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The public sphere (german: Öffentlichkeit) is an area in social life where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action. A "Public" is "of or concerning the people as a whole." Public Sphere is a place common to all, where ideas and information can be exchanged. Such a discussion is called public debate and is defined as the expression of views on matters that are of concern to the public—often, but not always, with opposing or diverging views being expressed by participants in the discussion. Public debate takes place mostly through the mass media, but also at meetings or through social media, academic publications and government policy documents. The term was originally coined by German philosopher
Jürgen Habermas Jürgen Habermas (, ; ; born 18 June 1929) is a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, e ...
who defined the public sphere as "''made up of private people gathered together as a public and articulating the needs of society with the state''".
Communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power o ...

Communication
scholar Gerard A. Hauser defines it as "''a discursive space in which individuals and groups associate to discuss matters of mutual interest and, where possible, to reach a common judgment about them''". The public sphere can be seen as "''a theater in modern societies in which political participation is enacted through the medium of talk''" and "''a realm of social life in which public opinion can be formed''". Describing the emergence of the public sphere in the 18th century, Habermas noted that the public realm, or sphere, originally was "''coextensive with public authority''", Translation from the original German, published 1962. while "''the
private sphereThe private sphere is the complement or opposite to the public sphere. The private sphere is a certain sector of societal life in which an individual enjoys a degree of authority, unhampered by interventions from governmental or other institutions. E ...
comprised
civil society Civil society can be understood as the "third sector" of society, distinct from government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad ...
in the narrower sense, that is to say, the realm of commodity exchange and of social labor''".Habermas 1989, p.30 Whereas the "sphere of public authority" dealt with the state, or realm of the police, and the ruling class, or the feudal authorities (church, princes and nobility) the "authentic 'public sphere, in a political sense, arose at that time from within the private realm, specifically, in connection with literary activities, the world of letters. This new public sphere spanned the public and the private realms, and "through the vehicle of public opinion it put the state in touch with the needs of society". "This area is conceptually distinct from the state: it a site for the production and circulation of discourses that can in principle be critical of the state." The public sphere "is also distinct from the official economy; it is not an arena of market relations but rather one of the discursive relations, a theater for debating and deliberating rather than for buying and selling". These distinctions between "state apparatuses, economic markets, and democratic associations...are essential to democratic theory". The people themselves came to see the public sphere as a regulatory institution against the authority of the state. The study of the public sphere centers on the idea of
participatory democracy Participatory democracy or participative democracy is a model of democracy in which citizens are provided power to make political decisions. Etymological roots of ''democracy'' (Greek ''wikt:demos, demos'' and ''wikt:κράτος, kratos'') imply t ...
, and how
public opinion Public opinion is the collective opinion on a specific topic or voting intention relevant to a society. Etymology The term "public opinion" was derived from the French ', which was first used in 1588 by Michel de Montaigne Image:ArmoiriesM ...
becomes political action. The
ideology An ideology () is a set of belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of ...
of the public sphere theory is that the government's laws and policies should be steered by the public sphere and that the only legitimate governments are those that listen to the public sphere. "Democratic governance rests on the capacity of and opportunity for citizens to engage in enlightened debate". Much of the debate over the public sphere involves what is the basic theoretical structure of the public sphere, how information is deliberated in the public sphere, and what influence the public sphere has over society.


Definitions

Jürgen Habermas Jürgen Habermas (, ; ; born 18 June 1929) is a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, e ...
claims "We call events and occasions 'public' when they are open to all, in contrast to closed or exclusive affairs". This 'public sphere' is a "realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed. Access is guaranteed to all citizens". This notion of the public becomes evident in terms such as public health, public education, public opinion or public ownership. They are opposed to the notions of private health, private education, private opinion, and private ownership. The notion of the public is intrinsically connected to the notion of the private. Habermas stresses that the notion of the public is related to the notion of the common. For
Hannah Arendt Hannah Arendt (, also , ; 14 October 1906 – 4 December 1975) was a German-born American political theorist. Her many books and articles have had a lasting influence on political theory and philosophy. Arendt is widely considered one of ...
, the public sphere is therefore "the common world" that "gathers us together and yet prevents our falling over each other". Habermas defines the public sphere as a "society engaged in critical public debate". Conditions of the public sphere are according to Habermas: * The formation of public opinion * All citizens have access. * Conference in unrestricted fashion (based on the freedom of assembly, the freedom of association, the freedom to expression and publication of opinions) about matters of general interest, which implies freedom from economic and political control. * Debate over the general rules governing relations.


Jürgen Habermas: bourgeois public sphere

Most contemporary conceptualizations of the public sphere are based on the ideas expressed in
Jürgen Habermas Jürgen Habermas (, ; ; born 18 June 1929) is a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, e ...
' book '' The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere – An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society'', which is a translation of his ''
Habilitation Habilitation is the procedure to achieve the highest university degree in many European countries in which the candidate fulfills certain criteria set by the university which require excellence in research, teaching, and further education. Its qua ...
sschrift,'' ''Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit:Untersuchungen zu einer Kategorie der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft''. The
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...

