Clay Shirky and the end of the “professional”


Recently, I was in a discussion of Clay Shirky’s book Here Comes Everybody, and one of the main points brought up was the amateurization of things like journalism and other professions.  In the discussion, many members appeared to believe in the fact that some decision maker or hierarchy would need to decide who was a “professional” and who wasn’t.

In Shirky’s book he mentions that hierchy’s are largely coming to an end, but that some form of governance will remain.  I do not think we are seeing the death of professionalism, rather, we are seeing a new definition of who is professional and who is not.  As with many things on the web, trust and ranking is built over time.

It becomes obvious that a certain blogger is liked  (for better or worse) based on their readership and a major network may pick them up for work or regular contributions.  So does that make the blogger a professional?

What if the blog is the drudge report?  Is it objective?  Well, at least as objective as Fox News, so they can be “professionals” together.  The problem we are having is redefining what a professional is, in the case of journalism, do we really think that institutions and definitions that are over 200 years old (and lets be safe and say 100 for the sake of objective journalism) still hold weight today?

Perhaps we need to turn to amateurs to see what in fact makes a professional, instead of trying the same top down approach.  We may like what we find, and further, this does not mean that the traditional journalist is gone.  It means they have been augmented by this collection of people, out of which 1% will rise above the masses and be identified by their peers as journalists.

Professionalism and the wave of amateurization are not at odds, they help eachother.  It is failing to see how to grasp the power of the other party that causes the disruptions.  Let us try an example…

I need to change the battery in my car… should I ask a professional?  Yeah, I should, I mean, I don’t want to get hurt or mess up my car.  So I go to Google and type in “how to replace a car battery”.  The first five entries are from amateurs and link six is from Castrol, a professional, you know.

So what does this tell us?  It tells us that more people link to the first article than Castrol.  A quick look at the article might tell you why, Castrols article is vague and well, not even close to the amateur one.  So lets get this right, who knows cars better, Castrol (professional) or WikiHow.  Obviously, its the pro, or thats what today’s heirchy tells us.  However, the dynamic hierchy of the collective conscious the mind of the public sphere tells us it is WikiHow and I agree with them.

The more specific you go, the more amateurs become the professionals and fill in the cracks that the “pros” cannot.  Why?  Cost.  Thanks, Clay.

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