And who might they be, these cultural barbarians? You and me, according to the author of The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture (Doubleday, 2007). Will it kill the Church too?
First, the book. Here’s the book’s thesis in one sentence: By circumventing the traditional gatekeepers of culture like editors and publishers, various online forums, communities, and companies are degrading culture by letting anyone with a keyboard or a Blackberry publish their mundane posts, songs, and videos to the world. The enemies in this story are Wikipedia, YouTube, MySpace, Napster, Craigslist, TiVo, and (of course) blogs. He really hates blogs. The good guys are all those obsolescent institutions that some younger readers may never have used before or even heard of (which I’ll list in parallel with the items from the preceding list that have succeeded them): Encyclopedia Britannica, Hollywood, whatever kids did before MySpace, Tower Records, the want ads of your local newspaper, network television with commercials, and whatever adults did before blogs.
Okay, it’s obvious this guy is a dinosaur who is upset about the dawning Age of Mammals. What’s going on here is called creative destruction, and if he’d gone to a university that made undergrads read books he’d probably have run across the concept. And, sweet irony, here is the author’s entry in Wikipedia. I doubt he has an entry in Britannica.
I can’t even tell if the author believes what he’s writing or whether he’s just whoring a book to make a quick buck. He says blogs are culture poison, but, of course, he has one. And he formats the title of his book in all lowercase letters. What really irks me is the UK edition (second cover down) renders the title with proper capitalization; only the US edition used all lowercase. This from a guy complaining about the decline of culture.
But who cares about the book. The relevant question is: what effect will Real Life 2.0 — blogs and wikis and YouTube — have on the Church? Will missionaries of the future sit in front of computers running websites and trading text messages with investigators? Will they ever dispense with the live broadcast of Conference and just email audio files to everyone? Has there already been an effect on LDS culture similar to what the book claims for general culture, or has the Church so far avoided the techno-decadence that is sweeping over the West? And are LDS blogs part of the problem or just good clean fun? Are we a threat or an opportunity?