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February 19, 2009

Andrew Keen

Recently in class we’ve been discussing Andrew Keen’s “The Cult of the Amateur.” During the group discussion last Friday, Professor Thiel-Stern asked the group members about one thing they agreed with Keen on and one thing they disagreed on. This is something I’d like to try. I agree with Keen when he says some of today’s most popular sites (YouTube, MySpace, etc.) have had an effect on the old way of doing things. Piracy and illegal downloading has had an effect on the music and movie industry, etc. But I don’t think the situation is as dire as Keen makes it out to be.

In particular, he cites a decline in 2005 domestic box office revenues. But those revenues have increased ever since then – the past two years have been more profitable than any years before. This year is setting off at a record pace as well, with record-breaking months in January and February. I also disagree with the impression Keen seems to give that the population can’t tell the difference between professionals and amateurs. We discussed this in class when Professor Thiel-Stern asked if anyone used blogs as their main source of news. But this extends to more entertainment-based Web sites like YouTube as well. While some people spend a lot of time on YouTube, I don’t think it’s eventually going to replace other forms of entertainment. We’re not going to see “dinner and a movie” date nights become “dinner and watching vlogs on YouTube” nights.

February 6, 2009

The First Three Weeks...

As I write this, we are finishing up our third week of lectures. Discussions so far have mostly been historical in nature, examining and discussing the general development of technology. While I know this is pretty much filler for the discussions we'll have later in the semester, I was extremely interested in learning the history of public use. It's fascinating to look back and see how much has changed in such a little amount of time - moving from records to 8-track tapes to cassettes to CDs to digital music in 30 years, etc. I think it will provide a good sense of perspective as we move forward. Things change quickly when a new technology catches on, and that trend continues to this day.

One interesting thing I've found is how McLuhan's "The Medium is the Message" has directly tied into every topic we've covered since reading it. This is particularly obvious when we look at Internet sensations like YouTube, which blends McLuhan's concept of hot and cool media like nothing else. The article "It Should Happen to You" also raises some interesting points about the increasingly hectic and fast-paced nature of fame. 15 minutes of fame used to mean getting on television for an unusual reason. Now it's more like 15 seconds of fame because of the waves of YouTube sensations that seem to hit every week.