Pro-Am

The latest issue of the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing has an article entitled Between Expert and Lay — talking about the blurring of boundaries between amateur tinkerers and professionals. The article used the word Pro-Am to describe this blend.

I had never heard the word before. It is not a new coinage. The word is apparently used in the sports world. I guess that says something about me.

The article cited this essay / study / book as a reference. The essay is entitled The Pro-Am Revolution.

The first sentence of the essay mentions Linux. The discussion begins with open source. However, having introduced the topic via Linux and open source, the article goes on to explore the idea of collaborating amateurs blending into professional domains for a variety of other activities — and open source fades out. In fact, on page 31, when surveying fields of endeavor for pro-am activity, the list includes photography, playing a musical instrument, many others, and “maintaining a web-site”. That’s as close to “programming” as anything on the list gets.

There are some interesting observations. Like the fact that men are much more likely to be pro-ams than women. This is not restricted to any particular field of endeavor. Which seems to suggest that those fields of endeavor where “pro-amishness” is rising will tend to have fewer women involved.

Another observation is that most of the fields of endeavor tend to be age specific. Different fields, different ages. What’s the age range for pro-am software, I wonder?

Recommended. It ends with this observation:

Knowledge, once held tightly in the hands of professionals and
their institutions, will start to flow into networks of dedicated
amateurs. The crude, all or nothing, categories we use to carve up
society – leisure versus work, professional versus amateur – will need
to be rethought. The Pro-Ams will bring new forms of organisation
into life, which are collaborative, networked, light on structure and
largely self-regulating.

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