Books, the Internet, and Idiots.

Posted: March 22, 2012 in Communications and Technology
Tags: , , ,

This week we had two readings: “The Noble Amateur” by Andrew Keen, and “The Geography of Knowledge” by David Weinberger:

The Geography of Knowledge

Giuseppe Maria Crespi - Bookshelves - WGA05755

Giuseppe Maria Crespi - Bookshelves (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With Weinberger’s reading we can see that he is quite open to the change in information organization that has been brought about by increasingly powerful technology – such as his example of and books being linked to several different categories. Users can even create categories and “lists” themselves. Technology is changing the way information is gathered (using tags or key phrases for example), stored (depending on who is collecting it), and accessed (depending on your search terms). This is a far cry from the Dewey decimal system within which a book can only hold one physical spot in a library, and how do you decide which category fits best? The Internet, and especially or, have seemingly erased that problem. Don’t be fooled that they did this out of the goodness of their own hearts, however, because it is simply a marketing tool. My own experience working in a bookstore some time ago, I experienced first-hand how hard it can be to categorize many books. Within sections, we would have subsections, and subsections would have subsections.. and often these sections made no sense whatsoever! I would hazard a guess that at least 90% of the time, unless I simply already knew where a book was located in the store, I ended up searching for the category used in our inventory system, which often did not match up with the multitude of locations a book could be found in on the company website. I would like to note that while I personally may use the internet to order my books because of ease of access, nothing to me can change the physical feeling of holding a book in my hands. In my small basement suite room, I have two floor to ceiling shelving units filled predominantly with books (and those are just my favourites – the rest are in storage). I love the feeling of picking up one of my favourite novels and seeing its cracked spine and yellowed pages. It’s a feeling that I could never replace with an e-reader. Also, I am sitting in a library as I write this blog post. Just food for thought!

Critique of “The Geography of Knowledge” by Weinberger:

I found the concept behind this reading interesting, but the detailed analysis of the Dewey decimal system was dry and I didn’t feel like it was teaching me much that related to our course beyond the fact that now we are not stuck with the boundaries of physical space imposed by categorizing books in a library.

The Noble Amateur

A tag cloud (a typical Web 2.0 phenomenon in i...

A tag cloud (a typical Web 2.0 phenomenon in itself) presenting Web 2.0 themes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Keen, on the other hand, I can say nothing positive about his opinion or his reading. He is openly elitist, capitalist, and, well… when it comes to social equality he is an absolute idiot. Keen states that with the advent of “Web 2.0”, “instead of having a dictatorship of experts, we’ll have a dictatorship of idiots” (p. 89), because amateurs can post content to the web. The mere fact that Keen uses the word dictatorship is a reflection of what kind of power he expects to hold in the world simply because he has a University degree. Ironically enough, Keen criticizes bloggers and podcasters, yet he has his own blog and his own podcast. In an article from March 17, 2012, the Daily Herald writes “Keen rails against the “cult of the social” and worries that we’re jeopardizing privacy and liberty in the “march toward ubiquitous public-ness.” But he grants that Facebook and Twitter have become part of the “socio-economic infrastructure of 21st century life,” and so reconciling them is not a simple task” (Associated Press, 2012). Yet, Keen has his own twitter account: @ajkeen.

Critique of the Noble Amateur:

I could find little, if anything at all, of substance in this reading. Instead of turning on my critical thinking skills about how information is provided on the Internet, I found myself enraged by reading such a biased and socioeconomically insensitive author. The worst reading from the entire course, hands down.


Associated Press. (2012, March 17). SXSW Sees Bit of Technology Backlash. Retrieved from

Keen, A. (2007). Chapter 2: The Noble Amateur . In Fernyhough, L. (Ed.), Comm 105: Communication and Technology. Course Package: Winter 2012, (pp. 89-103). Victoria, BC: Camosun College Bookstore. (Reprinted from The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture, 35-63).

Weinberger, D. (2007). Chapter 3: The Geography of Knowledge. In Fernyhough, L. (Ed.), Comm 105: Communication and Technology. Course Package: Winter 2012, (pp. 105-113). Victoria, BC: Camosun College Bookstore. (Reprinted from Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder, 46-63).

  1. Liz says:

    I barely remember a time when you had to go to a library to look something up and it seems like such a foreign idea now. It’s interesting how now I find myself frustrated when I can’t find a physical book in my own room, that I KNOW is there . . .somewhere. . . but there is no way of searching for it other than actually looking. My mind automatically goes to the solution of just putting in a search as if it was a file in the computer. I appreciate the ease that search engines provide, but I also agree that having a physical book in my hands has no comparison. The one thing that doesn’t translate very well to the digital world is just browsing through the books in your favourite genre. Picking up random books that have fantastic covers and finding those hidden treasures. On websites it’s not the same when you look through the books in a genre. I find that I don’t tend to find new things to read unless I search specific authors I already know about.

    • I know what you mean about barely remembering going to the library to look something up. I remember when to write a paper for school the only place to get resources was at the library, and it felt like such a trip to get there. At the same time though I liked browsing and the quiet environment there. I don’t think anything can beat being able to research papers for school using only my computer though.The availability of reputable materials online now is incredible.

      There’s definitely a difference isn’t there? I discovered my favourite author while browsing through my favourite genre (yours too! – fantasy/sci fi) at a bookstore and I fell in love with the cover. Not at all the same when looking on a website.

      Maybe be both need digital filing systems for our books at home, because I have the same problem 😉 I wonder if a company would ever market something like that? I guess with e-readers becoming so popular, they probably wouldn’t. The only thing I would much prefer an e-reader for is textbooks, but I’ve found the availability of textbooks as e-books is terrible.

      Writing that just made me realize that I value the virtual world more for academics, but in terms of enjoyment I certainly enjoy the “physical” world more.

  2. Liz says:

    It’s possible that if there is enough demand, someone could come up with a GPS tracking system and filing system for physical books. I know I’d appreciate it! That would definitely fall into today’s level of technology and at the same time appeal to those of us who want to continue to purchase real books :D.
    Really, no technology can surprise me anymore.

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