What is left of professions? What is left of the product?

“And, culturally speaking, it seemed there was a market place embracing the experiments of young thinkers and makers who, simply, couldn’t wait until their 40s to become independent and do their own thing. At this point, being an amateur was not an impediment to setting forth and practising what you were never trained to do. The ‘Professional Amateur’ blossomed. And it gave us all much hope that we may, somehow, transcend the limits of our supposed disciplinary trajectory. We could make getting lost a way of a living.”
Shumon Bazar, The Professional Amateur, 2006.

One of the biggest loss that has welcomed us to the 21st century is the disappearance of a (standard) set of references for evaluating one’s work. As knowledge is becoming increasingly available through cheap and widespread sources, it is remarkably easy to possess some skills of a profession, though sometimes without grasping what used to be its core values. This implies that we are often losing grip on the priorities in our work.

The availability of data as a response to everything we do is making us subjugated to the preferences of the public, which is often becoming the only reference point for evaluating one’s work. While welcoming the work of amateurs is undoubtedly broadening the traditional limits of professions, the ones who used to act inside those limits are increasingly feeling disoriented.

“If we should unfortunately find ourselves disoriented, the sensations of anxiety and terror that would go along with the loss of orientation would reveal up to what extent our feelings of balance and well-being depend from it. The very words ‘get lost’ mean, in our language, more than a simple geographical uncertainty: they implicate an aftertaste of total disaster”
Kevin Lynch, The image of the city, 1960.

What is now affecting professions has already happened to products since the rise of post–fordism. Losing a precise frame of reference such the factory or the production chain, products are now tirelessly traveling from one country to another, fueled by cheap logistics and labour force. Which value and meaning should we pick for products and professions in such a rapidly changing environment? Our next contributor, Andrea Facchetti, will try to shine a light on the role of the designer.