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See my article at Salon about Chomsky and Twitter.

This was originally posted at my blog Cyborgology – click here to view the original post and to read/write comments.

Larry Sanger and Evgeny Morozov have both critiqued the lack of rigor in modern technology writing.

The title of this post is an homage to two recent essays, the first being Larry Sanger’s “Is There a New Geek Anti-Intellectualism?” and the second Evgeny Morozov’s “The Internet Intellectual”, a recent scathing review of Jeff Jarvis’ latest book.

Larry Sanger’s critique of “geek” culture as anti-intellectual is a powerful read (even though I wrote a sort-of critique of Sanger’s post here; and he replied to me here). Sanger’s fundamental point is that modern geek culture is characterized by an anti-intellectual rejection of experts and I want to bring in Morozov’s review to highlight a slightly different point: the techno-experts embraced are anti-intellectual themselves.

My goal in this short piece is to encourage the reader to take a look at these two essays in tandem to suggest a further conversation about the need for public intellectuals, the role of academics in framing theories of new technologies and what the consequences are when we leave this discussion to be dominated by business folks.

To be read as a pair:

Is There a New Geek Anti-Intellectualism?, by Larry Sanger.

The Internet Intellectual, by Evengy Morozov.

To be honest, I tried to dislike Morozov’s review Read More »

This was originally posted at my blog Cyborgology – click here to view the original post and to read/write comments.

So many conversations that inform the content on this blog happen elsewhere, especially on Twitter. We’re going to better integrate Twitter and the Cybogology blog which will involve posting some of our personal tweets as well as conversations and debates with others here on the blog.

This past week I found a Noam Chomsky interview on a local “scene” blog here in DC. It was posted about seven months ago. In the interview, Chomsky talks about digital communication technologies and goes the route that so many older intellectuals do: electronic communications, be it texting, the internet or social media, are inherently “shallow.”

Here is the conversation on Twitter followed by a little more analysis that didn’t quite fit into 140 characters. Read More »

Larry Sanger, the co-founder of Wikipedia, wrote a wonderful piece on the rise of a new geek anti-intellectualism. The essay sparked much discussion and Sanger has done a terrific job responding to comments and even offering a thoughtful follow-up piece. However, I would like to write a short critique on a couple of points that have yet to be addressed.

Larry Sanger

First, I have to mention that contemporary anti-intellectualism was really my first academic interest, spurred in 2000 when I heard that Al Gore lost debates to George W. Bush because Gore “sounded too smart.” Hyper-focused on epistemology (the philosophy of knowledge) at the time, it was learning about the differences between Wikipedia co-founders Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales that first got me interested in technology as a topic of research. Sanger, himself having an epistemology background, wanted Wikipedia to have a component of expertism on the site. When that was rejected he left and started the Citizendium project. At war are two epistemologies: one based in populism and the other expertism (though, this conceptualization is far too simplistic, it will have to do for this short post). Read More »

Jeff Jarvis wrote a critique of having multiple identities on social media (find the post on his blog – though, I found it via Owni.eu). While acknowledging that anonymity has enabled WikiLeaks or protestors of repressive regimes, he finds little utility for not being honest on social media about yourself. Jarvis argues against having multiple identities, e.g., one Twitter account for work and another for friends or a real Facebook for one group and a fakebook (a Facebook profile with a false name) for another.

Jarvis argues that the problems associated with presenting yourself in front of multiple groups of people (say, your mother, boss, best friend, recent fling, etc) will fade away under a state of “mutually assured humiliation.” Since we will all have the embarrassment of presenting a self to multiple groups, we all will forgive each other so that others will return the same favor to us. Ultimately, “the best solution”, Jarvis argues, “is to be yourself. If that makes you uneasy, talk to your shrink.” This is reminiscent of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who stated “having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity,” or current Google CEO Eric Schmidt who said that “if you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

The obvious problem with this line of thinking is that the problems associated with displaying a single self in front of multiple populations is not “mutually” the same at all. Just as WikiLeaks or protestors often use anonymity to counter repressive and/or powerful regimes, we know that anonymity is also used by the most vulnerable and least powerful on the personal level as well. Jarvis misses the important variables of power and inequalities in his analysis.

Having a stigmatized and not always accepted identity can bring much conflict Read More »

The rant that anything digital is inherently shallow, most famously put forth in popular books such as “The Shallows” and “Cult of the Amateur,” becomes quite predictable. Even the underlying theme of The Social Network movie was that technology trades the depth of reality for the shallowness of virtuality. I have asserted that claims about what is more “deep” and “real” are claims to truth and thus claims to power. This was true when this New York Times panel discussion on digital books made constant reference to the death of depth and is still true in the face of new claims regarding the rise of texting, chatting and messaging using social media.

Just as others lamented about the loss in depth when moving from the physical to the digital word, others are now claiming the loss of depth when moving from email to more instant forms of communication. E-etiquette writer Judith Kallos claims that because the norms surrounding new instant forms of communication do not adhere as strictly to grammatical rules, the writing is inherently “less deep.” She states that

We’re going down a road where we’re losing our skills to communicate with the written word

and elsewhere in the article another concludes that

the art of language, the beauty of language, is being lost.

There is much to critique here. Equating “depth” to grammatical rules privileges those with more formal education with the satisfaction of also being “deeper.” Depth is not lost in abbreviations just as it is not contained in spelling or punctuation. Instant streams of communication pinging back and forth have the potential to be rich with deep, meaningful content. Read More »

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