The Cult of the Amateur: How Blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the Rest of Today's User-generated Media are Destroying Our Economy, Our Culture, and Our Values

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Doubleday, 2008 - Computers - 236 pages
4 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 reign 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.


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

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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

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I think Keen takes himself a bit too seriously. He makes some good points, but always in the negative, against the so-called "amateurs" who can post whatever they want on the Internet without having credentials. Yes, we know they do that; but we still have the discernment to reject what is not authentic and look for more authoritative sources.
Unlike a good reporter, which seems to be one of Keen's models, Keen does not give both sides of the story. He keeps harping only on how amateur postings have ruined culture. Rarely, if ever, does he point to anything good about this new style, with his Web 2.0 has permitted. Thus, he is not really reporting, but rather ranting against something he fears. In this, he violates his own precepts.
Also, it's not at all clear how identity theft, Internet pornography, and Internet gambling have to do with the cult of the amateur. Sure, these are bad things that need to be addressed, but the amateur is not responsible for these things. If anything, these are "pros" in their own fields, hackers, gambling impresarios, and pornography vendors.
Keen did not convince me that the cult of the amateur is a bad thing. He scared me with the ID theft chapter, but that's nothing new.
I think he's just picking a fight, and a I suppose, as he indicates, he's got it. He said some of his email correspondents have called him a "Luddite." I think he's just still learning. He notes at the end that this is his first book. Let's see what he comes up with next.



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About the author (2008)

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

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