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Speaking Power to Truth: Digital Discourse and the Public Intellectual

Speaking Power to Truth: Digital Discourse and the Public Intellectual (Paperback)

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Online discourse has created a new media environment for

contributions to public life, one that challenges the social

significance of the role of public intellectuals-intellectuals

who, whether by choice or by circumstance, offer commentary on issues

of the day. The value of such commentary is rooted in the assumption

that, by virtue of their training and experience, intellectuals possess

knowledge-that they understand what constitutes knowledge with

respect to a particular topic, are able to distinguish it from mere

opinion, and are in a position to define its relevance in different

contexts. When intellectuals comment on matters of public concern, they

are accordingly presumed to speak truth, whether they are writing books

or op-ed columns or appearing as guests on radio and television news

programs. At the same time, with increasing frequency, discourse on

public life is taking place online-l an environment that is

characterized by an abundance of speakers, discussion, and access. But

has this democratization of knowledge, as some describe it brought with

it a corresponding increase in truth?

Casting doubt on the assertion that online discourse, with its

proliferation of voices, will somehow yield collective wisdom, Speaking

Power to Truth raises concerns that this wealth of digitally enabled

commentary is, in fact, too often bereft of the hallmarks of

intellectual discourse: an epistemological framework and the provision

of evidence to substantiate claims. Instead, the pursuit of truth finds

itself in competition with the quest for public reputation, access to

influence, and enhanced visibility. In exploring the implications of

the digital transition, the contributors to Speaking Power to Truth

provide both empirical evidence of, and philosophical reflection on,

the current and future role of the public intellectual in a

technologically mediated public sphere.

Michael Keren is a professor and Canada Research Chair in the Department of Political Science and the Department of Communication and Culture at the University of Calgary. He is the author of many books on public intellectuals, political communication, and political literature, including Blogosphere: The New Political Arena and The Citizen's Voice: Twentieth-Century Politics and Literature. Richard Hawkins is professor in the Science, Technology and Society Program at the University of Calgary, senior fellow at the Centre for Innovation Studies (THECIS), and a fellow of the Institute for Science, Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa. He has served as policy consultant for such clients as the World Bank and Industry Canada and has authored more than a hundred scientific publications and technical reports on science, technology, and industry policy.

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