The net, he argues, was meant to be “power to the people, a platform for equality”: an open, decentralised, democratising technology that liberates as it empowers as it informs.Keen worries that the Internet is a powerful force for inequality, destroying thousands of middle class jobs -- according to Keen's calculations Amazon alone has destroyed 27,000 jobs in the US. He is particularly skeptical about the value of user generated content:
Instead, it has handed extraordinary power and wealth to a tiny handful of people, while simultaneously, for the rest of us, compounding and often aggravating existing inequalities – cultural, social and economic – whenever and wherever it has found them. Individually, it may work wonders for us. Collectively, it’s doing us no good at all. “It was supposed to be win-win,” Keen declares. “The network’s users were supposed to be its beneficiaries. But in a lot of ways, we are its victims.”
Keen confesses to being “perhaps a bit of a content snob, although only in the sense that I value skilled labour and appreciate good content”. He is, he says, particularly concerned by the impact of the internet’s “culture of free” on the creative and media industries. “If there’s no exchange of cash for your article, your photograph, your movie, your book, your song, how else are you supposed to make money?” he asks. “It’s not an original point, sure. But it’s been almost 50 years since the first computer-to-computer communication now; 25 years since the birth of the web. We’ve constantly been told: wait, don’t worry, it’s a young medium, something will emerge … But nothing has. For creatives, this has been a disaster.” The number of photographers’ jobs in the US has fallen by 43%, he notes; the number of newspaper editorial jobs by 27%.I would be more sympathetic to this point of view if I thought the old media world had any more respect for quality than the internet does. But so far as I can tell newspapers and magazines publish only two kinds of pieces: work by their usual hacks, even when they have nothing new to say -- columnists joke among themselves about having only three basic columns, and for some of them that is an exaggeration -- and work by celebrities. (Like, the Post running a column on climate change by Sarah Palin.) Book publishers do pretty much the same thing, churning out dozens of novels by Joanna Lindsey and James Patterson and the odd blockbuster from Rush Limbaugh. I mourn this not at all.
Of course my views are colored by sour grapes, since no publication ever wanted to publish my essays. Nor did I have any luck publishing my mystery the old-fashioned way; I won't claim it is a great book, but I think it is better than a lot of the schlock that has gotten published. My attempts to interest a publisher or agent in my new novel have gone no better -- so far as I can tell, nobody has even bothered to read it -- so I will likely upload this one to Amazon, too.
So while I don't doubt that the Internet has been bad for a lot of people, it has been great for me, and plan to go on celebrating the voice it gives me.