Andrew Keen

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For the documentary filmmaker, see Andy Keen.
Andrew Keen
Andrew Keen in Amsterdam, 2015
Andrew Keen speaking in Amsterdam in April 2015
Born c. 1960 (age 57–58)
Hampstead, London [1]
Nationality British-American
Alma mater University of London (B.A.)
University of California, Berkeley (M.A.)
Occupation Author, professor, entrepreneur, and public speaker
Known for The Cult of the Amateur
Digital Vertigo

Andrew Keen (born c. 1960[2]) is a British-American entrepreneur and author. He is particularly known for his view that the current Internet culture and the Web 2.0 trend may be debasing culture, an opinion he shares with Jaron Lanier and Nicholas G. Carr among others. Keen is especially concerned about the way that the current Internet culture undermines the authority of learned experts and the work of professionals.


Keen was born in Hampstead, North London, to a Jewish family.[3] He attended the University of London, studying History under Hugh Seton-Watson, a British historian and political scientist.[4] Keen earned a bachelor's degree in history and then studied at the University of Sarajevo in Yugoslavia. Having been influenced by Josef Škvorecký, Danilo Kiš, Jaroslav Hašek and especially the writings of Franz Kafka;[4] Keen relocated to America, where he earned a master's degree in political science from the University of California, Berkeley, studying under Ken Jowitt. After Berkeley, Keen taught modern history and politics at Tufts University, Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He currently lives in Berkeley, California with his family.[5]


Keen returned to Silicon Valley in 1995 and founded,[4] which received funding from Intel and SAP. The firm folded in April 2000 and after the demise of, Keen worked at various technology companies including Pulse 3D, SLO Media, Santa Cruz Networks, Jazziz Digital and Pure Depth, where he was director of global strategic sales.[4] In 2005, Keen founded AfterTV, intended to bring clarity, understanding and foresight to the post-TV-centric media and consumer landscape.[6] Keen stated in October, 2007, that he is working on his new book, tentatively titled, Star Wars 2.0.[7]

Criticism of Web 2.0

In 2005, Keen wrote that Web 2.0 is a "grand utopian movement" similar to "communist society" as described by Karl Marx. He states:

It worships the creative amateur: the self-taught filmmaker, the dorm-room musician, the unpublished writer. It suggests that everyone--even the most poorly educated and inarticulate amongst us--can and should use digital media to express and realize themselves. Web 2.0 "empowers" our creativity, it "democratizes" media, it "levels the playing field" between experts and amateurs. The enemy of Web 2.0 is "elitist" traditional media.[8]

— Andrew Keen, The Weekly Standard

On 5 June 2007, Keen released his first book The Cult of the Amateur, published by Doubleday Currency,[9] and gave a talk at Google the same day.[10] The book is critical of free, user-generated content websites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Digg, Reddit and many others. He prominently featured in the 2008 Dutch documentary The Truth According to Wikipedia and was also featured in the 2010 American documentary Truth in Numbers.

File:Andrew Keen in 2012.jpg
Andrew Keen in San Francisco in 2012

Keen stresses the importance of media literacy and claims that user generated blogs, wikis and other "democratized" media, cannot match the resources of mainstream media outlets.[11] Pointing to examples like being able to gather teams together, travel to dangerous locations (sometimes spending years in the region) and having skilled and experienced editors oversee the process,[9] Keen forecasts that if the current Web 2.0 mentality—where content is either given away or stolen—continues, in 25 years there will not exist a professional music business, newspaper industry or publishing business and challenges his audience to question whether we value these or not.[12]

Keen discusses often-overlooked problems with participatory technology. He describes the Internet in amoral terms, saying it is a mirror of our culture. "We see irreverence, and vitality, and excitement. We see a youthfulness. But we also see, I think, many of the worst developments in modern cultural life, and, in particular, I think we see what I call digital narcissism, this embrace of the self. It's Time magazine's person of the year for last year was you."[13] Keen is also heavily critical of anonymity on the Internet, believing that it makes us behave worse, not better. He says: "The Web's cherished anonymity can be a weapon as well as a shield."[14] Showing that misbehavior using anonymity has been so widely adopted, new definitions such as "trolls" and "sock puppets" have emerged.

Criticism of social exhibitionism

In the book Digital Vertigo, Keen argues that the "hypervisibility" promoted by social networks like Facebook and Twitter traps us into sacrificing vitally important parts of the human experience, like privacy and solitude. He compares the experience of participating in modern social networks with Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon, concluding that: "The future should be anything but social."[15]

He is not without his critics. Tim O'Reilly has said "I find, Andrew Keen's, his whole pitch, I think he was just pure and simple looking for an angle, to create some controversy to sell a book, I don't think there's any substance whatever to his rants."[16]


  1. "Karlsruhe Dialogues 2011". zak.kit.ed. Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  2. Saracevic, Alan T. (15 October 2006). Debate 2.0 / Weighing the merits of the new Webocracy. San Francisco Chronicle (“Age: 46”)
  3. "Q&A with Andrew Keen". C-Span. January 15, 2015. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Keen, Andrew. "Keen on Keen". Archived from the original on 28 February 2006. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  5. Balicki, Robert (21 February 2007). "Blogging Berkeley". The Daily Californian. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  6. "About After TV". Archived from the original on 11 October 2007. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  7. "Andrew Keen". Archived from the original on 21 December 2007. Retrieved 3 January 2008. 
  8. Keen, Andrew. (February 14, 2006). Web 2.0; The second generation of the Internet has arrived. It's worse than you think. The Weekly Standard.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Keen, Andrew (2007). The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture. America: Crown Business,Doubleday, Random House. pp. 256 pages. ISBN 0-385-52080-8. 
  10. Authors@Google: Andrew Keen 's channel on YouTube
  11. Keen, Andrew (2007). The Cult of the Amateur: how blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the rest of today's user-generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values. New York: Doubleday. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-385-52081-2. 
  12. Andrew Keen (5 Jun 2007). Authors@Google: Andrew Keen (SWF/FLV/Flash/h.264) ((Videotaped)). Google Headquarters in Mountain View: Google. Event occurs at 50:00. Archived from the original on 10 July 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  13. New Book Looks at the Internet's Impact on American Life, PBS NewsHour.
  14. Keen, Andrew (2007). The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture. Crown Business,Doubleday, Random House. pp. 70–75. ISBN 0-385-52080-8. 
  15. Keen, Digital Vertigo page 193
  16. Tim O'Reilly (7 Apr 2008). The Truth According to the Wikipedia (SWF/FLV/Flash/h.264) ((Documentary)). VPROinternational. Event occurs at 38:30. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 

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