Death of culture

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I’m reading The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture by Andrew Keen. It’s interesting, but I haven’t dressed for the funeral yet.

Keen was in the heart of Silicon Valley business, the Founder and CEO of Audiocafe.com. Then suddenly, on an Internet guru camping trip, the Utopian vision that everyone else was seeing turned into a bad dream for Keen.

He said the camping trip was like the Internet itself, everybody was talking, but no one was listening. Eventually, the loudest bullies were controlling the conversation.

Now, he sees things differently. According to Keen, the Internet is no more than a roomful of monkeys, banging on a keyboard. Every blogger is someone who could never get published anywhere else, who sits in her pajamas (how did he know?) typing out rubbish that real culture would never deign to acknowledge.

Keen does not see a democratization of talent. For him, it’s mob rule dumbing down our artistic sensibilities. In effect, our paid writers are losing their jobs as people no longer buying traditional newspapers and magazines. While the contributors to even the busiest blogs don’t receive enough revenue to make any sort of living. With all the drivel on YouTube and MySpace, the movie and music industry is suffering.

He has a point with a lot of this, but his case would have been a lot stronger if he didn’t constantly assume that all users of technology are complete, blathering idiots. I’m not sure how exactly many times he uses the monkey reference in the introduction, but it felt like every paragraph (I kept thinking, Okay, okay, I have the IQ of a primate. Everyone’s a moron narcissist–except for you. I get it. Now, let’s move on…).

I don’t know much about music or acting, so I won’t discuss those. But I can talk about writing and blogging. Most of the blogs that I read regularly are not by amateurs. For the most part, I read professional blogs, written by pastors, about the struggles and triumphs of clergy life. They’re written by people who make an honest living from their communication skills. They’re not monkeys banging on typewriters.

Clergy blogs are not usually the sort of writing I can find in magazines either, but that’s why I like it. You know, I don’t want to wait for the “special” women’s issue of a periodical to find out what clergywomen are up to. And I don’t have to anymore. I just go over to revgalblogpals.

The point that Keen makes about the authors not getting money could be valid. I meet with a group of five wonderful writers. Three out of five of us have blogs. A fourth one is thinking about opening one up.

I’m quite new to the blogging business, but two of the women are not. They’re professional communicators who have been in the pastorate for many years. Their blogs are content-driven and they have a huge audience (I’d link to them, but one’s anonymous), but they don’t make money. As a group, we often wrestle with the question of whether we spend too much energy and effort on our blogs, as opposed to print medium.

But, their blogging has led to a regular practice of writing. And, instead of starting out their career by sending off article after article to be rejected by an editor, prominent editors call them and asking them to submit articles. For me, it’s led to good book sales, even before my book has been released. And I’ve found a creative outlet for the material I produce until I start writing my next book.

I guess I fall somewhere in between the Internet utopian visionaries and Keen’s assessment that the Internet is tastelessly destroying everything that’s right and good in our culture. Smart print media is figuring out ways to sort through the best of the blogosphere, and they use those writers to support their publications. While worthwhile writers are gaining loyal readership and getting calls from editors.

My hope is that the accessibility of the net can work in tandem with our publications to broaden the conversation so that we might have a richer culture.

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