If you wanted to be a doctor in the mid-1800’s, all you needed was a high school degree and some training from an individual already practicing medicine.
Without requiring a great deal of expertise, a consumer of health care could become a practitioner of health care. Obviously, times changed in the century that followed. Modern day doctors were required to endure much more rigor, as they refined their education, skill, expertise, and research knowledge, rivaling the medical requirements of their former 19th century colleagues.
However, the opportunity to become a practitioner again without a great deal of expertise is emerging once more. Why?
In today’s world, everyone and anyone can become a practitioner of sorts in a variety of genres. Access to advanced technology tools are helping traditional consumers become immediate practitioners. For example in the past, publishers were gatekeepers because they only accepted a limited number of titles per year for publication. One might argue this gatekeeping kept quality control in check, and of course, publishing houses deserved the right to find appropriate matches for long-term partnerships. However, with the advent of self-publishing and its current acceptance as a credible venue, almost anyone can publish almost anything.
The consumer can even be a co-creator in the process. For instance, young children can record narrations for e-book stories, complete with their own voiceover recordings. Modern developers of e-learning have also been able to create their own voiceover recordings for educational courses in tools such as Articulate Presenter and Articulate Engage. In the past, voiceover talent was an expert profession that was hired through a talent agency. But today’s tools have opened up the field, and now afford the modern consumer with the opportunity to be their own talent and record their own voiceover.
Photography is another example of a trade that was highly regarded as a skilled profession by those who demonstrated technique and owned the expensive equipment necessary to shoot quality images. Now rivaled by the advanced camera technology in tablets and smart phones, quality photos are just a pocket away–not to mention, the accessible photo editing software available to consumers these days. This access to high quality photography tools and photo editing make it easier for the average consumer to shoot a panoramic photo or add color tinting to an image, and share it immediately with the world. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, photos and images are now ubiquitous.
Creating multimedia presentation visuals four decades ago was also a real art form. Only specialized professionals who had the right tools and the time to produce quality visuals–some of them, by hand–could do so. With current presentation tools like the most current version of Microsoft PowerPoint becoming more and more powerful each year, it’s becoming easier to create professional-looking visuals more quickly.
Additionally, quality videography was formerly a skill reserved for hired professionals to capture special occasions. Yet with quality video equipment just a pocket away and access to global publishing via YouTube at your fingertips, the role of practitioner once again trumps the lone consumer. Additionally, with tools like Apple’s iMovie templates, the average consumer can create a professional-looking video rather quickly.
Even medical websites such as webmd.com and mayoclinic.org (although certainly not a replacement for health care) are used by some health care consumers to, at least, help diagnose symptoms and treatments or even rule out certain diagnoses. This, once again, illustrates the power of consumer access and its contribution to a shifting practitioner trend.
Lastly, articles and opinion pieces formerly reserved for newspaper journalists and authors can now be published by . . . well, anyone. Tools for writing and publishing personal blogs are now readily available to the everyday consumer.
The bottom line? Well, if you’re not a photographer, journalist, videographer, voiceover talent, medical assistant, or author by profession, you still can be a practitioner “of sorts” in each of these genres.
So the question is . . . what is the cost to society? What role do the former “experts” begin to play? When we no longer need a “blacksmith” because we’ve all become “blacksmiths” ourselves, what happens? And at some point, how do we fill the knowledge, quality, and expertise gap formerly required to do a job skillfully? Do the right tools or even access to them guarantee quality or expertise?
Even though we may have some quality graphic tools at our disposal, it alone does not make us extraordinary graphic artists. Quality and expertise continue to be earned from talent and skill, in-depth study, wealth of experience, problem solving, passion and drive, mentoring, learning from mistakes, and repeated application over time. However, these modern day tools and our access to them can certainly be a starting point for building practitioner expertise more rapidly than ever before. And of course, we don’t have to just sit on the sidelines anymore.
How do you think the trend of “practitioners replacing consumers” will impact our world?
What say you?