On the importance of Diggit Magazine

7 minutes to read
Ico Maly


In his speech at the launch of diggit magazine, Ico Maly (editor-in-chief) underlines the uniqueness and the importance of Diggit Magazine as an academic and democratic project.

Let me, in the tradition of at least some people of this department, start with a truism. Today, academics, and especially social scientists, rarely make the news. Of course, they find out new things every day. And of course, we see academics on our screens. But they rarely ‘make the news’ themselves.They react to the news, or give their ‘expert opinion’ or deliver evidence that supports the news.

Of course, academics, in some occasions are asked to feature in our media as academics. We all know some ‘star academics’. In most cases, we see the same academics over and over again.

But if academics feature in the media, in most cases they figure as ‘an expert’ or an opinion maker in a format that is created by journalists and media makers. Answering questions that are products of the brains of journalists, and are related to the ‘here and now’. That are related to the news according to journalists. Academic knowledge, and especially academic knowledge that questions the common sense, and is given room in these same media, is truly rare. True, we can spot ‘experts’, especially when they provide support for the mainstream consensus, but the public intellectual who questions the common sense is much harder to spot.

Academic knowledge, and especially academic knowledge that questions the common sense, and is given room in these same media, is truly rare.

What I am saying here is not new. Already in the nineties of the last century, Bourdieu pointed out that the academic does not control the context in which his voice will be uttered. He does not control the access to these media, nor does he determine the topics, the questions and the formats that journalists think are important. These formats, generally, are not favorable for the dissemination of academic information. Not many formats in today’s media landscape allow one to explain complexity.

It is thus a rare thing, a truly rare thing, to find an academic in the mainstream media who is allowed the time and the space to bring in complexity, to question the common sense on the basis of scientific knowledge. To speak for longer than 10 minutes or to write a piece of 2000 words. Let alone, that one is allowed to publish a long read or point out the responsibility of a journalist in producing disinformation or how that journalist forsakes his democratic duty to thoroughly inform the viewer.Within the formats of television and the opinion pages in our newspapers, academics are asked to perform‘the academic’. To perform the role of the seemingly ‘neutral’ and ‘objective’ scientist. They are introduced as academics and play the part of an academic, but they rarely inform like an academic. In many cases, the reason is evident. That academic voice questions the simplicities, what is seen as ‘normal’, or is not sufficiently ‘to the point’. They do not speak as an academic, but speak according to the rules of the media.

A good academic is an academic who fits the format, who meets the expectations. Televised academics do not have the time to unravel the complexity of social problems and phenomena. The middle of the road, avoiding controversy and appearing to be moderate are mistaken for good science in our media. As if Copernicus was not controversial. As if Einstein was not controversial. As if Barthes was not controversial.

And in the digital media field, the situation is not that different. Google is the largest news editor of the world. What ends up at the top of the hit list, does not equal the highest quality, but indicates what is popular and what ‘you’ as an user, with your search and surf history will not find too shocking or controversial. That may give comfort, but it does not really lead to a high quality information. And even worse, it undermines our democracy. It denies citizens the right to qualitative information. And this is, we know, is a necessary condition to be a democratic citizen.

Diggit Magazine is our medium. Students, researchers, and lecturers own this magazine.

Whereas, experts in DNA or in medicine still enjoy the status and authority associated with academics in the old days, social scientists are viewed and treated rather differently. Their knowledge, in many cases, is understood as an opinion. Especially so, if the scientist does not produce numbers and stats. Whereas natural scientists are sometimes asked to inform us, social scientists are mostly invited as opinion makers or reproducers of the common sense.

Bourdieu saw the solution in the control of the conditions of production. The academic or intellectual, before agreeing to be televised, to be interviewed or to write an op-ed, should have its say about the format in which his voice will be framed. Bourdieu only agreed to let his voice be mediatized if he had co-control over the conditions  of productions.

