A brief look at one of the themes developing in my feeds over the past couple of weeks is enough to wear down even the most ardent tech evangelist and change agent. The continuation of the devaluation of user contributed content begun by Jaron Lanier’s Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism last May is seeing a resurgence as Andrew Keen’s The Cult of the Amateur has just hit the stands, and a Wired commentary by Tony Long just landed in my feed reader entitled Internet Smackdown: The Amateur vs. the Professional. I should have known by his title, The Luddite, that he wasn’t what you might call a “fanboy.” Thankfully Lawrence Lessig, in his own fashion, has posted an interesting perspective on Keen’s work, it’s a self-deprecating parody!
I haven’t had an opportunity to read Keen’s book yet and no doubt I will however what really has my head spinning are the treatises posted by former American Library Association (ALA) president Michael Gorman on the Brittanica Blog: Web 2.0: The Sleep of Reason, part I, Web 2.0: The Sleep of Reason, part II and most recently, The Siren Song of the Internet, part I and The Siren Song of the Internet, part II. Ironic that he’s posting at all, given the way Gorman decries blogs and blogging.
Gorman is throwing out a red herring. The problem isn’t as simplistic as attempting to define who is a professional and who is an amateur. That line gets more blurry by the day, as does the criteria by which we have come to define professional. As a matter of fact I don’t believe that is the problem at all. For me, the problem boils down simply to our growing inability to practice and teach the complex skill of critical analysis. The source of information should always be suspect regardless of medium. Most any human communication possesses an inherent amount of bias, feeling, emotion, passion. We would place no more weight on a watercooler discussion than we should on what we find online. What is needed is the development of a skill set that enables us to evaluate, test and substantiate our sources of information. The next step is to continually test and refine our positions, paradigms and beliefs against our peers so as to never assume that our understanding, our learning, is finite.
I read and appreciated Clay Shirky’s responses to Gorman’s attestations.
And Stephen Downes reflected a Michael Ohlert post which echoes my own sentiments about Gorman’s leaps in logic.
If nothing else, Gorman has at least sparked a spirited discussion amongst the IT and library staff here at Plymouth State University!
(Note: This was intended to be a more indepth post but my notes were lost when my computer kindly “coughed.” Insert friendly reminder to all to please “save as you go.” Notepad doesn’t auto-save! )
[tags]gorman, brittanica, amateur, professional, authorship[/tags]
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