Digital amateurisation and the implications for art research


In recent years the Internet has facilitated the spread of simplified media technologies allowing everyday people access to modes of expression that have hitherto been out of their reach. The increase in opportunities for the self-publication of writing, images, music and video outside of the mainstream commercial system but still provide exposure to a mass audience has lead to what Web commentator Clay Shirky has called “the mass-amateurisation of everything.”

As a result of the ubiquity of blogs and streaming video on the World Wide Web, new challenges have emerged toward established ideas of value, quality and commerce, but also toward ideas of subjectivity, expression and materiality. The continually tested boundaries of art are again forced to negotiate the impact of new mediative technologies. These amateur practices operate on both the edges of the established systems of popular culture and art which provides an opportunity to question the nature of these edges and what they actually delineate.

This paper seeks to investigate some of the implications of this ‘mass-amateurisation’ for art practice, teaching and research. The main areas of investigation are the role of the amateur in the cultural appropriation of technology and the relationship of these amateur technologies to art and academia.

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Ashley has been lecturing at the University of Newcastle for the past 6 years and was awarded his PhD from Newcastle this year. He as recently taken a position at the Queensland College of Art, at Griffith University’s Gold Coast campus lecturing in Art Theory. Ashley’s research is concerned with theories of digital media, web culture and photography.