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January 08, 2004
"The dramatic increase in available information "

Here's an essay about the rise of the amateurisation of nearly everything with obvious educational vibes attached to it. I found it at a blog which a friend of mine recommended to me, as one of the best on general trends in technology, the internet, etc.


But it's not only equipment that separates the professional from the amateur, it's also access to information. The dramatic increase in available information constituted the second shift towards mass amateurisation (and was the first that the internet provided). Suddenly it became effectively effortless to research information online and to connect with communities of people interested in the same things. Film-makers could meet one another, animators find out each other's tips and tricks, audio-professionals could learn from and collaborate with their peers. Before the internet, large swathes of technical information had no accessible forum in which to be exchanged had previously been disseminated top-down via training courses, Universities and within industries. That remains true to an extent today but to a much lesser extent today much more information is available to everyone one way or another. This has had a parallel effect quite outside media production helping to amateurise almost every field of human activity from fixing cars to fixing people. For good or ill, self-diagnosis tools, support groups and dedicated information resources are increasingly helping people to figure out what's wrong with themselves and even (sometimes) to fix it.

And the reference to Universities shows that he knows it.

The traditional school was based on doling out scarce information. But now, the environment outside the school pulsates with information, and often the classroom is one of the most informationally impoverished environments most of us ever now experience. In a word it is boring.

The answer from your internet savvy teacher now is that without "education" you can't make any sense of all that "information" out there. Well, depending on your definition of "education" that may well be so. But the anti-classroom come-back is that you can surely get this "education" on the internet too.

Speaking for myself, I don't just get facts from the interenet. I also get the schemas and frameworks to make sense of and to arrange all these facts. I get understanding, as well as information.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:25 PM
Category: The Internet

But as a recent classroom teacher (now moved into full-time unionism) I have to wonder about how these internet-school gurus think that teenagers will just sit at home, willingly and earnestly educating themselves. Hasn't it occurred to them that a large % of children from Kinder onwards are now almost impossible to educate at school, even when given computer and internet access, because THEY ARE ALREADY BORED WITH IT. They have been sitting in front of PCs now for almost the last decade - to them it is no longer a novelty. Yes, for middle class, nicely brought up children, it may be a possibility,but even for them real live, personal relationships will go even further out of the window than they alreasdy have. I could go on, but won't!

Comment by: Jean on January 10, 2004 02:34 AM

The pity of it is, the internet has also increased the amateurisation of thingss in a bad way. Access to and communication of nonsense and propaganda has increased faster than that to sound information.

I'm very worried that people are not learning the critical faculties they need in an era of mass misinformation. Because it is now so fast and easy to get an answer, the extra work required to check it is a reliable and useful answer seems comparatively less inviting than ever before.

Compare the approach to everyday calculations of those who learned to number before and after universal use of pocket calculators, and you'll see what I mean. The second group are far more reliant on the calculator for the answer, but also much less questioning if a mis-pressed key throws up something odd.

Comment by: Guy Herbert on January 10, 2004 10:10 PM
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