What does it mean to be a public intellectual?
A generation ago, it meant you were a faculty member at a prestigious university, appeared as a pundit on popular TV programs, contributed op-eds to the New York Times, or wrote influential books. Today, the Internet has transformed the media landscape. Social media outlets like Twitter and Tumblr are our new public squares, and a fresh generation of black thinkers are using those digital tools to establish themselves in what Michael Eric Dyson calls the "black digital intelligentsia."
But while the Internet is democratizing the intellectual playing field, are there any drawbacks to this digital transformation? If Twitter makes it so easy to cultivate a large following, what does it mean to still "do the work" of being a public intellectual? And why is writing a book still so darn important?
On this episode of Intersection, Jamil Smith talks to Georgetown University professor and New Republic contributing editor Michael Eric Dyson about his theories on black intellectual movements, as well as some of the critiques he's been facing. They're joined by Jamilah Lemieux, senior editor at Ebony magazine, and Salamishah Tillet, author and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who discuss the power and pitfalls of using the Internet to transform American ideas.
For more, peruse this week's reading (and listening) list.
- Think Out Loud, by Michael Eric Dyson for the New Republic
- Defining Today's Black Intellectuals, a Twitter conversation between Michael Eric Dyson and Eddie Glaude on Storify
- When Black Twitter Sounds Like Something You Don't Understand, by Jamilah Lemieux for Ebony
- They Started a Hashtag and a Civil Rights Movement, from PRI's the World
- Letter to My Son, by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic