Quoting Cluetrain and later Orwell, Andrew Keen writes,

But the real consequence – unintended or otherwise – of Silicon Valley’s “participatory” media revolution is a culture of digital narcissicism in which our most meaningful cultural reference is ourself. Today, on the tenth anniversary of the blog, media is turning into a mirror. Everywhere we look, we are faced with 70 million versions of ourselves: our own electronic diaries, our own half-informed opinions, our own stupidity and ignorance. This antisocial outcome of the social software revolution will be the reverse of the nightmare in George Orwell’s dystopian Nineteen Eighty-four. Big Brother — what Silicon Valley idealists eulogize as “citizen media” — is turning out to be ourselves.”

Andrew is the author of The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture

See Laurence Lessig’s REVIEW of Keen.


13 Comments on the “dark side” of participatory media

  1. bob c says:

    having read all of keen’s book, I am left to believe it is a poorly handled prank

  2. Steve K. says:

    As a faithful disciple of Jeff Jarvis, I have to agree with his assessment of Keen:

  3. John L says:

    “Everywhere we look, we are faced with 70 million versions of ourselves: our own electronic diaries, our own half-informed opinions, our own stupidity and ignorance.”

    Has it ever been any different? Since the beginning of time, we have shared “half-informed” information – today, our sharing is accelerating. What Keen seems to miss is the fundamental richness and authenticity of sharing itself, of giving of ourselves, person to person.

    There is nothing shameful or unnatural about ignorance. The word “amateur” finds its root in the word for “lover.” We share to give, and to grow. May we remain amateurs in “half-informed” conversation rather than isolated professionals with all the answers.

  4. cas says:

    I was wondering what your thoughts were Len. I agree with your delight in the joy of sharing, but I’m not sure it’s better that I spend more time reading blogs these days than newspapers. I say this as a reporter who has seen some really lousy ‘reporting’ in the blogosphere.

  5. Will Hinton says:

    I conducted a phone interview with Keen last night that you might find interesting…


  6. len says:

    I’ve seen lousy reporting in major dailies too.. Granted, it’s not quite as common. I actually addressed some aspects of this in my contribution to the WIKIKLESIA project, to be published online on July 23rd, so I’ll just say that there is a communal testing and filtering process that accrues to online articles, a communal hermeneutic, that is generally quite effective. A writer will acquire trust based on consistency over time – tho granted a “group think” thing can occur also.

  7. len says:

    Will, tx downloading now 🙂

  8. cas says:


    I apologize. I was responding to John L. Interesting thoughts though. I don’t have enough experience with a wide range of online communities to agree or disagree.

  9. Stan Biggs says:

    Appreciated Will’s interview as well as his writing in other areas. Having reviewed Keen’s book yesterday and
    listened to/read more stuff today, I resonate with John L
    when he writes “May we remain amateurs in “half-informed” conversation rather than isolated professionals with all the answers.”
    While Keen is understandably impatient with the banal and trivial aspects of Web 2.0, he overlooks what was evident to me when checking out Will and his friends…..there is as much sanity, erudition and community in what professional journalists deem the great unwashed herd, than
    there is within their own sometimes pompous vanguard of assumed omiscience. As I often tell you Len, there is no way to measure the enormous value of your contribution,
    not to mention a host of others doing outstanding work in this medium to which we were strangers not that long ago.

  10. cas says:

    Wow, Stan, that’s quite an indictment of journalism. I just got done interviewing an activist blogger about his ethics. He said they were “fluid.” He was winging it and, in my opinion, getting manipulated royally by the people he was supposedly to be reporting on. I had to take my email address off my website because people were still emailing me wanting “real journalists” to report the truth.

    As a journalist, I certainly don’t ever feel omniscient. I am cumpulsively meticulous about my facts, and biting my finger nails and praying I got it right every time a story goes to print.

    My fellow Christian journalists (I make this distinction because I primarily write for a Christian periodical) are as cautious and careful as I am.

    And guess what? People are rarely entirely happy with what we write. I empathize. I’ve been an interviewee too. No fun. Good lesson for a journalist though.

  11. Anonymous says:


    Please know I have high respect for your profession. And
    note my use of “sometimes”, then read between the lines and
    you will see I intend no wholesale dismissal of your worthy tribe but rather, a gentle needle in the direction of that segment of inkstained or carpal tunnelled pilgrims who are dismissive of the blogosphere and fancy that the
    plumb bob from God lands at their own front door.
    Having said that, may your tribe increase. We need you.

  12. cas says:

    thanks Stan, I did note the “sometimes,” but still felt like I should say something in our defense. Many blessings to you!