Wednesday, April 16, 2014

On "Public Intellectuals," the power of the internet, and the Bolivian quinoa boom

This blog has been almost entirely about my time in Addis, but today I feel compelled to post about another topic that has long been near and dear to my heart, "public intellectuals."

A recent Nick Kristof column has led to renewed discussion of whether this is a disappearing role in today's fragmented academy. At least a couple responses to Kristof's column assert--much more succinctly--what it took me 30,000 words to say in my senior thesis: namely that there is way to tell this story that centers as much on the media channels available and how they serve consumers of intellectual ideas as it does on the vocational pressures of the academy. And in that story, the disappearance of public intellectuals isn't nearly as clear cut.

So, here's development economist Chris Blattman making the case for the era of web-based public intellectuals. And here's the Chronicle of Higher Education making the case for TED specifically as a launching platform for a new breed of "academic celebrities" (who they seem to find equally un-academic as the old breed).

I can also add, for those with a lot of free time, that I have now made my senior thesis available online. Note however that this was not prompted by the dialogue mentioned above, but rather by a paper I stumbled across on the socio-economic impact of the Quinoa boom on Bolivian farmers--the tie here being that in the far reaches of the internet, even the most esoteric treatments of obscure subjects have someone out there interested in them.

And if you want to know why I'm suddenly reading up on the Bolivian Quinoa boom, an indication of the answer can be found here.

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