Attending Personal Democracy Forum, re:publica and other equivalent events has – both directly and indirectly – opened my eyes to the writing and thinking of a whole group of US public intellectuals. I’ve had fun meeting Jeff Jarvis, have heard Lawrence Lessig, Clay Shirky and Cory Doctorow present, and have subsequently come across the writing of Daniel Pink and Richard Florida.
All of these individuals have in part built their reputation online, and use the web (and in some cases especially Twitter) to enhance and promote their work. Their follower numbers and, especially for @DanielPink and @JeffJarvis, their degree of engagement via Twitter is impressive.
Aside from that all of them, except Doctorow, are American. Doctorow was born in Canada and lives in London, although how ‘UK’ that makes him I am not sure.
Essentially my point is this: where are the UK and European public intellectuals either active in this space between the internet, politics and society? The only person getting close in Europe that I am aware of is Markus Beckedahl @Netzpolitik with 33000 followers and considerable interaction. In the UK @RichardDawkins has more than 100000 followers, but all the content there seems to be an auto retweet of work of his foundation – what an opportunity he is missing!
I tweeted about this issue earlier, and the suggestions in reply were @crookedfootball @philipjcowley and @stephenfry. The first two might be intellectuals, but are not exactly stellar on Twitter. Fry might have 1.8 million followers, might be an intellectual, but is not best known for that.
So the search goes on… If you have any good suggestions please tweet them to @jonworth or comment here.
Finally the European answer – step forward Brit Sir Ken Robinson, speaker on this tremendous RSA Youtube film, has 33k followers @SirKenRobinson. I’ve also just come across Nicholas Kristof @NickKristof- 969k followers – incredible, even for an American in this sector!