This is the kind of blog post I would do to explore ideas as part of a thesis or book chapter, journal article, etc. Linking is very helpful because you can always go back to these websites and writing a blog post can assist you with recording your thoughts in relation to these sources at a particular time. I would call this type of post ‘research exploration/generation’ or ‘academic engagement’. For me, I’m not too interested in researching this at the moment, it is an idea that I am parking for later. Also notice that I have inserted ‘Continue reading…’ to avoid an overly long, visually uninteresting post. Note how images are referenced and linked to original image locations on the web.
I was reading Noam Chomsky and the Public Intellectual in Turbulent Times which cites Terry Eagleton’s definition of how academics are different from public intellectuals:
Intellectuals are not only different from academics, but almost the opposite of them. Academics usually plough through a narrow disciplinary patch, whereas intellectuals …roam ambitiously from one discipline to another. Academics are interested in ideas, whereas intellectuals seek to bring ideas to an entire culture….Anger and academia do not usually go together, except perhaps when it comes to low pay, whereas anger and intellectuals do. Above all, academics are conscious of the difficult, untidy, nuanced nature of things, while intellectuals take sides. … in all the most pressing political conflicts which confront us, someone is going to have to win and someone to lose. It is this, not a duff ear for nuance and subtlety, which marks them out from the liberal.
Yesterday I taught a interactive session for part-time lecturers and postgraduate students on evaluating their digital footprints and strategies for creating a stronger academic presence online. In academia today, how one is represented online to the public has become increasingly important. Firstly, you need to be ‘findable’ and secondly, a good online reputation with clear and actively marketed research outputs can increase your citations, and thereby, impact factor.
I feel that how I use social media as an academic makes me a public intellectual. While Eagleton is using this distinction to his own political ends, I don’t think he could predict the blurring of boundaries that was to come. I share my research and resources publicly and embrace OERs. I have created one for OpenUCT (available here) and will continue to do so in the future. Also think about ‘rockstar’ model MOOCs which feature high-profile lecturers: they are no longer hidden away in the ivory towers of universities. Does Eagleton’s distinction work in the online public sphere? I think not.
Paula Orlando’s blog post Revisting Richard Posner’s Decline of the Public Intellectuals Thesis also presents an interesting view. My feeling is that how public intellectualism is taking shape is different today, and there are different dynamics at play. The same can be said for Higher Education. Regarding the online more specifically, we probably still find academic overspecialization and niches forming around particular online communities. Is it that since 2003, the rise in social media has possibly caused an increase in public intellectualism in some areas? Some interesting thoughts to ponder…
Terry Eagleton, “The Last Jewish Intellectual,” New Statesman, March 29, 2004; Edward Said’s notion of traveling theory can be found in Edward W. Said, “Traveling Theory,” in The Edward Said Reader, edited by Moustafa Bayoumi and Andrew Rubin (New York: Vintage, 2007), pp. 195-217.
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