This is for my colleagues in psychiatry and psychoanalysis. We have immersed ourselves for years–decades in the case of my own cohort–in the effort to understand why people do what they do–and how to help them change. We have important insights into the issues that confront society. But it doesn’t help much if we only talk to ourselves. I want to encourage each of us to develop his or her own voice as a public intellectual. Find a way that suits you that enables you to participate in conversations in the “public square”. The public needs good ideas, and good ideas need a public hearing.
There are many ways to develop a public voice and join in the conversation outside of our institutes, departments and academic journals. The traditional ones–writing for newspapers and magazines–should not be forgotten. But the Internet offers new ways to communicate that are exciting and different. Twitter and blogging are two of my favorites.
Don’t dismiss Twitter til you try it. The Pope tweets, as does Barack Obama and most every smart business leader. I find it a remarkable opportunity to “meet” people I never ever would otherwise encounter–an academic in Britain interested in the geography of psychiatric illness; historians of psychiatry, philosophers who integrate psychoanalytic ideas, a young analyst in California who reminds us that “psychoanalysis is sexy”. I can keep track of ideas, people and developments related to issues that interest me, from climate change to knowledge management to veterans issues.
Blogging is another mode of communication with unique benefits (and, yes, its own drawbacks). Blogging involves writing short essays –opinion or informational pieces–that are collected in a blog archive. It’s a great way to practice writing for the public–communicating your ideas without jargon. You can play with ideas, start to accumulate the bits and pieces that might end up as a book.
I’ve been spearheading a project for the International Psychoanalytical Association creating a member’s Resource Library for Outreach and Public Information (to debut in the fall, 2015). One of the components of that resource library is providing members with tool kits so they can get started using social media, building websites, blogging and learning to talk with the media.
I’ve just finished writing a first edition of two of the Toolkits. My hope is they might get some colleagues started in experimenting with developing a louder and clearer public voice. Your ideas are needed. And “experimenting” is the key word. This is stuff to play with, to be stimulated by. You can start small and build your “public practice” as it becomes more comfortable.
To see my Toolkit on Twitter Basics click here.
And to see my Toolkit on Blogging Basics click here.