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Web 2.0 backlash? January 30, 2008

Posted by Will in libraries, virtual life.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Here’s another attack from the “nattering nabobs of negativism” as applied to Web 2.0, taken from a PubLib posting yesterday:

Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2008 10:51:29 -0800 (PST)
From: Joe Schallan <jschallan@yahoo.com>
Subject: [Publib] 2.0: It cheapens us, it cheapens everyone
To: Publib publib@webjunction.org

This book from last summer got under my radar and I have just discovered it. Since it directly relates to my recent remarks on crowdsourcing, I thought I’d share an excerpt with the list:

Andrew Keen, The Cult of the Amateur — How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy, New York: Doubleday/Currency, 2007.

Blurb: In a hard-hitting and provocative polemic, Silicon Valley insider Keen exposes the grave consequences of today’s new participatory Web 2.0. He reveals how amateur, user-generated free content threatens the very innovation and creativity that forms the fabric of American achievement.

From Chapter 1:

. . . democratization, despite its lofty idealization, is undermining truth, souring civic discourse, and belittling expertise, experience, and talent. As I noted earlier, it is threatening the very future of our cultural institutions.

I call it the great seduction. The Web 2.0 revolution has peddled the promise of bringing more truth to more people—more depth of information, more global perspective, more unbiased opinion from dispassionate observers. But this is all a smokescreen. What the Web 2.0 revolution is really delivering is superficial observations of the world around us rather than deep analysis, shrill opinion rather than considered judgment. The information business is being transformed by the Internet into the sheer noise of a hundred million bloggers all simultaneously talking about themselves.

Moreover, the free, user-generated content spawned and extolled by the Web 2.0 revolution is decimating the ranks of our cultural gatekeepers, as professional critics, journalists, editors, musicians, moviemakers, and other purveyors of expert information are being replaced (“disintermediated,” to use a FOO Camp term) by amateur bloggers, hack reviewers, homespun moviemakers, and attic recording artists. Meanwhile, the radically new business models based on user-generated material suck the economic value out of traditional media and cultural content.

– – – – – – – –

Keen could have added “reference librarians” to his list of purveyors of expert information whose ranks are being decimated, of course.

Excellent coverage of the book and the issues it raises may be found on the BBC website:


Librarians, ever eager, in their inexhaustible insecurity, to emulate the latest fad to prove their hipness and coolness, have come up with “Library 2.0,” a term which, as near as I can tell, means we will embrace all the various social-networking sites and tools to reach our patrons, in a sort of vast, blissful emailochattic, facebooky, myspaceish, ningytwittery, blogospheric, flickristic, picasametric, mahalodic, youtubian, wikidly del.icio.us informational orgasm.

If any of you heard Joe Janes at Internet Librarian in Monterey, you know he excoriated librarians who gripe about Wikipedia’s authority and accuracy but who do not join the Wikipedians to make the source better.

Given Keen’s analysis, perhaps the correct response to Wikipedia is precisely NOT to participate in it.

I’d further ask, Why we should give away our expertise for nothing? Kindle Ask NowNow thinks our expertise is worth exactly two cents an answer, and at that rate, the Mechanical Turks aren’t making even third-world sweatshop wages. Not even remotely close, if you do the time and the math. Sure incentivizes delivery of high-quality information, eh?

The crowning glory of our profession was once its insistence on accuracy and authority.

Should we not, finally, continue to insist? Isn’t such insistence what makes us, finally, what we are?

Joe Schallan



1. Will - January 30, 2008

There are of course many other examples of 2.0 backlash out there. Here’s one thoughtful blog entry: http://www.blyberg.net/2008/01/17/library-20-debased/

2. Will - January 30, 2008

We can, of course, anticipate responses from folks such as Karen Schneider:

Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2008 10:28:59 -0500
From: “K.G. Schneider”
Subject: Re: [Publib] 2.0: It cheapens us, it cheapens everyone
To: publib@webjunction.org

I don’t hold Andrew Keen in much regard. The idea that expanding conversation (which is what Joe did in talking about Keen) has “grave consequences” is silly. Libraries are ABOUT conversation. Think about the long line of conversation that happens between readers and books, and for that matter between one book and another.

Or are you going to shut down your library’s book groups because they’re encouraging non-experts to sit in a room and expound on literature?

There are some great observers of culture — Nicholas Carr is funny and sly; see his blog, http://www.roughtype.com/ — but I don’t count Keen among them.

Karen G. Schneider

3. P.C. Sweeney - January 31, 2008

This is an interesting arguement to me. It’s my understanding that the arguement is that web 2.0 or Library 2.0 is detrimental to society because of its ability to breed non-information as fact. But at the same time it seems to me that in actuality it does exactly the same thing that has always happened in society at any time or any place where people have gathered. From Libraries and Universities to bars and coffee shops to household living rooms. I don’t think anything new is happening here that hasn’t happened throughout the history of society. Maybe we are so scared of it because it is now so visible.

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