Public Intellectuals on New Platforms: Constructing Critical Authority in a Digital Media Culture

  • Mikkel Bækby JohansenEmail author


This chapter introduces a multidimensional theoretical framework for studying public intellectuals in the digital media culture. The purpose of the framework is to retheorize the notion of public intellectual authority and autonomy in light of new media platforms and the transformed position of audiences. Constructing public intellectual authority is a complex process involving six interrelated dimensions: (1) qualification, (2) institutions, (3) media, (4) discourse, (5) personality, and (6) users. Although the chapter is mainly theoretical, the framework is illustrated by empirical examples taken from the online intellectual community, “The Intellectual Dark Web” (IDW). As a case of contemporary public intellectualism, the IDW is characterized by the use of social media, YouTube and crowdfunding sites to circumvent legacy institutions. However, this circumvention does not represent a realization of the ideal of intellectual autonomy. On the contrary, public intellectuals have become platform dependent. Changing media logics, platform infrastructures and new forms of user engagement play significant roles in shaping the public intellectual conversation. The framework presented in this chapter aims to provide future empirical studies with the analytical tools to explain the complex process of constructing public intellectual authority in a digital media culture.


Authority Intellectual Intellectual Dark Web Platformization Public intellectual Social media 


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© The Author(s) 2021

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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