Big Data, Influencers, Privacy and Other Digital Termites

next10, Day2, 12.05.2010
Image by NEXT Berlin

Andrew Keen remains the most constant and prolific critic of digital media advances and their impact on society. His books Digital Vertigo and Cult of the Amateur have made him a bit of a pariah in some circles, and an intellectual hero in others.

He was the ideal choice to close xPotomac on February 25, as the conference discussed future technologies. This podcast offers a sneak preview, which is also transcribed below… We got into all sorts of fun things, including big data, influencers, privacy and other digital termites.

GL: Well, we’re really excited to have you here in D.C. and I can’t wait to see you. First of all, for people that don’t know you, why don’t you quickly explain your background to them and what you did with Digital Vertigo.

AK: So I’m a writer, I’m a broadcaster, entrepreneur, accountant of a company, Audio Café, I have a weekly show on TechCrunch, columns for other people including CNN, written two books Quasi Amateur, which was critical of web 2.0 and the democratization of the Internet. I just came out with a new book this year Digital Vertigo, which is critical of technology’s obsession with transparency and openness.

Some people see me as a technology reactionary. I’m not really. I’m as wired as anyone.

But, I am more skeptical of some of the social and cultural consequences and see the way in which the web continues to disintermediate both the experts and the creative class: the writers, musicians, filmmakers. I don’t think generally it’s benefitted creative people. It’s been great for entrepreneurs, great for programmers, technologists, investors and VCs, but not so great for the creative industry.

GL: In your mind, how does big data fit into that picture and what are the challenges that we’re facing with it?

AK: Well, big data is the current buzzword when it comes to describing the world we’re living in. I fear this: On the web we’ve all essentially become data. There’s an excellent writer, he wrote a cook called The Information, James Gleick, and he writes we’ve become data, we’ve become data in the Digital Age.

I think he’s right. We are distributing ourselves on the network, and I’m fearful of the impact it has both on our privacy, in terms of our identity and of our relationship with each other. I fear that the more we reveal about ourselves, the lonelier we become, the more we actually destroy the social.

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