The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted

Academics– and perhaps writers in general– tend to take the old bromide of the pen being mightier than the sword a little too literally. It’s as much of an aspiration as a truism, especially in the short term. Academics interested in writing and new communication technologies tend to overstated the already overstated. The revolution won’t happen online.

Texts are just not that powerful; at least, not yet. And the most communication technologies can do is facilitate communication. It’s a kind of power, but it’s also a very limited kind of power. As events in Egypt have shown, if the need is great, and enough people willing, there will be a revolution, however messy and complicated the results. Il ya un extérieur du texte.

I wish people in my field would take this lesson more to heart. Too often, I think, academics in general believe that the most important way they can exert the power that comes from their privileged status is to write books and teach. This belief is only reinforced by the new communications folks’ routine hyperbole. Academia won’t be fixed by Facebook, either. It takes organizing.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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