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May 27, 2008

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Dan Drezner believes that public intellectuals are back and that the blogosphere helps the cause. You can download his fascinating paper on the subject here.  In another post he mentions hs recent appearance on Steve Paiken's The Agenda (which he calls Canada's equivalent of Charlie Rose). Actually Steve's terrific show is but one of several Canadian broadcast venues for public intellectuals and informed and reasoned discourse. 


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I think this is the post you're looking for.


Whitney Gunderson

Lots of good insights in this paper. Is it going to be published? One thing I found especially interesting is the aversion to blogs in ranks of tenured academia. Why? Another good point is the fact that people spend more time blogging or glued to a 24-hour news cycle and less time reading the stuff the rest of us should be talking about more. I can understand the value of a blog to a new or upcoming author, but cannot imagine Norman Mailer, the author of Genius and Lust and Harlot's Ghost, taking time from his mistress(es) to blog.

Michael Wells

Blogs are the tip of the iceberg. The move to post academic papers, journals and books online will have an enormous impact on public discussion. It hits on Whitney's question of why tenured academics don't like blogs. Like ancient Egyptian scribes or Medieval monks, they've had a monopoly on the current knowledge in their field, and didn't have to talk to anyone but their "peers" about it. Now it's going to be out there and everyone can see it and talk/blog about it.

We've seen this reflected in the past in the distain of some academics for their colleagues whose books are actually bought and read by the public. Now they have endure seeing these renegade intellectuals actually talking online to US, the great unwashed. If they want to, as it were, compete in the court of public opinion they'll have to enter the blogosphere.

The public intellectuals of the past were just that -- public. They put their ideas out for the masses, or at least some of the masses, to read and react to. The Internet is probably the equivalent of Gutenberg's press in terms of social impact. Blogs are just part of it.

hayden fisher

I think it's cultural to some extent as well, look at the open-sourcing phenomenon and sharing of music remixes and mash-ups post-Napster. Society is becoming more open generally and many people seek respect as much as money; they want to earn respect for their ideas in addition to cash. And people want to teach and learn more loosely instead of only through formal educational channels.

The City Gal

It's about "access" to the intellectuals.

Having a forum 24-7 for discourse is making the difference, I think. Blogs are not replacing books, at all, but making the connection between the authors and the readers much stronger.

Zoe B

Blogs provide a person like me (living in a smaller city) a chance to discuss the stuff that's on my mind, with like-minded individuals, without having to live in a meBgalopolis or take a college class. I have greatly appreciated the chance to 'converse' this way regularly, and on my own time schedule. I like the mix of statistics and personal examples, the interplay of different professional and experiential viewpoints.

BUT to date, I find this blog is useful because most participants seem to have had a good education with some sort of disciplinary training. We like data and have clue about how to interpret it. There is a sort of peer review, since if I post a fuzzy thought someone will call me on it - generally, in a considerate and useful manner.

How many blogs can claim the same?

Further, what if my idea must be expressed in more than a few paragraphs? What if it takes years, sustained collaboration or research to develop those ideas? Who is going to train the next generation of contributors to the disciplined thought necessary for a useful discussion? If I have a good idea, will anyone cite it beyond the interplay of a single blog posting? We are generating multi-terabytes of ephemeral discussion. Will any historian sift through all the text of all the blogs (which is stored exactly where?) to interpret their greater meaning? How big a community of historians must have access to the data in order to generate a valuable debate about their greater meaning? If anyone will do it for this blog it is the folks at the Rotman Prosperity Institute, which is located within an academic institution. Who can afford to spend their time this way because someone is paying them a salary.

This blog is the child of academia and is interdependent with it. I am fortunate to be able to take advantage of both.

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