The Rise of the Amateur

One of my recent purchases from my favorite store, Ollie’s, is a book titled Entertainment Theology: New Edge Spirituality in a Digital Democracy (notice the price on the Amazon website because I bought it for $2.99!). It is part of the Cultural Exegesis series published by Baker Academic, an arm of Baker Publishing. I’ve just started, but so far so good.

In the intro Barry Taylor, prof at Fuller Theological Seminary and artist in residence at the Brehm Center, discusses the “democratization” of our contemporary culture. By this he means that people are particularly skeptical of institutions and hierarchical authorities in exchange for accepting the more common ideas concerning ethics, information, and power of the common man. He says the following: “It is also an acknowledgment that the balance of power has shifted in the culture. A growing number of people are increasingly unwilling simply to accept the pronouncements of institutions, whether they be religious, political, or otherwise, and are instead looking to themselves, to their peers, and particularly to alternative resource centers, such as Internet Websites and contemporary media, in order to create new means for grappling with questions of ultimate reality.”

This isn’t necessarily a new idea for me, but something worth reflecting upon. He quotes later from an article in Wired magazine titled the “The Rise of Crowdsourcing: The Rise of the Amateur“. Apparently, his idea of democratization has already been encapsulated in the concept of crowdsourcing. What is crowdsourcing? Think of the cultural ramifications that Youtube, MySpace, and Facebook have had here in America. There is a common maxim which says, “It must be true. It was on Facebook.” Or, perhaps even worse, it’s close cousin, “It must be true. It was on Wikipedia.” The impact of everyday people, for better or worse, has taken over our culture and impacted nearly every sector of society. In 2006 Time named the “Person of the Year” to be “You”. You and I have taken over the societal powers through our 30 second videos, Facebook statuses, and this very blog. This is crowdsourcing. Interesting and scary, huh?

What impact does this have on us? What does it say about truth, authority, and knowledge? Has the “rise of the amateur” been a good thing or no? Plenty of questions could be listed, but what do you think? Any takers?

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