Thoughts on Tim Dunlop’s “If you build it they will come”

The democratization of content through the web has allowed for a new type of intellectual and political commentator that is not tied to the old journalistic structure.  Instead, anyone with access to information and the desire to analyze and share their findings can reach a large audience through blogging.

Tim Dunlop expounds on this phenomenon in an article called If you built it they will come: Blogging and the new citizenshipHe writes on the need for bloggers to create a new form of public discourse, one that does not attempt to “emulate the sophistication of an academic paper” or “the precision of a news report,” but uses the unique functions that blogging provides to their advantage. 

The idea is to transform the role of the public intellectual, from a highly educated member of the elite “dumbing-down” their work and disseminating it to the masses, to a participatory network where information is shared, ideas formed and synthesized, and minds changed.  In this model, the writer’s social status is largely irrelevant, objectivity is unnecessary, and the accuracy of the work can be questioned by the readership without the legitimacy of the work also being questioned. 

Dunlop references the once commonplace view of intellectualism requiring a sort of “metaphysical detachment” by an “elite wedded to positivist, objective knowledge”, and argues that this detachment is counter-productive to a public intellectual online, saying this view “cannot survive the rigors off modern, populist democracy.” 

My generation, with its heretofore-unknown access to up-to-date news and information does not have the patience to have this information explained to us from on high.  Instead, we have received a call to action of participation and citizenship, fueled with the desire not to lecture, but to discuss, imparting knowledge to the reader while allowing our own opinions to be challenged by our readers.  This new model is that of political commentator Andrew Sullivan or statistician Nate Silver who are taking their vast stores of knowledge and expertise into the sphere and saying, “Let’s have a conversation about it.”


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