Blog Post

Who Are Your Favorite (New Media) Public Intellectuals?

I posted a blog entry last night on my conversation with a journalist covering race and new media.  The experience of writing the blog post confirmed my hopes for knowledge flow(s) outside the boundaries of the academy and my admiration for public intellectuals.

I have a favorite list of scholars and thinkers whose writing and works transgresses these boundaries which include Cathy Davidson, Cathy Cohen, Hatem Bazian, Andrea Smith. Nishant Shah, Tara McPherson, Achal Prabhala,  Helen Zia, Adrienne Rich, Mark Tribe, Susan Sontag, Angela Davis, and Audre Lorde... a name a few. I just finished reading selections of Susan Sontag's On Photography which demonstrates how theoretical interventions can move 'publically' and outside the boundaries of academic form.  Not surprisingly, I admire many of these scholars for their new media, activist, and artistic interventions. 

Who are your favorite public intellectuals?  How does one define a public intellectual? Does new media transform our possibilities + ideas of "public scholarship"? 

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Hi Ruby, 

Thanks so much for this fantastic list and I love your title '& everyone on Twitter!' That speaks volumes to what I am feeling, interested, and excited about; in terms of the expansion of what and who we define as 'public intellectuals.' I appreciate our HASTAC community so much,  engaging and learning from amazing folks like you, this list and comment provokes a lot of questions for me in generative ways!  I appreciate how you mention Jay Rosen was personally influential to you, and I feel the public intellectuals that move us on a personal basis, that make their work very meaningful on various levels. I look forward to engaging with Jay Rosen's work and Micah Slfry! MIcah's work sounds very innovative esp as a HASTAC for government!  I am moved as a citizen by the multiple communities and influences that we reside in, and am thankful to learn from you. Your comment about Twitter is absolutely on point in terms of the ways digital media opens up the forums for public engagement and thinking. This provokes many questions for me, (Im not an avid Tweeter)  and hope to enage further on these questions and points your raise!  They give me a lot of hope. Thank you Ruby for your insightful comment! I hope you are well, and so wonderful to 'see' you here in our virtual world. :)





Well I haven't attended graduate school, so these people aren't neccesarily scholars. NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen has been hugely influential to me. He has been explaining the relationship between old journalism and new media for many years now, and he is strill probing the critical question of what the future of the media might look like. 

Another thinker who I deeply appreciate is Micah SIfry, who co-founded and directs Personal Democracy Forum and techPresident, exploring how new media is changing politics and government. (Kind of a HASTAC for politics.) He was an editor at The Nation, has written several books, and just recently started teaching at Harvard, so I think he counts as intellectual. 

Oh, and pretty much everyone on Twitter, especially Zeynep Tufekci, Baratunde Thurston, Ethan Zuckerman, David Weinberger, and Osgyefo Sekou. I have a list of my favorites at



Normally I'm hesitant to respond to this type of post, not because I disagree with its purpose, or its intentions, but because I just have a hard time narrowing down my "favorite" public intellectuals.  I don't really like the idea of privileging a few individuals who perform what might be defined as public intellectualism.  I personally believe that we are all “public” intellectuals in so much as we engage with the cultures, the publics, the counterpublics, that define how we interact, relate to, and participate in the formations and discourses of “the public” versus “a public.”  I hope that no one views this as a negative response to this post; I only raise this point to say that I wish to think about every “public” intellectual and not just those whose intellectualism is publicized (if you get my drift) and that includes ourselves.  

I will admit though, that this post does say something about acknowledging those who have actively pursued and made an incredible impact on our culture through a particularly public intellectualism.  I will only add one name to this list because this person, I believe, not only could be defined as a “public” intellectual based on his publicized presence and on his national merits for politicizing and publicizing the importance of rhetoric in our culture, but he is also a “public” intellectual who directly recognizes the importance of promoting intellectualism in all forms and this person is Jeff Rice.  Now I'm doing the thing I didn't want to do and privileging one person over another, but I'm only doing so in this instance to say that Jeff's particular engagement with the communities that have shaped his own intellectual practices have been particularly important for me and has shown me how to engage with publics beyond the university walls.  Margaret, everyone on your list has, or still does, promote this particular value and that is maybe one key to defining a particular "public intellectualism": the ability to reach and make an impact beyond the publics/counterpublics that produce or alter our own positionality.