I actually find myself agreeing with Andrew Keen. Today Keen responded to Patricia Cohen's NYTimes article on how the pending economic crisis will affect the humanities. Keen concludes:
What I do know for sure, however, is that academic humanists -- especially the younger ones with a bit of life left in them -- better upgrade themselves before they get totally swept away by the digital revolution. Their traditional monopoly on wisdom, humanistic or otherwise, is being undermined by the communications revolution of blogs, Facebook & Twitter. Rather than learning to quote Shakespeare or W.E.B. Du Bois, I would advise aspiring humanities scholars to learn how to build their own intellectual brands and distribute their ideas more broadly and relevantly. Just as the death of newspapers is forcing smart young journalists to become self-employed entrepreneurs, so the imminent crisis of academic humanity departments, which will eventually do away with the archaic tenure system, offers a great opportunity to rethink what it means to be a professional educator in the 21st century.
Leaving the sarcasm aside, I agree that contemporary academics have to do a better job building their relevance, and that we have an opportunity to rethink the profession of higher education. Actually, I think this work can be traced back to before the Web2.0 revolution: to Lyotard's critique of metanarratives of progress and knowledge. Jumping back to my Lanham post the other day, we need to reconsider Kant's fracturing of the professors' public and private lives. For Kant, the professor must, in the "public" of his intellectual discipline, speak freely. But in his "private" duties as teacher and citizen, s/he must obey. Hence the motto "think, but obey."
A few centuries later, I think that disjunction has lead to the circumstances that Richard M. Freeman, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education (quoted from Cohen's article):
But what we haven’t paid a lot of attention to is how students can put those abilities effectively to use in the world. We’ve created a disjunction between the liberal arts and sciences and our role as citizens and professionals.
Cohen concludes that "baldly marketing the humanities makes some in the field uneasy." But let's qualify this through Lanham: after the influence of the Modern Enlightenment, framing itself as something other than "stuff" makes the humanities uneasy. After the Modern Enlightenment, becoming a discipline founded upon praxis seems so inferior to being a discipline that focuses on production. Let's become something otherwise.