Has the Web Improved the Quality of Public Intellectuals? Drezner Makes the Case

At his blog, you can download the paper (via Political Theory Daily Review):

Will the World Wide Web midwife a new Golden Age of public intellectual life? There are reasons to be skeptical. Members of the intelligentsia initially embraced broadcast innovations of the past – radio and television – as potential breakthroughs in the ability to contribute to reasoned discourse. As the contours of these media have developed, the failure of these utopian visions to come to pass has soured many on the marriage between technology and thought. Already, some have argued that the Internet will simply exacerbate the decline in discourse observed in other venues.

This essay takes the contrary position: the growth of online publication venues has stimulated rather than retarded the quality and diversity of public intellectuals. The criticisms levied against these new forms of publishing seem to mirror the flaws that plague the more general critique of current public intellectuals: hindsight bias and conceptual fuzziness. Rather, the growth of blogs and other forms of online writing have partially reversed a trend that many have lamented – what Russell Jacoby labeled the “professionalization and academization” of public intellectuals. In particular, the growth of the blogosphere breaks down – or at least lowers – the barriers erected by a professionalized academy.