I was recently introduced to Andrew Keen in an article I read on his latest book, The Cult of the Amateur , which outlines his controversial take on the state of the internet today – particularly those pesky Web 2.0 applications that have invaded our lives recently. In a somewhat over the top manner, the article goes on to detail Keen’s personal relationship with the internet – for good and for bad…
After reading the article, I was tempted to jump on the bandwagon that proclaims Keen a contentious, self-righteous cynic. But instead, I took a step back to try to understand what it is that he is in fact trying to convey. While I certainly don’t want to go back to a completely paper-based life, I do think he raises some important points about the path the internet is taking at the moment.
What really strikes a chord with me is Keen’s take on the content available online today. Thanks to Web 2.0, essentially anyone can post information – in any format, any language and with no one overseeing it. So, what exactly does this mean for the quality of the information itself?
I had already started thinking about this issue when I gave in to peer pressure and signed up to Facebook. While I’m continually floored by the features offered on the site, some of the content that gets posted (or ‘published’) is appalling. I find myself trying to decipher the oh-so fashionable ‘txt’ messages, and wondering what state the English language will be in soon.
And with some of the wall postings, groups, photos, and videos floating around on people’s sites, I wonder how this will impact the way we continue to communicate with each other. With email nearing the end of its heyday, is this the next stage - instant communication via Facebook-like applications instead? It seems such a crazy idea!
There’s no doubt that Web 2.0 applications are here to stay and that – even more importantly – they are set to drastically change both our personal and business lives. It took YouTube no time to become all the rage – boasting an impressive 10% of all web traffic and proving that there is a desire for innovative technology to drive new forms of ‘communication’. One thing’s for sure – as the various ways we communicate become more integrated, Web 2.0 will surely only become more dominant.
So, although I agree with Keen in that much of the content we are exposed to today is ‘second rate’, I don’t think we have any choice but to embrace this new wave of communication. The issue then becomes – as Keen rightly points out – how we control the content that’s being created. There’s still a long way to go, but as with anything new, I think it’s only a matter of time before we figure out how to manage the unwieldy Web 2.0 beast.