clay shirky and future of the internet

Mass Amateurization of Publishing (Clay Shirky)

What does “mass amateurization” mean?

Here is the simplest definition of the term:

Mass amateurization happens by removing or weakining of the entry barriers to a professional field.

But we should keep in mind that Clay Shirky has used the notion to address the upcoming trend in the media.

He describes the trend as follows:

 …Most professions exist because there is a scarce resource that requires ongoing management.

…Our social tools remove older obstacles to public expression and thus remove the bottlenecks that characterized mass media.  The result is the mass amateurization of efforts previously reserved for media professionals.

The mass amateurization diminishes what he calls “professionalism”. In his point of view, professionals often enforce tight and hard-to-achieve standards in their profession, not only to keep the work quality high but also to protect their turf from the amateurs.

It’s not necessary to be a professional photographer for your work to be noticed. Even for a non-professional far-from-standard photo, there always will be some audience. The reality is even more bitter for the professionals: Their work may not get noticed anymore as it might become buried forever under millions of photos taken and shared by amateur photographers.

The same trend holds true for other types of content, including but not limited to articles, podcasts, and ebooks.

How has coined the term “mass amateurization”

In some of the textbooks and articles, I have seen references to the Wolske, Johnson & Adams (2009). They’ve titled their paper as: “Citizen professional toolkits: empowering communities through mass amateurization.”

However, Clay Shirky’s book, “Here comes everybody,” is definitely published one year before the above-mentioned paper. Therefore, although Wolske and his colleagues have not mentioned Shirky’s name, the credit belongs to him.

Mass amateurization and media

Shirky has titled the third chapter of his book as “everyone is a media outlet”.

He believes that the effortless publishing leads to much more outlets and the news provided by media will get diluted in this ever-deepening pool of content.

He describes the effect of mass amateurization on the media (specifically news industry) in a brief yet convincing, statement:

[news will change from an] institutional prerogative to news as part of a communications ecosystem.

Clay Shirky and the mass amateurization of publishing