Jeff Nunokawa & People-Centric Scholarship
A recent New Yorker Talk of the Town feature showed Jeff Nunokawa practicing his scholarship on Facebook. Rebecca Mead’s article “Earnest” compared Dr. Nunokawa writing his first book in a windowless basement with the way he connects today with his Princeton students. His “meditations” get read because they are brief, accessible and located exactly where his audience spends their time—Facebook.
“…I like the social-media element—I want it to be sociable. It’s not that I don’t want to be a scholar, but this is how I want to be a scholar.” (The New Yorker, July 4, 2011, 19)
Something good is happening here. And the good thing is not that scholarship is dumbed-down or going away. Tightly controlled, peer-reviewed articles using insider-only language will continue as a means of advancing scholarship. But this good thing is a fresh emphasis on accessibility: making the connections so more people can get pulled into the excitement of understanding. You may call it low-hanging fruit. But this copywriter sees it as a ministry to the human race.
At the moment, the academy doesn’t reward this: popular retelling of scholarship is often not tenure-track stuff. But the institutional gatekeepers will not have the last say, as more people join these ongoing conversations.
Something good is happening. Something new. I welcome it.
Image credit: Scott Dadich