The Anti Web2.0 Manifesto (Adorno for idiots) by Andrew Keen

From an email sent to the mailing list of the Institute for Distributed Creativity. I didn’t check if Andrew Keen really said or wrote this text. I tend to disagree with the arguments but I think it is not good for me (and for everyone) to only read opinions of like-minded people, Web2.0 enthusiasts in this case. I agree with Sunstein when he states in

Unplanned, unanticipated encounters are central to democracy itself. Such encounters often involve topics and points of view that people have not sought out and perhaps find quite irritating.

So without further ado, here it is:

THE ANTI WEB 2.0 MANIFESTO (Adorno-for-idiots) by Andrew Keen
1. The cult of the amateur is digital utopianism’s most seductive delusion. This cult promises that the latest media technology — in the form of blogs, wikis and podcasts — will
enable everyone to become widely read writers, journalists, movie directors and music artists. It suggests, mistakenly, that everyone has something interesting to say.
2. The digital utopian much heralded “democratization” of media will have a destructive impact upon culture, particularly upon criticism. “Good taste” is, as Adorno never tired
of telling us, undemocratic. Taste must reside with an elite (“truth makers”) of historically progressive cultural critics able to determine, on behalf of the public, the value of a
work-of-art. The digital utopia seeks to flatten this elite into an ochlocracy. The danger, therefore, is that the future will be tasteless.
3. To imagine the dystopian future, we need to reread Adorno, as well as Kafka and Borges (the Web 2.0 dystopia can be mapped to that triangular space between Frankfurt,
Prague and Buenos Aires). Unchecked technology threatens to undermine reality and turn media into a rival version of life, a 21st century version of “The Castle” or “The Library
of Babel”. This might make a fantastic movie or short piece of fiction. But real life, like art, shouldn’t be fantasy; it shouldn’t be fiction.
4. A particularly unfashionable thought: big media is not bad media. The big media engine of the Hollywood studios, the major record labels and publishing houses has
discovered and branded great 20th century popular artists of such as Alfred Hitchcock, Bono and W.G. Sebald (the “Vertigo” three). It is most unlikely that citizen media will
have the marketing skills to discover and brand creative artists of equivalent prodigy.
5. Let’s think differently about George Orwell. Apple’s iconic 1984 Super Bowl commercial is true: 1984 will not be like Nineteen Eighty-Four the message went. Yes, the “truth”
about the digital future will be the absence of the Orwellian Big Brother and the Ministry of Truth. Orwell’s dystopia is the dictatorship of the State; the Web 2.0 dystopia is the
dictatorship of the author. In the digital future, everyone will think they are Orwell (the movie might be called: Being George Orwell).
6. Digital utopian economists Chris Anderson have invented a theoretically flattened market that they have christened the “Long Tail”. It is a Hayekian cottage market of small
media producers industriously trading with one another. But Anderson’s “Long Tail” is really a long tale. The real economic future is something akin to Google — a vertiginous
media world in which content and advertising become so indistinguishable that they become one and the same (more grist to that Frankfurt-Prague-BuenosAires triangle).
7. As always, today’s pornography reveals tomorrow’s media. The future of general media content, the place culture is going, is the convergence of
self-authored shamelessness, narcissism and vulgarity — a self-argument in favor of censorship. As Adorno liked to remind us, we have a responsibility to protect people from
their worst impulses. If people aren’t able to censor their worst instincts, then they need to be censored by others wiser and more disciplined than themselves.
8. There is something of the philosophical assumptions of early Marx and Rousseau in the digital utopian movement, particularly in its holy trinity of online community,
individual creativity and common intellectual property ownership. Most of all, it’s in the marriage of abstract theory and absolute faith in the virtue of human nature that lends
the digital utopians their intellectual debt to intellectual Casanovas like young Marx and Rousseau.
9. How to resist digital utopianism? Orwell’s focus on language is the most effective antidote. The digital utopians needs to be fought word-for-word, phrase-by-phrase,
delusion-by-delusion. As an opening gambit, let’s focus on the meaning of four key words in the digital utopian lexicon: a) author b) audience c) community d) elitism.
10. The cultural consequence of uncontrolled digital development will be social vertigo. Culture will be spinning and whirling and in continual flux. Everything will be in motion;
everything will be opinion. This social vertigo of ubiquitous opinion was recognized by Plato. That’s why he was of the opinion that opinionated artists should be banned from his

6 thoughts on “The Anti Web2.0 Manifesto (Adorno for idiots) by Andrew Keen

  1. della

    My opinion, in a nutshell: the “web 2.0” is not about equality, it is about lowering the entry barriers. Of course, Sturgeon’s law (90% of everything is crap) still holds…
    While anybody can be a content producer, that doesn’t mean that everybody will have the same audience… indeed, there is a spectacular disproportion in the size of the audiences: power laws and preferential attachment show that the elites exist.
    The big change, IMHO, is that there it is much easier not to lose that non-crap 10%, and since it won’t need millions of “seals of approval” from critics, it will be much easier for it to climb to the elite.

  2. paolo Post author

    Hi Bonaria!
    I think I should try to take for serious everybody and in particular Keen since he is undoubtly a clever man, able to get attention with some out-of-the-mainstream opinions. I disagree almost completely with him but I think it is a good exercise for me to ponder and try to reply to his opinionated claims.
    As I was trying to say at the beginning of the post, I’m really afraid to enter into an echo-chamber. Keen is surely out of my chamber and I think it is healthy for my mind to listen to those people, that might be able to bring down my (echo) chamber with the generated resonance.

    Convoluted message, I know? ;-)

  3. Schizo Stroller

    Also the worst reading and use of Adorno I have ever come across, the work of Adorno probably does have something to say about Web 2.0, but this is most definitely not it.

  4. paolo Post author

    I don’t like what he wrote. But I appreciate his willingness to go against the mainstream arguments!

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