Keen Observations

The following is cross-posted at the Social South website – please comment there.

One of these things is not like the other.”

If you remember the song from Sesame Street, feel free to sing, sing along.

Looking back on the lineup from the inaugural Social South, it was clear that one of the presentations was different along every apparent axis.

Andrew Keen views social media and the internet through the lens of history, not through the filter of futuritic optimism. One could argue he’s the dystopian, and not the utopian. In tone, manner of speech, lack of a slide-deck and even the all-black outfit Keen delivered the address that seemed most out of place. Some would describe it as anything but Social, and certainly not Southern.

Contrast this with the optimism, glee and hope that filled the room as Esra’a Al Shafei shared the divine mission of Mideast Youth — using technology and social media to wrest control away from the powerful who discriminate, intimidate and persecute in the name of religious purity.

Some would say they didn’t belong at the same event. I disagree.

Al Shafei — in a very direct manner — proved Keen correct.

  • The Internet is a disruptive force.
  • The technologies of new media are destroying culture.
  • The newly-empowered are negating societies.

The bolded and underlined words are emphasized because they are in present perfect tense, and are beyond dispute. The words in italics are extremely negative words, but they shouldn’t be read in a negative light. Re-read them, with new modifiers attached:

  • The Internet is a disruptive force against tyranny.
  • The technologies of new media are destroying corrupt culture.
  • The newly-empowered are negating oppressive societies.

Now those effects aren’t so awful-sounding. In fact, if Andrew Keen were wrong about the Internet and culture, the Esra’a Al Shafei’s of the world would be either dead, imprisoned, or enduring quietly in the silence of a burka.

Keen’s observations should be seen as simply that: observations. The nature of the words he chose are decidedly negative, but the phenomenon is a-moral. It will tear away at all heirarchies (some will push back.) It will eat away at all cultures (with no guarantee of a replacement.)

It will allow each and every one of us to choose our tribe. In essence, we are starting to do this now. We surround ourselves with the news and information that fits our pre-existing worldview and slant. Neighbors-in-name-only will see the same events through lenses so disparate they can never agree on any factual assertion.

We will continue – like Keen observed about Robert Scoble – surrounding ourselves with people just like ourselves. We will never be alone, but with every other face a virtual Narcissus, we will be extremely lonely.

Unless we recognize the ill effects, and choose to venture out into the world of the unsure, where serendipity rules.

It’s not easy being green Keen.

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  1. Kami Huyse says:

    Why Andrew Keen has some good points about social media by @ikepigott