Blogger Jeremy Wright was denied entry to the United States and was strip searched by the US Department of Homeland Security. One of the reasons for the suspicion was that the officer didn't believe blogging was a profession. "Blogging ain’t a job," said the officer. (Maybe I should modify my last post about amateurs and blogging...) Jeremy has posted a followup entry which is sober and balanced. He quotes from memory part of the exchange with the DHS officer.
Him: Why would you visit someone in the states you’d never met (I mentioned I was planning to visit several people whilst down there)Good point about sarcasm. On my blog I talk tough about DHS and immigration, but in front of a DHS officer, I'm very polite and try to say "yes sir" a lot... Immigration is definitely not a good play to practice your sarcasm.
Me: Well, I have met most of them, but I’ve talked to them dozens or hundreds of times online.
Him: Do you have any of their phone numbers?
Me: No, but I talk
Him: You can’t talk to someone without a phone number. Stop lying to me.
Me: No, really, I can talk from my computer to theirs
Him: Don’t be a smartass. If you don’t have their phone number, and you’ve never met them, how can you have ever talked to them.
Me: … (at this point I’ve learned that sarcasm doesn’t help, nor does answering questions he doesn’t want to hear the answer to)
Him: So, you’re trying to tell me that you’re going to visit someone who you’ve never met, never talked to and who knows nothing about you? And I’m supposed to believe this?
In yesterday's discussion and in Charles Leadbeater's discussion the day before, there was a lot of talk about the rights of amateurs, the "pro-am revolution" and other arguments about how amateur content and creativity was important. I described how in the blogging world, it's mostly the people who create content who "pay" in contrast to the professional content world where it is the creator who gets paid. I talked about how Creative Commons was really helpful for amateurs who were more passionate about having their works widely accessible than making money. This is not to say that Creative Commons isn't useful for other things of course.
There was a bit of slippage in the discussion in the afternoon when several people pointed out that maybe I was suggesting that amateurs shouldn't/couldn't become professionals. The point, if I understood it correctly, assumed that most amateurs wanted to be professionals and that somehow amateurs were proto-professionals or professional wannabes. At least some of them.
I think this is a mischaracterization and maybe a reason to dump the word "amateur". I think that in the case of many amateurs such as many bloggers, Wikipedians and most open source developers, the amateurs are happy being amateurs and don't feel that they are in any way inferior to their professional counterparts. Many of the heads of open source projects have a day job, but probably believe that they are superior to comparable professionals at Microsoft or other software companies. I doubt that many Wikipedians wish that they could get paid for what they do. There are very few people who prefer professional sex to amateur sex. (I think I got this example from Steve Weber's book.)
My sister pointed this out to me last week by IM as well. I think the answer lies in the mode of production. Money creates a power relationship between the payer and the payee. I think cases where the production is happening in some sort of enterprise or a "firm" where having a manager and having access to resources allows production to be more efficiently, financial relationships and "professionalism" seem to "feel OK." On the other hand, when working in what Yochai Benkler calls "commons-based peer-production," the "professionalism" is replaced by amateur passion as a primary driver.
I pointed out several times yesterday that I don't want to impinge on the rights of professionals, but I believe that monopolistic professional organizations such as rights collection agencies, the Hollywood lobbies and Microsoft are hurting the ability for amateur artists from participating by creating technology and legislation that focuses exclusively on protection instead of the sharing of creativity. I think it is the role of government to call into question the practices of these monopolies which are the unfortunately byproduct of an unchecked free market economy and prevent the passing of legislature that increases the power of these monopolies such as software patents and extension of copyright terms. Instead, they should be focusing on activities that make it more difficult for such monopolies to form such as focusing on open standards and open source and whenever possible, preventing proprietary standards from being funded by public funds.
I'm now at the Creative Capital Conference. Free WiFi. Yay! The DNS from the DHCP didn't work though so you have to find one and enter it directly... anyway.
It looks like a very interesting conference. Some of my favorite speakers are here including Charles Leadbeater and Pekka Himanen (who I was just with in Madrid). The other speakers sound interesting too and I look forward to their presentations. I will be giving a keynote on the 18th at 11:00, doing at Q&A at 11:30 and will be on the "Publicly Financed Content" panel at 13:00.
Today, the 17th, there will an all-afternoon gathering of Creative Commons projects from across Europe. This is the first time they've assembled in one meeting and I look forwarded to hearing about all of the projects.
The mayor of Amsterdam is speaking now kicking off the talk with a quote from Richard Florida talking about how businesses seek out creative people, but people seek out cities with other creative people. He is talking about the creative capital of cities.
I've been using Richard Florida's "Creative Class" to identify the new class of people who are anti-establishment, proactive, creative, connected... you know... us. Francesco Cara and Jyri Engeström turned me on to Richard Florida's work. (Everyone else in the world appears to already have known about him once I started to get excited.) I just read Karrie Jacobs's criticism of Richard Florida and his Creative Class quoting a discussion with John Thackara, the organizer of Doors of Perception, the conference I will be speaking at next. (via Gen Kanai) It's an interesting criticism and it argues that "In other words, Florida has taken something qualitative and turned it into something quantitative." I agree with some of the points, but I think that there is a class of people who seem to have more similarities across countries than other people in the region. If you look at the proliferation of things like social networking software and blogs in countries like Brazil and Iran, I think that broadband users in these countries have more similarities to the creative class in other countries than to their parents. I think that from a social software and remix culture perspective, this is very interesting.
I'm at the airport in Milan after being allowed to talk almost non-stop for three days. Thanks to everyone for listening. The spectrum of locations was exciting ranging from squats to universities to a industry press conference. Thanks to Donatella and Laura for organizing everything and managing the trip. Thanks also to everyone for the arguments, suggestions and questions. I have a lot to think about and it also helped me tie a bunch of new things together in my head.
I'm off to Amsterdam to attend the Creative Commons meeting tomorrow and speak at the Creative Capital conference. See you there.