My immersion in the first few years of the journalism PhD curriculum has not allowed me much of a chance to investigate certain avenues of inquiry that I am particularly interested in; however, now that I am entering my third year I have more freedom to focus on subjects I would like to explore. As it happens, my primary interests have shifted somewhat during the intervening time between the first post on this blog until now.
My area of focus currently is framed by issues that the Lippmann-Dewey debate conceptualizes. These include the nature of the “public,” “public opinion,” and “democracy.” I also am interested in the role of social media in various aspects of human interaction that apply to the concepts above, as well as how they are used in journalistic reporting and professional narratives. I investigate these issues in my other blog (http://johnhaman.wordpress.com). However, my goal here remains the same: relate what I research in media studies to the philosophical works of Søren Kierkegaard.
There are two primary reasons that motivate the comparison between Kierkegaard, a relatively non-influential philosopher in the field of media studies, and my work with social media and issues of public opinion & democracy stemming from case studies in journalism history.
One, I find Kierkegaard’s perspective to be personally significant. In many ways my study of Kierkegaard throughout the years has informed my views about many issues I confront today. Though I have barely cracked the vast reservoir of the ideas contained in his corpus, what I have encountered has convinced me of the value of applying existential values such as personal responsibility and meaning-making to contemporary situations. I believe these perspectives are often overlooked—and we are poorer for it. Applying a Kierkegaardian lens restores the “individual” to our thinking and prevents us from abstracting to far from the concrete experiences of our daily lives.
Two, there are genuine insights to be applied from the comparison. Although Kierkegaard did not write extensively on social issues, a few of his works like “Two Ages: A Literary Review” contain comments about the “present age” and the dangers that characterize it. His commentary referred primarily to mid-19th century Denmark but is resurrected by scholars today because of the timelessness of its critique:
In contrast to the age of revolution, which took action, the present age is an age of publicity, the age of miscellaneous announcements: nothing happens but still there is instant publication (TA, p. 70).
Indeed, these words could be written today about our own “present age” and one cannot help but think of social media like Facebook and Twitter where common topics are often revolve around “nothing.” Kierkegaard’s perspective on these issues, combined with the ideas in the rest of his writings, offer us an ethical/spiritual dimension that applies just as much today as it did 150+ years ago.