I’ve run into a logjam of literature lately. I had nearly plowed through A Whole New Mind, when the Brittannica Blog and several other places exploded with talk of Andrew Keen’s The Cult of the Amateur, and like Brian Crosby, the only high-touch concept that I was engaged in was littering the margins of Keen’s book with my college-era red Uniball. Then, of course, Harry Potter was released and that is where I am now–knee deep in Hogwart’s Hysteria.
Regardless, there have been so many things sitting in my Starred Items section of Reader, and I am just now starting to make headway through them. One I was slightly intimidated by, but I want to have a go at. Matthew Battles wrote in response to Michael Gorman’s post about the need for their to be an editorial authority to purge the amateur from the production of media, a la Keen’s premise. Battles likens Gorman and Keen’s position to a replacement of traditional authority with a new cultural “police:”
does Gorman really believe, along with Andrew Keen, that “the most poorly educated and inarticulate among us” should not use the media to “express and realize themselves”? That they should keep quiet, learn their place, and bow to such bewigged and alienating confections as “authority” and “authenticity”? Authority, after all, flows ultimately from results, not from such hierophantic trappings as degrees, editorial mastheads, and neoclassical columns. And if the underprivileged (or under-titled) among us are supposed to keep quiet, who will enforce their silence—the government? Universities and foundations? Internet service providers and media conglomerates? Are these the authorities—or their avatars in the form of vetted, credentialed content—to whom it should be our privilege to defer?
I don’t know that I go so far as Battles here, but nevertheless, I am a big supporter of content creation in just about any form. On that level, I am an even bigger supporter of personal discretion in what we choose to read and consume in the form of media. Most of the notes I wrote in Keen’s pages are aimed at the educational community (duh!), because I truly believe that Keen has a point in taking the content to task, not the right to create it. What Keen is highlighting is the fact that the technology has far outpaced our ability to successfully guide our students through it’s power to deliver a message.
The more people play with the content, and practice, and consume other people’s content of higher quality, the better at producing it they will become. However, our role in public and private education is going to become one of increased literacy-based teaching. Content is now free, and freely produced–no one owns the facts. But the ability to decipher what is good and what is absolute rubbish will set our students apart as they enter the sea of information.