Yesterday I wrote about my impulse to conduct an informal poll of a handful of folks I follow on Twitter, each of whom has something to say about one or more of the core concerns of this blog: media, journalism, historiography. To date, I have tweeted (some through DM, others by way of @reply) eight people, all of whom I know only through Twitter, some of whom have engaged with me in the past on various matters. To each, I posed a version of a simple question:
Hey. For an informal poll of some folks I follow on Twitter: who are your intellectual (philosophical/theoretical) exemplars/heroes?
As I noted yesterday, @CodyBrown was first off the mark, with his speedy and decisive nomination of Mario Savio. Later in the day, another of my addressees got back to me with two tweets enumerating several possible candidates.
I still read Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein, everything else collects dust.
But I also like the “self-help” genre: Seneca, Thoreau, and so forth.
This from @nk, aka Nick Kallen, whose Twitter profile is, like his handle, succinct enough: “Wealth and personal achievement expert.” I started to follow Nick around the time that Twitter was rolling out its “lists” function, with which he was closely involved. The only other things I know about him are that, at last count, he has roughly 300,000 followers, and that he lives and/or works in San Francisco, where I resided for part of the year that I taught at the Stanford Humanities Center.
While Seneca would no doubt appear on my own list of exemplars – after all, I borrowed the title of his essay on “The Brevity of Life” for my last book*, and urge anyone who will listen to read it (the essay, that is) – and while I have no problem understanding the “self-help” classification under which my hero appears in the tweet, the most striking thing about Nick’s response was not his short “list” of luminaries, fascinating as it is in response to my query, but the fact that a guy like him (as I imagine him, to the extent that I do so) would have volumes of philosophical writing lying around his place collecting dust. Absent @nk’s reply, I would not have associated him with that particular particulate matter.
This morning, after sending another round of @replies to the malingerers, I promptly heard from @ryansholin.
Tough one. I’m inspired by Chaplin, Hemingway, Godard, Han Solo, but certainly don’t try to live like them. Except for Han.
@ryansholin’s profile identifies him as “Product Manager, Local Sites at Gannett Digital. I make/do/talk about cool things for journalists. Also, a lot of parenting. And some humor, if I’m lucky.” It also provides a link to his website, http://ryansholin.com, aka Invisible Inkling: Ryan Sholin on the future of news. And other stuff. I came to know of Ryan, and to draw on his expertise, through a very cool thing for journalists that he helped develop and distribute: publish2, a news sharing and archiving program that I have found useful. So evidently I’m in Ryan’s debt several times over. And I congratulate him on his new job, where he is sure to do more cool stuff for journalists and their readers, thereby (to my mind) outdoing even Han.
Further poll results and (possible) aggregation thereof in due course.
* The text of The Brevity of Life: What AIDS Makes Legible appears in this blog’s archives.