Blog Post

Writing for the public

Dear HASTAC,

Hello! I recently successfully launched the first issue of a publication I've been building for quite some time now. Occupy America Issue 1 "Counter-Attacks" went live mid-November at http://occupy-us.org/

Several things stand out in contrast to the typical writing we are expected to produce in graduate school. First, the writing in this publication explicitly disavows jargon. The goal is to write accessibly to people who don't already know your vernacular. Even terms as seemingly obvious as "neoliberal" require a definition. This is kind of cool, because it forces writers to think critically about speaking to people outside of their ideological enclaves.

It's also an interesting task to write as a philosopher about contemporary social issues to the public in general. I have all these amazing ideas from complex thinkers and they inform the way I interpret the world. But If I start takling about zoe and bios and why Agamben means we're all gonna die it won't make sense to anyone outside of academia. So there's a real chance to stretch my mental muscles and introduce some flexibility into my writing. I get to write in a fashion that still communicates complex thoughts but does so in an inclusive, public-facing manner.

I also find myself performing a kind of informational synthesis that is different from theory-focused writing. Instead of tracing the evolution of concepts and peppering in empirical/historical data as the references that somewhat-legitimize the theory, my public writing takes the oppostie approach. I start with a trend among contemporary and recent-historical events I've noticed and then build outwards from that to generate an explanation that ties disparate pieces together. Since theory already begins from the viewpoint of standing above (or passing through) myriad different things, the expectations are different. When writing in this public manner I am forced to make explicit how distinct pieces actually fit together into a particular puzzle. This focus on connecting events is great, becaues it is explicitly political. There's a resaon why the mainstream media does not connect events in this fashion, so I know my writing is actively intervening in that.

I hope y'all find this as interesitng as I do. For the general ethos of the publication check out the Editor's Welcome Letter, and if you'd like to contribute just shoot me an email to be added to the writers list so I can notify you when we start soliciting writers for the next Issue! Also, Issue 2 on student power comes out this week!

Best,
Bobo

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