John McCann

Amateur revolution

In Culture & society, Technology on March 4, 2006 at 2:32 pm

In the October 2004 issue of Fast Company, Charles Leadbeater wrote about the Amateur Revolution. I mentioned this article today in my course Technology and Life but did not get a chance to cover it in a meaningful way. Here is a key passage from that article:

“Passionate amateurs, empowered by technology and linked to one another, are reshaping business, politics, science, and culture. Pro-Am activity will continue to expand. Longer healthy life spans will allow people in their forties and fifties to start taking up Pro-Am activities as second careers. Rising participation in education will give people skills to pursue those activities. New media and technology enable Pro-Ams to organize. Pro-Ams could fuel mass participation in formal politics and in social entrepreneurship. They will play important economic roles as co-producers of services and sources of ideas. Democracy will be livelier, innovation more vibrant, social capital stronger and individual well-being more securely grounded. After a century in decline, amateurs will rise again. And they will change the world.”

Digital technologies are enabling people without extensive formal training to participate in all forms of occupations that were previously reserved for professionals. As Leadbeater tells us, this was a 20th century phenomenon that is under attack on many fronts, be it rap music, computer operating systems or astronomy.

“These far-flung developments have all been driven by Pro-Ams — committed, networked amateurs working to professional standards. Pro-Am workers, their networks and movements, will help reshape society in the next two decades.”

I thought about this movement as I was upgrading to iLife 6 on my Mac. iMovie, GarageBand, and iPhoto are just three of the thousands of available tools that one can use to create near-professional quality video, music and photo books. It’s pretty amazing what a dedicated amateur can do with such tools.

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