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New Book Looks at the Internet’s Impact on American Life

A recently published book by Andrew Keen, titled "The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing our Culture" takes a look at the impact of the Internet on American life. The NewsHour reports on the book's message.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    YouTube, MySpace, blogging and so much more, in the past few years, the Internet has been transformed. Where once a person might spend most of his or her time looking at various Web sites, today the focus is on interactivity and social networking, in which people share opinions and videos, in an environment in which anything goes.

    We've reported on many of the positive developments in all this, but there are contrarian views. A new book, "The Cult of the Amateur," presents some of these arguments. Its author, Andrew Keen, is himself an Internet entrepreneur who also writes on technology and culture. He joins me now.

    Welcome to you.

    ANDREW KEEN, Author, "The Cult of the Amateur": Thank you.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The subtitle is, "How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture," very provocative. What's the key argument you're trying to make?

  • ANDREW KEEN:

    The key argument is that the so-called "democratization" of the Internet is actually undermining reliable information and high-quality entertainment. By replacing mainstream media content, high-quality radio, television, newspapers, publishing, music, with user-generated content, we're actually doing away with information, high-quality information, high-quality entertainment, and replacing it with user-generated content, which is unreliable, inane, and often rather corrupt.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Democratization is this idea, though, that so many more people can participate. They can talk to each other. They can vote on things. They can debate subjects. Why is that not a social good?

  • ANDREW KEEN:

    Firstly, I don't think that participation has been something that's been missing from American politics or culture. One can always participate before the Internet. It's not as if the Internet invented, even if some of the Silicon Valley utopians would claim otherwise, it's not as if the Internet has invented collaboration, conversation or community. One only has to read Alexis de Tocqueville to realize that those existed way before the invention of the Internet in America.

    But the fact is that that democratization is not doing those things. It's not improving community. It's not increasingly developing rich conversation. It's not building collaboration.

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