Cult of the Amateur

I just read the book Cult of the Amateur and quite frankly disagree with a lot written in it. To make a long story short, the authors world is one where there is a simple transcendental reality; a truth, purveyed by trained experts, journalists and professionals. Apparently the danger of dissolution is upon us by the radically relativistic truths of Wikipedia where the community sets the agenda. I think things are far less black and white than he makes them seem to be. One particular example I very much disagree with is his criticism of recommender systems. The author claims that nobody will need to read movie reviews anymore when there are AI systems making the recommendations. I have to say that so far I found movie ratings by experts – be it ratings in IMDB or a professional review in a newspaper – totally useless. I’ve liked films with low ratings, and hated others with high-ratings. I discovered so many things that I liked with recommender systems like Pandora. Yes, there are problems with recommender systems, but relying on an expert opinion for matters of taste can in my opinion never work out. People simply have different tastes and I don’t think that one reviewer writing movie-reviews for a particular newspaper is speaking for the entire readership. For another wonderful example using Spaghetti Sauce as an illustration, see the TED talk from Malcom Gladwell. That said, there are some points in the book that deserve consideration. Anybody who has ever read through comments (“noise”) on youtube knows that there seems to be a mass-infestation of stupidity out there – something that needs to be taken into consideration in all the Web 2.0 experiments. Stupidfilter anyone? 🙂

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