We, the culture department of Tilburg University, took this a step further. We will and have created our own medium.

It is thus with pride, that I today, have the pleasure to introduce diggit magazine.

Diggit Magazine is our medium. Students, researchers, and lecturers own this magazine.

We will make the news.

We control our voice.

We will decide ourselves  what we think is newsworthy.

And the criteria for all that will not be determined by ratings, clicks and viewers. Quality, academic rigor is what makes our heart tick.

Diggit Magazine is more than just a magazine. It is even more than an academic magazine.

Diggit Magazine is more than just a magazine. It is even more than an academic magazine, Diggit Magazine allows us to work as a community. On – and offline, we can collaborate in the publications. From the research assignment to fieldwork, from the first analysis and the feedback, the community should allow us to not only produce interesting and new information, it should also allow us to learn and collaborate.

And of course, we want to be read. We want ‘the world’ to read us. We want to produce interesting, readable stuff. We do not plan to write solely for the academic world, we write to be read by all. 

We ‘ll write with a journalistic flair. We ‘ll try to match the good things from both worlds: the accessibility of journalism, and the academic quality standards.

Today, is a good day. I think, no I’m convinced that we are doing something unique and necessary. A whole department is producing its own medium. Not a marketing or propaganda medium, but a really new medium. A magazine that addresses some of the most pressing issues of our times: Globalization, digitalization, migration, culture, identity and arts.

This niche touches upon a world changing in a fast pace. It engages us as academics to deal with the real world, to analyze society not only to gain a better understanding, but also to take up our democratic role. It engages us to become public intellectuals.

To take up that role as an intellectual in a rapid changing world, and especially within a rapid changing media field dominated by different players.

We operate in a field dominated by Google, Facebook and Twitter. To have one’s own medium is not enough these days. To produce good quality also isn’t enough. And even though writing with a journalistic flair is a condition sine qua none, it still isn’t enough.

You need a medium that is built to meet the criteria of Google. That is integrated with Facebook, Twitter and the like.

The good news is… we have all that. We thank the department to take the bold choice to invest in a performant site. The back office, the front and the integration in the digital media are there.

All the conditions to produce a fantastic medium are met:

We have the authors. We have workshops and clinics. We have the community. We have the competences. We have the editors, Language checkers and reviewers. We have control over the conditions of production.

And we have a fantastic medium.

It engages us as academics to deal with the real world, to analyze society not only to gain a better understanding, but also to take up our democratic role.

All we now need, is to nurture it. To take it further. To produce quality. To write good content, that is written to be read. To share it. To like it and to push it.

Ladies and gentlemen, students and lecturers, I’m proud to present to you diggit magazine.

As you can see, we present our readers with a very diverse collection of topics and content types. From  a deconstruction of the Kapsalon-shoarma, over Bowie to the use of new media by refugees. All these topics engage with world around us, and offer us a new perspective, new ways of understanding that world.

Not many people would understand the Kapsalon as the result of our superdiverse world. For many, the Kapsalon is something from ‘them’, maybe even a foreign threat to our culinary culture, it not seen as something from ‘us’. The deconstruction of the meaning of such an everyday consumption product, helps us understand our society as a superdiverse one. As a society that is changing into something new. It is not Islamized, or Turkified, it is a complex dialogical change. We are not heading towards a global mono-cultural. Such small articles questions the common sense imagination of this society as being ‘Dutch’, with some migrants.

The file on Asylum Seekers Online does something similar, it questions the popular view: That having a smart phone as a refugee is a luxury. Even more, for many it points to the interpretation that refugees have no business of fleeing because they are understood to be well off. Well, this file shows how the smart phone is not only an essential instrument in planning and surviving the migration process, it is also an instrument of surveillance and control. And it is an instrument of resistance and aid.

That, and much much more to come. I hope, that we all take up this great opportunity and build the best magazine we can. A magazine that is not only digged around the world, but also helps people to dig up the best possible information.