors, gatekeepers and producers who decides what is fit for public consumption.
One of the notable things he brings up about Reddit's front page is that there was no mention of a violent foreign war. He fails to mention whether this was mentioned in any traditional media, and likely not, given that most US newspapers and news programs are focused on local and national events. It was likely just a convenient topic for him to complain about at the time because it suited his purposes. On the other hand, anyone who has visited /r/worldnews knows that there is *plenty* of news to be found on Reddit, with much more intense and active discussion than there is to be found in newspapers.
Perhaps Keen isn't so much a fan of humans stumbling, learning, getting back up again and trying something new. But that's okay, because he'll just keep blowing his trumpet horn of hot air out into old media and the internet will continue on without him, creating, inspiring, producing and evolving global human culture.


the great seduction
the noble amateur 55

5 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (2007)

ANDREW KEEN is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur whose writings on culture, media, and technology have appeared inThe Weekly Standard,Fast Company,The San Francisco Chronicle,Listener, andJazziz. As the Founder, President and CEO of, he has been featured inEsquire,Industry Standard,and many other magazines and newspapers. He is the host of the acclaimed Internet showAfterTVand frequently appears on radio and television. He lives in Berkeley, California.

Bibliographic information