Progym: Thesis or Theme
Media has become increasingly democratized in the internet age through blogs, YouTube, various social media, and forums. This is often portrayed as a beneficial or net-positive process, but Alacovska’s paper provides an interesting argument that in some cases, specifically in guidebook writing, this may not be the case. It may be the case that this democratization is in a way killing this section of the travel industry, or at the very least massively and irreversibly redesigning it.
Alacovska argues that democratization has allowed for several processes to take place: first, it allows the increasingly conglomerated media industry which owns many of the old guidebook companies, to rely on community and non-professional writers. The internet, and the massive willingness of people to share their travel experiences, allows them to moderate and profit from the free work of the many rather than paying the few. This has then had the secondary effect of the decline of guidebook writing as a profession, but rather as more of a hobby. Alacovska quotes one amateur travel writer, who says,
“my problem is that I’d travel, take photos and write in my free time… if I had any free time. I don’t. I’m too busy traveling, taking photos and writing” (49).
This is exemplary of the blurred lines between professional and amateur travel writing in this new age: you can be so involved and invested, yet for most, it is unfeasible for it to be their means of employment.
One argument to the contrary that Alacovska brings up is that this democratization
“empowers users to become media producers who participate in ‘produsage’… and dismantle the professional paradigms of creative industries” (43).
This argument posits that in fact, this process is better because it benefits the consumer by liberating cultural production and allowing the consumer to share voluntarily. However, this same process is what puts professional writers out of business and makes it harder for new, highly productive, “produsers” to turn their hobby into a career. This is not an even tradeoff, as this system benefits the publisher or media company over anyone else, including the consumer or amateur writer.