Amateur / Pro Am / Multidisciplinary
Adding these new roles to the traditional design context could be described as taking amateur roles on top of the professional context. The etymological origin of amateur comes from ‘amator’ (to love); it means a passion for doing something. To a lot of people, however, it has a negative connotation of untrained. For this thesis, the definition of amateur will be based on the research: The Pro-Am Revolution : How enthusiasts are changing our economy and society (Leadbeater and Miller, 2004)
Leadbeater and Miller described amateurs as having a love for a topic, but they aren’t seen as skilful. They created the term ‘Pro-Am’ for amateurs operating at a high skill level, highly motivated and highly connected. “In the last two decades, a new breed of amateur has emerged: the Pro-Am, amateurs who work to professional standards. …The Pro-Ams are knowledgeable, educated, committed, and networked by new technology.” (Leadbeater and Miller, 2004, p.12) Leadbeater and Miller concluded that the Pro-Ams are the ones that will shape our future. In our complex networked society, there are new fields of expertise emerging (IT for example), and traditional institutions like education aren’t able to respond quickly enough. This gap is filled with a variety of ‘Pro-Ams’. The Pro-Ams are developing new innovative solutions especially in the field of ecology.
A Pro-Am is, in essence, different than an older term, multidisciplinary. A multidisciplinary person is an expert in various disciplines and is able to combine these knowledge fields. Buckminster Fuller, for example, operated within the field of ecology and education as a mathematician, architect, designer, educator, engineer, and writer. Fuller is not the Pro-Am that is emerging in our present time. Although he changed society radically as a multidisciplinary genius, he regarded himself as an amateur “..my own rules, I may not profess any special preoccupation or capability. I am a random element.” (Fuller, 1962, p.2)
The context of amateurism has changed in the last decade. Cristina Ampatzidou (co-founder Amateurcities) described this in the interview (see appendix), explaining that young people interpreted the word ‘amateurism’ as ‘having a love’ for a topic, which is different to older people, who interpret the word as ‘untrained’. She thought this was due to the internet generation that is active on ‘Etsy’: amateur maker, ‘Airbnb’: amateur hotelier, etc. The term Pro-Am defines the fluid boundaries between ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ roles. It is applicable in the context of the Changing Role of the Designer. Designers connect their professional knowledge and skills to the new emerging fields in which they operate.
 Amateur Cities is an online publishing platform on alternative ways of citymaking presented critically. It aims to connect city thinkers to city makers. (http://amateurcities.com/about/, accessed Aug. 2016)