Monday, 1 February 2010

Comment on David Weinberger and Andrew Keen's debate

In truth, these are just notes taken while listening to David Weinberger and Andrew Keen debating Weinberger's thesis in "All Things Miscellaneous"

D. Weinberger’s argument:
The fundamental web challenge is how to organize information, how to find what matters to us.
He contrasts physical order with digital order:

Andrew Keen’s criticism
The main issue at stake: the value of authority in a connected world.
He views digital change as a threat:
Modernity provided mass society with mass access to culture, information, education, literacy.
The digital revolution might return us to the Middle Ages: increasing hierarchy, increasing division between rich and poor, between media literates and those who are not. He foresees the emergence of a digital aristocracy - the elite of the Middle Ages who lost touch of their physical community- resulting in more boundaries, more fragmentation and less conversation, in oligarchy rather than democracy.
He worries about scarceness of talent, information and education on the grounds that when you do away with the gatekeepers of mainstream media, you’re doing away with the access to information and education for the masses.

My impression:
I don’t see much point in Keen’s arguments:
He talks about declining standards of content in the web as if this were not also a problem in mainstream media, denying the presence of talent among the multiplicity of voices emerging in the web. Maybe is this what he fears? These days, as never before, ordinary people as well as experts can find a channel of expression. Whether what they say is valuable or not, is for people themselves to decide. And this seems to be another issue with Keen: the undermining of authority and power. His position strikes me as paternalistic and authoritarian: only those in power can decide what and how much people should have access to. Or could it be that he's just playing the devil's advocate, as Hanna Khamis, one of my partners at EVO multiliteracies, has suggested?

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