Web 2.0: Obey!

August 8, 2007

I’m returning to the theme of my last post, on the unease caused by certain aspects of web 2.0. This time, it’s the bullying tone used by many advocates of web 2.0.

I’m a reader of Boing Boing, which is generally speaking an easy and interesting way to find some interesting links and geeky news. The site, does, however, occasionally enjoy engaging in polemical rants against those it deems suitable targets. These targets are indeed often worthy ones (serial spammers, copyright dinosaurs, the Bush administration, the music industry etc.).

However, this post caught my eye. I don’t particularly subscribe to the views of the post’s target, the author Andrew Keen (in the blog linked to he describes himself as “disgraceful fascist luddite communist control freak monarchist failed dotcom entrepreneur “, which has already made me much more sympathetic toward him!) I think on the one hand he has some interesting points about the drawbacks of web 2.0, in particular the question of the quality of information that collaborative sources can provide. On the other hand, I think he’s woefully misguided about the so-called “good old days” of traditional media, which he argues could be relied on pretty much unconditionally.

Whatever his views, I think it’s totally inappropriate to call Keen a “celebrity troll and spokesdouche for internet-fearing reactionaries everywhere”, or to provide links described as two Boing Boing-approved commentators supposedly (respectively) delivering an “epic trouncing”, with the other managing to “whup his ass”.

Keen may be guilty of spamming (although the evidence provided hardly says “case closed” to me), and if so he should know better. Also, Keen’s arguments may be flimsy, but the bullying, hectoring tone that Boing Boing adopts seems totally unnecessary, as do the rather pathetically personal terms of abuse used. While Boing Boing is obviously entitled to publish whatever it wants, the use of ad hominem attacks on those who disagree with its views seems pretty unfair, particularly on the part of a website with such a huge readership and sway on the internet.

The post seems to me redolent of the attitude so prevalent in web 2.0 circles, that anything to do with the internet generally and web 2.0 in particular is automatically an unproblematic force for good, and that any criticism of any aspect of internet culture is automatically reactionary, conservative, luddite nonsense. This totally shuts down the possibility for debate, as Keen might perhaps be feeling himself. Digital Maoism or what?

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6 Responses to “Web 2.0: Obey!”

  1. Tom P Says:

    Yeah, OTM (as they say on ILM).

    It’s typical of much ‘discussion’ on the internet which is about getting a point of view and ramming it against someone elses, playing to the crowd for point scoring (ad revenue) purposes rather than engaging in something more constructive.

    To describe the exchange with Kevin Kelly as an “epic trouncing” is completely ridiculous. The article in question strikes me a a negotiation rather than a trouncing, basically saying “we agree there’s a problem we don’t agree on the solution”.

    Kelly’s response raises some really interesting questions which are effectively shut down by the implicatoin that it’s a knock out.

    e.g.

    There is an immense difference between trying to regulate people’s moral behavior indirectly by design and code versus directly by law

    I’m interested in where the line implied by this statement might be placed and whether in fact it’s acceptable for unelected unaccountable individuals or – as is more likely the case on the internet – corporations to regulate peoples moral behavior at all. The fact that when Big Media does so with DRM schemes Boing Boing and co. are up in arms suggests to me that there are some unresolved conflicts in Cory Doctorow et al’s positions.

  2. neilstewart Says:

    Nice to see Boing Boing doing the corporate shill thing for cuddly uber-capitalist Richard Branson today: http://tinyurl.com/2lw7eq

  3. Seshat Says:

    I’ve just been going through old blog posts, and I’m not sure if you will have seen the latest not!drama with Annoyed Librarian. Basically, bringing up all the points that you’ve raised here, and it’s cause some really interesting discussion.

    http://www.davidleeking.com/2007/08/30/the-annoyed-librarian-is-annoyed-with-me/
    http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/index.php/2007/08/30/do-we-need-a-translator-here/

  4. neilstewart Says:

    Thanks Seshat, interesting stuff!

  5. neilstewart Says:

    Although, having said that, it’s all very earnest isn’t it? It amazes me that someone like Annoyed Librarian can be seen as such a controversial figure!


  6. […] good take on Andrew Keen September 5th, 2007 In a previous post, I castigated Boing Boing for slating internet whipping boy Andrew Keen as a troll, with very […]


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