Amateur activism, or, classless broadcast


me on my first day of work at a snack bar, age 18, paid $8.25/hour

Fellow majors, I address you directly: the time has come for our last official reading. And what a ride it’s been! I know more about the workforce I’ll (hopefully) soon enter than I ever thought possible. This still may not prepare me for a career, but we can dream.

Anyhow. The chapters we’re focusing on are pretty segmented, so I’d like to focus on a broader topic within one that I found. I was particularly struck by something in the first chapter, as follows:

“the most admired artifacts on the new information landscape are Web 2.0 sites like YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Friendster, Second Life, Facebook, and MySpace, which, along with the exponentially expanding blogosphere, attest to the rise of amateurism as a serious source of public expression.” (21)

(side note: included above are some great almost decade-old essays about Web 2.0. Super weird reading them in retrospect.) These authors are also cited as providing “free or cut-price content,” (22) which apparently cuts out creative professionals. It reminds me of the old adage, which paraphrased, basically says that no matter how low of a price you’re willing to negotiate for a job, someone will always do it for cheaper (or free). I distinctly remember a conversation I had about this with Amaya when we were roommates, discussing the difficulty of finding a paid internship in Bangalore. Or the day in sem on which we found out who would work as a PA for a measly two dollars an hour (which Alex mentioned in her post last week).

Maybe Friendster, MySpace, or Second Life aren’t very relevant anymore, but some platforms had staying power. I could talk about YouTube, but I feel like Geoff has more knowledge in the field than I do, so we can all appreciate what he had to say while I talk about Twitter. It’s proved itself a gateway network to fame and publication. In recent years, Twitter has been the incubator for book deals, a way to spread news and act together, and a catalyst for widespread social movements.


I’ve been outed!

I get most of my news from Twitter (however, I am embarrassingly bad at creating good content, as you can see). I suspect many of you do as well. It’s a way to feel as if we are on the ground, even if we don’t have access to a place or movement directly.

The authors of social movements are often amateurs. Twitter provides a space in which anyone can document their surroundings, disseminate information, or voice opinions. Professionals whose work is carefully curated on (usually) either left or right leaning publications are not providing (again, usually) the full story. There is an editorial standard about it that must be met which blocks out so many who may be creating the zeitgeist itself. Twitter is truly of the masses, the proletariat platform. Think the Boston bombings, think Ferguson, the Egyptian revolution, think the very recent terrorist attacks in Lebanon and France. It provides a way for those effected to say something, and for those unable to access it, a way in.

This is not to say that creative/cultural professionals have no place in social movements. I think, however, that editorial content (which I certainly gobble up) and more fluid, accessible media can and should exist side by side. Twitter makes op-ed writers of all of us (thanks to a little project in ENG 231). I’ll leave you with a message from Tim Berners-Lee.


totally cried at this during the 2012 Olympics.



  1. A+ content babe

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