SXSW: Is Innovation Fair?

March 18, 2010

10:02 am

Andrew Keen is no stranger to notoriety and criticism.  His book “The Cult of the Amateur,” published in 2007, drew some harsh feedback from the technology community, as he argued that:

“a sea of amateur content threatens to swamp the most vital information,” and “blogs often reinforce one’s own views, rather than expand horizons.”

As you can imagine, this did not sit well with the new creative class of up and coming social media people and technologists.  I had not read the book, but was curious to see him when I came across his panel, titled “Is Innovation Fair?”   Andrew, as like many of us, was surprised he was picked to host a session at SXSW after his criticism of amateurs. Nonetheless, SXSW did give him the worst room, with no podium or microphone.  I had no idea what I would think of him, but in the end found him a very funny and engaging speaker with some clear and concise thoughts.

His basic argument was that innovation is not fair and not just.  He said movements like SXSW and the digital revolution are, in essence, a challenge to authority.  Think of the old media versus new media argument, and that by rebelling against this authority, we are in fact  rebelling against the very people (like writers and journalists) who championed innovation during the industrial era.  He argued that innovation is not really leading to where people want it to go; rather it will lead to a new digital elite and to a more dramatic inequity than ever before.

Andrew Keen stated that as everyone, individuals and companies alike, are under enormous pressure to innovate, we will most likely not see authority go away and the playing field leveled.  Instead, we will see a more unequal distribution of resources.  It was a fascinating talk, and  I found myself nodding in agreement for much of it.  Look out for his new book, coming out in the near future.

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Jimmy Gardner is a Senior Unix/Windows Engineer, a lover of technology and photography. Follow him online at @jjgardner3 and enjoy his portfolio at

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