I had never even heard of Andrew Keen until the delightful Buns and Chou Chou introduced him to me a few short hours ago. So imagine my surprise when I took what I thought was going to be a quick trip to artsJournal and found a link to an article called Internet Smackdown: The Amateur Vs. The Professional from Wired that refers to him.
Tony Long, the author of this article, supports Keen's bemoaning "the rise of amateurism in all spheres of professional life, specifically as facilitated by the internet's long reach." He says that bloggers "the most conspicuous of amateurs -- are a focus of Keen's views on this subject."
This getting everybody all fired up?
The question that comes to my mind this evening after reading all this and thinking about the lambasting of litbloggers that's been going on over the last few months is "Just what is a professional in literature?" Sure, engineers, doctors, lawyers, etc. have to be licensed by the state so we're pretty clear on how they get their professional status. But who's giving tests for media reviewers, critics, or, for that matter, writers?
When I read reviews of children's books that have been published in professional journals, I often find they have been written by librarians. Many of the kidlitblogs I read are also written by librarians. Why is the librarian who writes for a blog an amateur and thus mediocre (see Long's first paragraph) and the librarian who writes for a print publication a professional and thus worthy of my consideration? In newspapers, many reviews are written by authors. In print, they are reviewing their peers. Very professional. Why is it so different if they do the same thing on a blog?
Long and Keen say that the "all-inclusive nature and easy access" of the Internet "trivializes scholarship and professional ability." I hate to sound like a Geico caveperson, but a lot of scholarship is written in such a way as to be inaccessible to the people who are foraging for information on the Internet. Anyone remember Stephen Jay Gould? He used to take heat from his professional colleagues because he'd write a science essay every now and then that I could understand. Making knowledge accessible, as many try to do on the Internet, has never been popular with the holders of such knowledge.
Let's bring this around to literature again. Insisting that only professional reviewers and critics (I've been wondering if they're the same thing. I suspect not.) can write about literature and do such writing in print publications means that they have all the control over passing judgment on literature. Why are the print people so frightened of the Internet? They're worried about losing their power.
I think that ship may have already sailed.