‘Being TED’

The university intellectual as globalised neoliberal consumer self

in Learning and Teaching
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  • 1 Drexel University shumarw@drexel.edu
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Abstract

This article focuses on the ways that modern American universities are engaged in the process of articulating new producing and consuming subjects. It argues that the image of the engaged ‘media celebrity’ intellectual, as presented in the TED Talk model, has become a cultural ideal that reconciles a deeper contradiction in the academy. Through a complex process, university faculty and students are assimilated into the globalised lifestyle and the identity of cosmopolitans by participating in a social space that is at once an upscale shopping mall and at the same time a high tech corporate research park. This global elite is forged first out of individuals who make it through the university and then secondly out of those university students who successfully excel under the twin pressures of elite production and consumption. Most student, faculty and universities fall short of this ideal. But by watching TED talks they can aspire to this fantasy ideal through the image of the media celebrity intellectual.

Contributor Notes

Wesley Shumar is an educational anthropologist at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. His research has focused on higher education, digital and online education and ethnographic evaluation in education. He is author of College for Sale: A Critique of the Commodification of Higher Education and the forthcoming Inside Mathforum.org: Analysis of an Internet-based Education Community. Email: shumarw@drexel.edu

Learning and Teaching

The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences

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