Editor’s Note: Daniel is an administrator at the Unfiction forums and was part of the team that created the Project MU Archive Book. He was on the scene at PICNIC ’07 as a representative of the ARG community and was kind enough to submit a report on his experiences. This is part two of the report. We thank Daniel for his support of ARGNet and his wonderful report and pictures.
The next day started out with a discussion between two people who are both known as quite visionaries when it comes to the Internet. The first was David Weinberger, who holds a Ph.D. in philosophy, is a prominent commentator on internet marketing strategies, and is the author of the book Everything is Miscellaneous. The second was Andrew Keen, a digital pioneer, author of the book Cult of the Amateur and a leading contemporary critic of recent developments regarding the Internet.
This set up a really interesting debate, between a Web 2.0 fanatic and one of its most prominent critics. Weinberger gave a compelling presentation of his views on the Internet, that it was made for one purpose — to organize messiness. Hyperlinking as a concept was invented so that content could be offered in multiple places, just by linking to it. Having user generated content, with Wikipedia as the main example, creates more content and complexity in that content than could otherwise have been achieved, which is A Good Thing.
Keen, however, fundamentally disagrees with this view, condensing his own take on this as “complexity bad, simplicity good” and stating that the media and the Internet should try and reflect the world, rather than trivialize it. Nowadays, the Internet ‘complexifies’ the world and a lot of the information that is being offered is wrong or corrupt. He kept arguing that Weinberger’s approach was much too philosophical and that he needed to be more practical. One of his better examples was the Wikipedia entry for ‘truthiness’, a term coined by Stephen Colbert. Its word count is almost exactly the same as the entry for truth, demonstrating that Wikipedia has no context and that there’s nothing there to tell us what’s important and not.
Weinberger countered this by arguing that incidents like the ‘truthiness’ entry will automatically be dealt with by the community, which is an argument I also tend to rely on a lot. Overall, I thought Keen was coming off as being rather sour and negative, while Weinberger seems to be more of a visionary and has much more of a pioneering spirit. I know one thing for sure — I will definitely go and read Weinberger’s book. Oh, and here’s a funny little fact — Amazon lists Keen’s book as a ‘Perfect Partner’ for Weinberger’s. 🙂