Like Sydney and Julie have expressed in their posts this week, I too was off put by Keen’s negative perspective on the Internet in his book The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture. As Julie has pointed out, Keen’s anxieties towards the internet stems from a fear of the “amateur cult” that he believes are contributing to a proliferation of truths via the internet, through blogs like this one, and as a result are distorting “real” truths. In his first chapter, entitled “The Great Seduction,” Keen suggests that “in a world in which audience and author are increasingly indistinguishable, and where authenticity is almost impossible to verify, the idea of intellectual property has been seriously compromised” (23), and that “the value once placed on a book by a great author is being challenged by the dream of a collective community of authors who endlessly annotate and revise it” (25). While I think most of us would agree that this deterioration between author and audience perpetuated by the Internet is accurate, I don’t think this has to be as horrific as Keen implies. As Margaret suggests in her post this week, “remixing actually makes originality achievable,” and I think the same is possible with this “increasingly indistinguishable” line between author and audience that Keen seems so appalled by.
Julie suggests in her post that “amateurs” on the Internet are not as threatening to “experts” as Keen suggests, and her consideration of David Bowie’s use of “The Verbasizer” is an excellent example of this. I’d like to consider Sachiko Marukami’s digital poetry project Rebuild to suggest that “amateurs” on the Internet are not only non-threatening, but also offer a unique perspective that is actually beneficial in perpetuating originality in the work of the expert. Project Rebuild is ultimately Murakami’s response to the phenomena of a style of housing in Vancouver called the “Vancouver Special,” and it is “their replication, their persistence, and the reaction that the Vancouver Special produces in Vancouverites” that Murakami is specifically interested in exploring with her poetry. But Rebuild is not simply a collection of poems existing online. It is also “an experiment in collaboration” that invites its audience to literally rebuild Murakami’s poems. Rebuild invites its users “to move into any of the poems on the site, and renovate them,” and this new poem created “will then join the front page neighbourhood.” Rebuild has taken advantage of the accessibility and collective quality of the Internet to create a community, which reflects this idea of the neighborhood that inspired Murakami to create Rebuild in the first place. This must have Keen tossing and turning in his sleep.
I think projects like Rebuild prove that we need to move past the negative effects that the Internet have on scholarship and intellectual property and instead embrace how we can use the “amateur” cult to our advantage. Murakami proves with Rebuild that writing can become more interesting and original through both remixing and by embracing the “amateur cult” that Keen is rejecting.