Monday, July 30, 2007

Modern Blogs are Rubbish

Apparently there's this chap called Andrew Keen who thinks that much web content is crap and that bloggers don't read. Not surprisingly, he's become very unpopular in some parts of the web. Actually, I have a lot of sympathy with his position. What he's actually saying (or so it seems to me) that there is a growing tendency to give the doings of internet amateurs (bloggers, those who post videos on YouTube, commenters on message boards, Wikis and the like), equivalence to the work of professionals in the spheres that they are blogging or writing, or whatever, on. This, he argues, is slowly but surely undermining legitimate media, as it is engulfed by the rising tide of amateurism. He singles out Wikipedia, arguing that its main selling point - the ability for anyone to contribute and change entries - is actually its greatest weakness. Any authority it strives for is undermined by the fact that the ill-informed and biased can, and do, post material which is misinformed and downright wrong, on just about every subject. Again, it is a question of equivalence. The fact is that knowledge isn't democratic. Not all knowledge can have equal status: some is right, the result of careful study and/or experimentation, backed up by facts; some is just wrong, the result of prejudice, ill informed opinion and formed from lies and half-truths.

As I said, I don't think Keen is entirely wrong. Indeed, on the issue of Wikipedia, I agree with him wholeheartedly. Ultimately, the trouble with the web is that, whilst it does provide a wonderful opportunity for all of us to be heard,m to be able to present our opinions with a minimum of censorship, the sad fact is that very few of us have anything worthwhile to say. Just read the average blog - it'll most likely be the inconsequential witterings of some suburban everyman (or woman), chronicling their ordinary life. Now, there's nothing wrong with that. The problem is that a lot of people think that what they are writing is somehow important or significant, that their literary genius has been unjustly ignored by the mainstream, or their political acumen suppressed by the mainstream. Trust me, none of those things are true. I see it with online satire. There are quite a few of my contemporaries who have pretensions of being 'mainstream', that they are comic geniuses on a par with established writers and comedians. Again, that's unlikely to be true. Personally, I have no such illusions. I'm just a guy who writes stories he thinks are funny as a hobby. If some of them make a few people smile and brighten their days, all the better. I'm no unjustly ignored satirical genius. The fact is that my sense of humour is pretty black and offbeat - it's never going to find much of an outlet in the mainstream. The web is the only place it is likely to find anyone else who appreciates it. I'm underground and proud of it!

The bottom line is that we've all got to lighten up - we're not producing great literary works here. We're all just amateurs who have the good fortune to be living in age where our work can get wider exposure than could have been dreamed of even ten years ago. We mustn't lose sight of the fact that we're still catering for minority tastes. It's just that we can reach a bigger minority than before.

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