Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Library 2.0?

Everyone is talking 2.0, a term that implies improvement, but Andrew Keen argues in The Cult of the Amateur that Web 2.0 is elevating amateurs above experts and ruining our culture. The prime examples of Web 2.0 are wikipedia and youtube. Many sites rely on user generated content to draw eyeballs to the advertising space they sell. Keen believes sites like these, along with illegal content downloads (primarily music but video is just down the like), are edging out the professionals who produce content (news, music, video, etc.) for a living in favor of amateurs who work for free. He argues that this phenomenon is bad for culture because it offers few rewards for the hard work that creativity requires.

His is a compelling argument if you can get past his occasional potshots at the ACLU, but it only goes so far. It is difficult to ignore the fact that many creative people create with very little promise of compensation. They do it for love. It is also difficult to imagine that the marketplace for creativity won't help sort the good from the bad.

The library world is also abuzz with 2.0 because we compete with it and because we could use more of it: our catalogs should provide the amazon.com style functionality that allows readers to share reviews. Database users should be able to save, notate and annotate the information they find. So 2.0 has great applications to library resources, if our Web 2.0-trained users can ever find them. And that is what worries me. Some students seem to believe that anything outside the world of web is irrelevant or unworthy of the effort. But if they cannot or will not use published sources, they still need to be able to distinguish high quality information from schlock, and Web 2.0 doesn't always make that so easy.


Anonymous said...

Uh, just FYI, Wikipedia doesn't sell advertising. They're completely user-supported through donations.

Lynn said...

I stand corrected -- I've revised the post for accuracy.