Who are today’s amateurs ?



Alvin Toffler already predicted it in The Third Wave (1980): after the agricultural revolution (Neolithic age) and the industrial revolution (second half of the 19th century), the information revolution profoundly changed the way we act, interact and consume. We have a lot more resources to participate and create, which leads to consumers and citizen becoming ProAms, a term that emphasizes a blurring of the frontiers between professionalism and amateurism. A ProAm pursues amateur activities to professional standards, and this ‘raise of standards’ fuels innovation, as Charles Leadbeater tells us in the following TED-video…


Toffler couldn’t predict the rise of the web, even less could he imagine that the social evolution of the web, web 2.0, would enable exactly what he predicted. But the fact is that the web is becoming a wonderful nest of contribution and participation. A question remains: Who are these amateurs ? One of France’s major innovation blogs covered exactly this subject in two very interesting posts about the role of amateurs in today’s web culture.

Today’s amateurs are not highly qualified specialists with only a diploma in their field. A lot of them have gained knowledge by learning from other amateurs who shared their knowledge on the web. The information is often not verified but passion, engagement and the wisdom of the crowd have raised the set of contributions to astonishing levels of quality. The main reason for this is that participation is voluntary. Amateurs choose freely to contribute and therefore invest a lot of available resources into a project. Add to this that an amateur is driven by passion and that he has access to efficient tools and you will understand why output is often of pro-quality level! This is exactly what differentiates amateurism from « militantism » or « full-time employment ». It is only when there are no constraints (like a reputation to hold, a salary to earn or a role to assume) that participation makes sense for the amateur. His output will be less biased and he will feel that he is legitimate.


« Today’s amateur is a bottom-up expert »


Richard Florida describes the Creative Class as a group of workers (from ‘super-creative’ to ‘creative’) whose competencies will be the major driving force in our post-industrial world. This sounds very much like Toffler’s predictions, but Florida also restricts creativity to those who are only professionally creative. « If you use your creativity as a key in your work in business, education, health care,  law or some other profession, you are a member« , he says in the preface of his book. But what about the creative output that you don’t put into work? There is definitely a lot or surplus creativity in the world. Rather than disregarding it as output that the world doesn’t need, we should think of it as output that makes sense for the world. The key is to find a way to use it.



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Rarelly do these amateurs evolve into professionnals in their field of interest, and that’s not the aim either ! The aim  is the journey to recognition, the challenge to participate. The French blog post concludes with a convenient truth: « a lot of amateurs participate jus for fun, but they pit their work against professional standards« . That’s the essence of what Toffler thought 30 years ago, but probably no one would have acknoledged it in the 80’s…

About Yannig

Yannig was Marketing Manager at eYeka, responsible for PR, communication and research. Interested in marketing, innovation and design-related topics, he also loves to free his head by cycling, running, reading or drawing. Yannig, who holds an MSc from ESSCA School of Management and a PhD from University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, tweets under @YannigRoth and blogs at www.yannigroth.com
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One Response to Who are today’s amateurs ?

  1. Pingback: The diversity of participants in online co-creation | eYeka Co-creation Blog

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