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Situating public intellectuals
journal contributionposted on 2015-08-31, 00:00 authored by David MarshallDavid Marshall, Cassandra AthertonCassandra Atherton
The concept of the public intellectual has always been a somewhat contestedterm. This article serves as both an introduction to the debates around what it constitutes and an entry point into how the new media environment is producinga different configuration of the public intellectual. Through key thinkers who have addressed the idea of the public intellectual internationally and those who havefocused on the Australian context, this essay positions the arguments made bythe authors in this special issue. Via a short case-study of TED, the conferenceand online idea-spreading phenomenon, it argues that the contemporary moment is producing and privileging a different constellation of experts as celebrities that match the exigencies of online attention economy. A shifted conception of the public intellectual is beginning to take shape that is differently constituted, used and situated, and this article helps to define the parameters for further discussion of these transformations.