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Installectualism: Public Intellectuals in a Digital World

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Shanti, Ehab 


The emergence and exploitation of new communications tools gave birth to an entirely new breed of public intellectuals for which existing sociological and theoretical frameworks do not suffice to capture the nuanced yet unrestrained facets of the phenomenon and its transformative capacity. The thesis presents a new theoretical framework by building on a foundation of interdisciplinary inquiry into the major trends that constitute the communications revolution. Respectful of the three most salient features that make this an entirely new phenomenon (i.e., speed, contagion, and superficiality), the thesis advances the concept of Insta-llectualism (e.g., “insta” as in insta-success or Instagram) as a more apt definition of this new breed. The thesis crystalises three major components that constitute this emergent phenomenon using interdisciplinary research methods such as natural language processing (NLP), deep learning (DL), and network analysis. First, intellectuals as social media influencers and digital entrepreneurs. Secondly, how new mediums allowed for positioning and discourse that is more engaged, rapid, and viral, albeit often superficial and occasionally belligerent. Finally, how, through a complex algorithmic system of recommendations and reinforcement learning, machines have galvanised the phenomenon, established ego-centred network chambers, and created clusters of polarised communities.





Baert, Patrick


Artificial Intelligence AI, digital sociology, Digital trends, Discourse analysis, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, Network science, public intellectuals, Recommendation algorithms, sociology of networks


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge