In this book project, I consider the unexplored European tradition of philosophical commentary on the communicative practices of mass society, especially insofar as this commentary can be shown to inform ongoing discussions of collective life in the digital age. In particular, “The Chattering Mind” traces the conceptual history of ordinary conversation as it stretches from Søren Kierkegaard’s inaugural theory of “chatter” (snak) to Martin Heidegger’s resurgent account of “idle talk” (Gerede) to Jacques Lacan’s culminating treatment of “empty speech” (parole vide)—and ultimately into our digital present, where “small talk” has become the basis for “big data.”
Samuel McCormick is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at San Francisco State University. He studies rhetoric and public advocacy, especially as these topics intersect with broader issues in communication and social theory, intellectual and cultural history, contemporary American civic life, and the ever-shifting relationship between media, technology, and social change. His first book, Letters to Power: Public Advocacy Without Public Intellectuals, is the recent recipient of three book awards: the Franklyn S. Haiman Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Freedom of Expression, the James A. Winans - Herbert A. Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address, and the Everett Lee Hunt Award. Professor McCormick is currently at work on two new book projects: one on the persuasive artistry of ordinary democratic life and another on the conceptual history of everyday talk.