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March 19, 2004

Another note on the title

The winner of best essay on blogging at the Bloggies this month was Tom Coates' excellent 'Weblogs and The Mass Amateurisation of nearly Everything'. The word amateur is rarely more of a complement than when it is invoked in memory of that band of leisurely experts: the gentleman amateurs.

These fellows, often clerics in a quiet English parish, spent the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries indulging general passions for science, nature, mathematics and anything which took their fancy. Their work laid the basis for much of modern science and economics, for example.

The death of the amateur was heralded by the coming of the professional. The logical extension of professionalism has been a gradual reduction to individual expertise that sees two scientists of the same discipline almost unintelligible to one another.

In the writing of Making the Net Work, my co-authors and I were most taken with the potential for new technology to restore some of the benefits of generalism such as new perspectives on sustainability through making connections between different but similar or linked phenomena. A more systems-based approach advocated by the likes of Fritjof Capra will need generalists as much as the specialists to work.

What is so exciting about blogging, therefore, is its potential for realising this. As our book argues, not only is the net uniquely designed to make these connections, but to encourage a more systemic approach to science, culture, technology and society.

So then, let's hear it for the return of the gentleman amateur.

March 19, 2004 in Weblogs | Permalink


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