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Is the Web Ruining Culture?

Tonight on Stephen Colbert, he interviewed Andrew Keen, the author of “The Cult of the Amateur: How today’s Internet is killing our culture”. Despite being an elitist, the guy may just have a point.

His argument, as I understood it, was this: That basically because everyone and anyone can post media, they are destroying the ‘true’ artists of our world, and thereby, destroying culture.

What shocked me is how fast it turned into: because of the internet, artists are losing money because people are stealing their artwork.

I don’t entirely agree with that.

Let’s look at it for a moment from a money making point of view. Prior to the internet, for someone to be a “Good” artist, they had to basically be able to sell their artwork (in whatever way) to the masses at a price that was able to keep them alive. Now, with the internet, that rule still applies, it’s just meaner… There are more artists, some marketing themselves for free. The only people who are really losing are the artists who were so good, that they were making millions (in which case, who cares if they are losing a few bucks to piracy), and the artists who were bad (who were probably going to have to get out of the market sooner or later anyway.

I have to give the author credit though… I love the fact that he posts on his blog that he wants advice from his audience on how to sack Colbert.

In any case, I think I want to read this book… Just so I can say:

“I’m helping to ruin culture. Here’s my proof. You can thank me later.”

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lee August 17, 2007, 6:48 pm

    I'm going to peruse the book before deciding Keen's thesis. I suspect it's more nuanced than he was able to get across in a short interview conducted by a master satirist.

    As in many human issues there may even be more than 2 sides: internet good, internet bad. One may as well say: energy good, energy bad. Oil good, oil bad, etc.

    Many enterprises require regulation, rules, even laws.

    Copyright laws are essential and should be enforced; intellectual and artistic property must be valued and protected in an increasingly slippery marketplace.

    As a working musician who has as yet seen no real profit–alas, in your analysis you distinguish "good" artists from "bad" ones based on profit margins– I can tell you you are dead wrong about who stands to lose money. Anyone's music can be stolen and even marketed without the artist's consent and with no benefit to the creator of the music, a sulture that is even more detrimental to the struggling artist.

    It is probably true that books and visual art are more difficult to copy/steal.

    The very nature of music makes it particularly vulnerable to being taken for granted and exploited. Music and musicians are increasingly undervalued, and the marketplace increasingly promotes style over substance as a result of this deflation. The market recognizes the throw-away nature of the current music industry and scrambles to make fast money off of shallow ("catchy") product.

    There are those who have been fortunate enough to be able to capitalize on the internet marketplace, but it is a losing endgame, a pyramid scheme, especially is theft is ultimately the status quo.