The Network Celebrity

Fred Turner and Christine Larson, both researchers at Stanford University, have just published an article in Public Culture on a new type of celebrity – the network intellectuals. Discussing the examples of Norbert Wiener, Stuart Brand and Tim O’Reily, the authors present a compelling account of how opinion leadership is both outcome of network effects and entrepreneurial zest to create those networks and opportunities in the first place.

In their historical and iconographic review of Wiener, O’Reilly and Brand, the authors find that the network intellectual is both a spokesperson, who condenses interests not yet formulated as an agenda, as someone who is actively pursuing to build a community to support his (or her) interests and who is committed to spreading a worldview beyond those circles.

Their power and their celebrity no longer come from the ability to express ideas in words or the ability of mass media technologies to broadcast images around the world. Rather, they come from the ability to build new social networks, to generate new ideas, new language, and new identities within them and, ultimately, to promulgate these networks’ labors—all in such a way that entrepreneurs can come to stand before the public as emblems of the worlds they have helped create. Celebrities in this model are hardly empty vessels. Rather, they are full to the brim with the cultural assumptions and social aspirations of the communities they represent (p. 80)

Turner, Fred, & Larson, Christine. (2015). “Network Celebrity: Entrepreneurship and The New Public Intellectuals.” Public Culture 27(1): 53-84. doi:10.1215/08992363-2798343

Further reading:

The Nodes in Academic Publishing

Back in 2010, Nicholas Knouf developed a visualization of journals belonging to Elsevier, John Wiley & Sons, Taylor & Francis, and Springer among others. His findings were published in Vol. 1, No. 1 of the open access Journal of Journal  Performance Studies, a publication created expressly for this task that never saw a second issue.

In total, Knouf analyzed 16,000 journals, rendering transparent what many scholars knew for a long time. The publishing of academic journals shows similar signs of concentration like other industries handling time-sensitive goods. The irony is of course that knowledge used to mature in far slower intervals, in which the quarterly appearance of a journal was merely a way to test new ideas and present preliminary findings. Before the book was out. Now, articles online “ahead of print” are already cited by colleagues before their author ever hold a printed copy in their hands. It’s online first (and soon only).


via Rogue Scholar Research Group

Support the “World Hobbit Project”

Reposted call from Martin Barker (

The “World Hobbit Project” is a seriously ambitious attempt to gather responses right across the world to the films of The Hobbit with the aim of being able to explore both the patterning of the reception of the films (against many variables [country, language, age, sex, educational level, kind of work]) but also to open up an investigation into the changing position of ‘fantasy’ in contemporary culture.

With just a very small research grant from the UK’s British Academy, research partners in 47 countries agreed on a complex quali-quantitative questionnaire, which is currently recruiting responses in 33 languages at this address:

There are already 27,500 responses but we do need more, to be sure that we can with confidence make cross-cultural comparisons, and we have absolutely no money for publicising the project.  We will be hugely grateful if colleagues could help in different ways:

  • complete the survey yourself, if you have seen the films.
  • pass on this information to students, colleagues, family, friends, and asking them to do the same.
  • mention and point to the project’s address in blogs, postings, and conversations.

What can we offer in return?  All our findings will be made publicly available, in as many forms as we are able; and once we have completed our own work on the database, the entire body of data and materials will be placed in the public domain for other researchers to use in whatever way they choose.

Best wishes, and thanks everyone

Martin Barker (

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