2.5 CRITICAL FRAMEWORK ON THE CHANGE MAKERS
What are the consequences of the fluid boundaries between Pro-Ams and experts?
Keen (digital entrepreneur and author) described the downside to the development of fluid boundaries between professional and amateurs in ‘The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture’ (Keen, 2007). He argued that this knowledge, produced on the Internet by the wisdom of the crowd (the amateurs), lacks critical validation. For instance, “every post is just another version on another person version on the truth, every fiction just another version of another person’s version of the facts.” . This validation (as a critical framework) is embedded in academic education. He described the danger of downgrading the professional field itself and that “talent, as ever, is a limited resource….. nurturing talent requires work, capital, expertise, investment.” This talent should be created by professional education. He advocated for a critical evaluation of the professional field itself to deal with the, as he called amateurs, ‘Amateur Monkeys’ and to be aware of pitfalls. “These days, kids can’t tell the difference between credible news by objective professional journalists and what they read on joeshmoe.blogspot.com.” (Keen, 2007, p.3) The recent use of term ‘alternative facts’ emphasizes this development.
The continuing change where amateurism and professionalism fluidly merge into each other is happening in the wider perspective; this causes a friction that becomes visible in for example discussion around Uber or Airbnb. The discussion around how a critical framework can be implemented is interesting to bear in mind when viewing the ‘changing role of the designer’. Keen is very sceptical and thought that this critical framework could only be developed by professionals themselves in order to distinguish them. Leadbeater and Miller thought that this critical framework is developed mutually by professionals as well as Pro-Ams. “Professionals are more likely to understand the theory behind good practice, while Pro-Ams might have strong know-how and technique… The relationship between amateurs and professionals is becoming more fluid and dynamic. It is not a zero-sum game. Professionals and Pro-Ams can grow together.” (Leadbeater and Miller, 2004, p.23)
There is an urgency to debate this critical framework. It can’t be trusted within a fluid mechanism in a mutual understanding between professionals and Pro-Ams, as Leadbeater and Miller argued. This leaves too much space for ‘everybody has their own truth’ and ‘the mass is right’ or even ‘alternative facts’. However, the potential, the urgency, and the growing reality of fluid boundaries between professionals and Pro-Ams can create opportunities when they start cooperating within transdisciplinary settings, as mentioned in the previous chapter. These fluid boundaries are essential to overcoming our ecological issues. There is, therefore, an urgency to start implementing a critical framework that doesn’t ignore the existing fluid boundaries. This should be developed within the professional arena, starting with education.