I think it is always useful to be sceptical, and to question one's assumptions.
I often find people agree with me, or at least appear to agree with me, too easily. Where's the challenge in that?
The web is an engine for creating communities. Sometimes, as with this blog connecting me to other members of the library and publishing communities, that can be amazing. Sometimes, as with MySpace putting me in reach of random idiots, or vandalized Wikipedia pages, one wishes the community were gated. But on balance, the net enables me to reach and be reached by amazing people, and to access and share incredible amounts of information. What's not to like about that?
That being said, we do have to be careful we're not amusing ourselves to death. Sending emails and writing blog postings may be satisfying, but it is not action in the real world. Was it Bill Joy of Sun who banned email because he found his employees were very busily emailing one another and feeling great accomplishment, without having... actually... done anything? He certainly is dubious about a lot of social networking
[P]eople are fooling themselves that they’re being creative in these spaces … [T]he standard of creativity in the world, to be competitive and be a great designer, is very hard: you have to go to school; you have to apprentice; you have to do hard things. It’s not about, your friends like something you did. So I think this is setting a false expectation: you can create your own island and people come to it in a video game … and I don’t see any correlation between that and what it’s gonna take to be a designer and have a skill set to succeed in the world. So I go back to what I said before: we’re amusing ourselves to death; there are good uses of this technology, and I don’t see this as a good use of the technology …
Bill Joy at the Aspen Ideas Festival - http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200610/aspen/2 (Atlantic subscribers only)
George Monbiot wrote a compelling argument in the Saturday October 28, 2006 Globe and Mail (page F12)
[Why don't we seem to be acting on climate change?] ... I also blame that tool of empowerment, the Internet. Of course it is marvellously useful. But it also creates a false impression of action. It allows us to believe that we can change the world without leaving our chairs.
That's why I like this debate between Andrew Keen, whose position is that content gatekeepers were good, and that amateurs can't produce anything worth consuming, and Chris Anderson, who thinks that gems can be uncovered out of the vastness of the long tail. A more perfect match would have been Surowiecki (Wisdom of Crowds) vs. Keen ("Stupidity of Crowds"), but this is pretty good.
As a side note, I would like to state once again that "2.0" is officially banned from the language. Stop saying 2.0 everyone. Thanks.
Debate 2.0: Weighing the merits of the new Webocracy - San Francisco Chronicle - October 15, 2006
Now, not to take sides, but Mr. Keen, you're telling me we used to live in a golden age of content that is ending? Did you watch the same TV that I did? Because I'm pretty sure I remember TV being cr*p until competition and fragmentation broke it into tiny enough audiences that amazing stuff like HBO's programs, Battlestar Galactica, and Lost could emerge. I can argue similarly for movies and music.
Keen has a blog (it's ok folks, he's allowed, he's a professional - do not try this at home)
October 24, 2006 Maclean's: the Internet sucks