The term “Public Intellectual” has been circulating around academia for quite some time, but what does a Public Intellectual do? A simple answer could be that it is an intellectual who addresses the public sphere. But, in what ways does an intellectual utilize a public domain? Hua Hsu asks “How does one address a public that is constantly shape- shifting, expanding, an infinite terrain overrun with opinion?” I pose a question asking what constitutes intellectual material and who is an Intellectual?
Hsu finds “Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads allow us to instantly share what we read and think about with thousands of friends and strangers. Every day millions of people online model intellectual engagement and critical scrutiny for all to see.” This kind of thinking proposes that all people have access to these platforms, so is someone without a degree discussing a novel an Intellectual? Can their opinion be useful? What if the discussion is about the weather and the author has credibility within their profession? This is where this kind of publicity gets complicated. The ease to access virtually anything on the internet deems suspicious to me. Who can I trust with intellectual conversation? Are the platforms in which Intellectuals post what distinguishes and Intellectual from an average writer? And, how does one categorize which platforms are to be trusted and unbiased?
Hsu gathers that the public sphere is ever changing and that adjusting to this shifting world is crucial. So is Hsu proposing academics adopt journalism? I don’t necessarily think so. I find that this public sphere of writing is just academia adjusting to the shifting world. What is problematic though, is how the Public Intellectual fits in with this shift. How do we keep ourselves as intellectuals? And again, what is intellectual material?
Hsu, Hua. “In the Context of Infinite Contexts.” PMLA 130.2: 2015. 461-466. Web.