lawyers- we trust them, right?
accountants – oh we were supposed to read those filings?
teachers – sure, we all respect teachers.
doctors – professionalism in healthcare is an unalloyed good (exception proving the rule)
journalists – the New York Times always checks its sources
broadcast TV – Paris Hilton, all the time
industry analysts – ha, not professionals
and so on. If the cult of the amateur is growing, its a direct response to the failures of said professions. As budgets are repeatedly slashed (we can’t afford to actually audit those accounts!) authority dissolves and ethics collapse. The grassroots pro-am revolution didn’t create these problems, its filling a vacuum. Why are giving Keen the oxygen again? He is so clearly trying to parlay his way to a Nick Carr position.
I think Chris Anderson gets it right though. Wikipedia is where you start your research, not where you finish it. Are we witnessing a break down of authority? Yes. But we’re also witnessing an explosion of creativity and knowledge. What are professions? I would argue they are a relic of economic scarcity, in Andersen’s terms, just as much as the hit-driven music business is. The long tail of authority? Absolutely.
A solid update to the debate from Mr Carr himself, whose stance on wikipedia seems to be softening:
“What’s happening here isn’t about amateurs and professionals. George Washington was an amateur politician. Charles Darwin was an amateur scientist. Wallace Stevens was an amateur poet. Talent cannot be classified; it’s an individual trait. What’s happening here isn’t even really about expertise or its absence. The decisive factor is not how we produce intellectual works but how we consume them. When Gorman says we must cherish “the individual scholar, author, and creator of knowledge,” I can wholeheartedly agree (as most people would) and still believe that he’s missing the point. The millions of people who consult Wikipedia every day are not pursuing any kind of anti-expert or anti-scholar agenda. Their interest is practical, not ideological. They go to Wikipedia because it’s free and convenient. They know its quality and reliability are imperfect, but that’s a tradeoff they’re willing to make as they hurriedly fill their market baskets with information. It’s our mode of consumption that is going to shape our intellectual lives and even, in time, our intellects. And that mode is shifting, rapidly and inexorably, from page to web.”