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The Internet, Society and Information: A Comparison and Contrast of the Views of Keen and Lanier - Essay Example

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WRTG 101 08. JULY 2012 The Internet, Society, and Information: A Comparison and Contrast of the Views of Keen and Lanier The internet has been called many things in its somewhat illustrious, somewhat questionable history: a fad, a toy, a series of tubes. Now, however, it has become apparent that the internet is forever changing the way societies that possess it interact with information and the idea of truth and knowledge…
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The Internet, Society and Information: A Comparison and Contrast of the Views of Keen and Lanier

Download file to see previous pages... Andrew Keen, the author of the book “The Cult of the Amateur”, and Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist and prolific writer in the realm of information technology, are two of the most prominent thinkers in this new realm of information. Both are highly weary of the developments of Web 2.0, but for different reasons. While Keen and Lanier agree that the prominence of amateurs in the prolongation of information on the internet is incredibly problematic, and both have a distaste for so-called “crowdsourcing” (the production of material from a large group of people), they disagree on the fundamental problem this causes, with Keen arguing that this issue creates a kind of narcissism and Lanier arguing that the individual becomes lost in the mob in the internet. On the whole, Lanier’s arguments are more philosophical and more compelling based on his awareness of epistemology, of the effects the flow of information on the internet can have, and his more in-depth knowledge of computer sciences. That is why he can be recommended over Keen in this issue. One of the biggest accomplishments of Web 2.0, and, according to both Keen and Lanier, the biggest failings, is the amalgamation of masses of information on user-driven websites, such as Wikipedia. Both Keen and Lanier agree that the production of material by amateurs is a problem, but they differ greatly on exactly why. One major agreement between Keen and Lanier is that user-generated ideas of Web 2.0 reduce the quality of the work involved. Keen sees the fundamental problem of user generated content in that it reduces the overall quality of material available because of a lack of so called professional involvement. He says that “user generated content” … “[does away] with high quality information, high-quality entertainment and replaces it with user-generated content, which is unreliable, inane, and often rather corrupt” (Brown, 2012). Lanier shares the idea that user-generation of content, especially en masse, does not lead to high-quality things – he argues that open source movements have never produced seminal, revolutionary products like the iPhone or Google (Lanier, 2010). He also has some concerns about the nature of content on these websites, but those differ significantly from the concerns of Keen. While Keen and Lanier both agree that crowdsourcing can be problematic, they disagree on the nature of the problems the practice causes. Keen’s primary focus is on the quality of material. He seems to believe that professional status imbues some kind of power or authority on someone to be able to write more eloquently or accurately on a topic. Lanier, however, does not believe that the non-professional nature of Wikipedia is its fundamental problem, but rather argues that the anonymity and knowledge-lens involved is problematic. In his oft-cited essay “Digital Maoism,” Lanier argues that any single “bottleneck” that channels a great deal of information is fundamentally problematic for a society and that societies function best with a wide series of sources (Lanier, 2006). Likewise, he argues that the sterile style that is created by a mass of editors rather than a single author presents problems. He believes that, by removing the author’ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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