Friday, September 28, 2007

Featured books – “The Cult of the Amateur” and “Wikinomics”

Two books this week, highlighting the current debate surrounding “Web 2.0,” the rise in popularity of internet-based media collaborations between disparate, connected individuals, through uploading videos to YouTube, editing encyclopaedia entries on Wikipedia, creating alternative sources of news such as Indymedia, or engaging in political and social commentary and debates through the proliferation of blogs and their comment functions. Combined with the popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook, active individuals are able to use these services to disseminate free content to potentially enormous audiences, and create networks that can share information and act on it with great speed over long distances.

Andrew Keen
The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing our Culture and Assaulting our Economy
Nicholas Brealey, 2007, 303.4833 KEE

Previously recommended by Matthew Taylor himself
on his own blog, and the subject of the RSA lecture The Great Digital Seduction, The Cult of the Amateur sees Silicon Valley pundit Andrew Keen outline grave consequences as a result of this new digital media, decrying an avalanche of amateur content threatening our values, economy, and ultimately innovation and creativity itself. Highly topical, provocative and controversial, Keen warns that valued cultural institutions - our professional newspapers, magazines, music, and movies - are being overtaken by an avalanche of amateur, user-generated, free content. In today's self-broadcasting culture, where amateurism is celebrated and anyone with an opinion, however ill-informed, can participate, the distinction between trained expert and uninformed amateur becomes dangerously blurred.

Don Tapscott & Anthony D. Williams
Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
Portfolio, 2006, 658.046 TAP

In the opposite corner, Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams’ Wikinomics presents a similar argument to
James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds in demonstrating how, in just the last few years, traditional business collaboration – in a meeting room, a conference call, even a convention center – has been superseded by collaborations on an astronomical scale. Today, encyclopedias, jetliners, operating systems, mutual funds, and many other items are being created by teams numbering in the thousands or even millions. Where Keens fears the heaving growth of these massive online communities, Wikinomics argues this fear is folly. Smart firms can harness collective capability and genius to spur innovation, growth, and success. A brilliant guide to one of the most profound changes of our time, it challenges our most deeply-rooted assumptions about business and will prove indispensable to anyone who wants to understand competitiveness in the twenty-first century. Based on a $9 million research project led by bestselling author Don Tapscott, Wikinomics shows how masses of people can participate in the economy like never before, and describes how the social networking tools created under the banner of “Web 2.0” can be used to host new working practises for groups and institutions to use to generate effective and innovative solutions to the problems they set themselves.

Read the Guardian’s reviews of
The Cult of the Amateur and Wikinomics, and get involved by editing Wikinomics’ own Wiki or commenting on Andrew Keen’s blog.

To borrow a copies of The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing our Culture and Assaulting our Economy or Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, please contact the
RSA Library.

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