Thursday, May 26, 2005

Am-"Pro-Am"

For me, The Cathedral and the Bazaar (Eric S. Raymond) is a far better, far more interesting, far more useful account of the phenomenon that The Pro-Am Revolution: How Enthusiasts are Changing our Economy and Society (Charles Leadbeater and Paul Miller) wants to describe. It's just such a mess, that article. E.g. so, what's a pro-am then? At it's most gaseously expansive, their account seems to include anyone with a hobby, and yet in the main, they don't think it includes many women or working class folks.

Who is this paper useful for? Ah...exactly.

Here's my brutishly reductive reason why Raymond's work is so much better: Raymond is writing in the spirit and within the immanent economies of so-called "pro-am" activities while Leadbeater and Miller are writing in the spirit of pragmatic capitalism—that is, they want to "sell" the idea of pro-ams. Which, as far as I can tell, is a rhetorical style and an audience-address strategy anathema to "pro-am" activities (although Leadbeater and Miller don't characterise pro-am activities with nearly enough clarity or focus to know what might be anathema to them. In fact, one way of stating my problem with their paper is to say that nothing seems especially anathema to pro-am activities as they describe them. But doesn't something need to be, in order for the phenomenon they describe to have any critical-historical bite?).
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