German
term ''Öffentlichkeit'' (public sphere) encompasses a variety of meanings and it implies a spatial concept, the social sites or arenas where meanings are articulated, distributed, and negotiated, as well as the collective body constituted by, and in this process, "the public". The work is still considered the foundation of contemporary public sphere theories, and most theorists cite it when discussing their own theories.
''The
bourgeois Bourgeoisie (; ) is a polysemous Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic fieldIn linguist ...

bourgeois
public sphere may be conceived above all as the sphere of private people come together as a public; they soon claimed the public sphere regulated from above against the public authorities themselves, to engage them in a debate over the general rules governing relations in the basically privatized but publicly relevant sphere of commodity exchange and social labor.''
Through this work, he gave a historical-sociological account of the creation, brief flourishing, and demise of a "bourgeois" public sphere based on rational-critical debate and discussion: Habermas stipulates that, due to specific historical circumstances, a new civic society emerged in the eighteenth century. Driven by a need for open commercial arenas where news and matters of common concern could be freely exchanged and discussed—accompanied by growing rates of literacy, accessibility to literature, and a new kind of critical journalism—a separate domain from ruling authorities started to evolve across Europe. "In its clash with the arcane and bureaucratic practices of the absolutist state, the emergent bourgeoisie gradually replaced a public sphere in which the ruler's power was merely represented before the people with a sphere in which state authority was publicly monitored through informed and critical discourse by the people". In his historical analysis, Habermas points out three so-called "''institutional criteria''" as preconditions for the emergence of the new public sphere. The discursive arenas, such as Britain's coffee houses, France's salons, and Germany's ''Tischgesellschaften'' "may have differed in the size and compositions of their publics, the style of their proceedings, the climate of their debates, and their topical orientations", but "they all organized discussion among people that tended to be ongoing; hence they had a number of institutional criteria in common": # ''Disregard of status:'' Preservation of "a kind of social intercourse that, far from presupposing the equality of status, disregarded status altogether. ... Not that this idea of the public was actually realized in earnest in the coffee houses, salons, and the societies; but as an idea, it had become institutionalized and thereby stated as an objective claim. If not realized, it was at least consequential." (''loc. cit.'') # ''Domain of common concern:'' "... discussion within such a public presupposed the problematization of areas that until then had not been questioned. The domain of 'common concern' which was the object of public critical attention remained a preserve in which church and state authorities had the monopoly of interpretation. ... The private people for whom the cultural product became available as a commodity profaned it inasmuch as they had to determine its meaning on their own (by way of rational communication with one another), verbalize it, and thus state explicitly what precisely in its implicitness for so long could assert its authority." (''loc. cit.'') # ''Inclusivity:'' However exclusive the public might be in any given instance, it could never close itself off entirely and become consolidated as a clique; for it always understood and found itself immersed within a more inclusive public of all private people, persons who – insofar as they were propertied and educated – as readers, listeners, and spectators could avail themselves via the market of the objects that were subject to discussion. The issues discussed became 'general' not merely in their significance, but also in their accessibility: everyone had to be able to participate. ... Wherever the public established itself institutionally as a stable group of discussants, it did not equate itself with the public but at most claimed to act as its mouthpiece, in its name, perhaps even as its educator – the new form of bourgeois representation" (''loc. cit.''). Habermas argued that the bourgeois society cultivated and upheld these criteria. The public sphere was well established in various locations including coffee shops and salons, areas of society where various people could gather and discuss matters that concerned them. The coffee houses in London society at this time became the centers of art and literary criticism, which gradually widened to include even the economic and the political disputes as matters of discussion. In French salons, as Habermas says, "opinion became emancipated from the bonds of economic dependence". Any new work, or a book or a musical composition had to get its legitimacy in these places. It not only paved a forum for self-expression but in fact had become a platform for airing one's opinions and agendas for public discussion. The emergence of a bourgeois public sphere was particularly supported by the 18th-century liberal democracy making resources available to this new political class to establish a network of institutions like publishing enterprises, newspapers and discussion forums, and the democratic press was the main tool to execute this. The key feature of this public sphere was its separation from the power of both the church and the government due to its access to a variety of resources, both economic and social. As Habermas argues, in due course, this sphere of rational and universalistic politics, free from both the economy and the State, was destroyed by the same forces that initially established it. This collapse was due to the consumeristic drive that infiltrated society, so citizens became more concerned about consumption than political actions. Furthermore, the growth of capitalistic economy led to an uneven distribution of wealth, thus widening economic polarity. Suddenly the media became a tool of political forces and a medium for advertising rather than the medium from which the public got their information on political matters. This resulted in limiting access to the public sphere and the political control of the public sphere was inevitable for the modern capitalistic forces to operate and thrive in the competitive economy.
Therewith emerged a new sort of influence, i.e., media power, which, used for purposes of manipulation, once and for all took care of the innocence of the principle of publicity. The public sphere, simultaneously restructured and dominated by the mass media, developed into an arena infiltrated by power in which, by means of topic selection and topical contributions, a battle is fought not only over influence but over the control of communication flows that affect behavior while their strategic intentions are kept hidden as much as possible.


Counterpublics, feminist critiques and expansions

Although '' Structural Transformation'' was (and is) one of the most influential works in contemporary German philosophy and political science, it took 27 years until an English version appeared on the market in 1989. Based on a conference on the occasion of the English translation, at which Habermas himself attended,
Craig Calhoun Craig Jackson Calhoun (born 1952) is an American sociologist, currently University Professor of Social science, Social Sciences at Arizona State University. An advocate of using social science to address issues of public concern, he was the Dir ...
(1992) edited ''Habermas and the Public Sphere'' – a thorough dissection of Habermas' bourgeois public sphere by scholars from various academic disciplines. The core criticism at the conference was directed towards the above stated "institutional criteria": # Hegemonic dominance and exclusion: In "Rethinking the Public Sphere,"
Nancy Fraser Nancy Fraser (; born May 20, 1947) is an American philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, meaning 'lover of wisdom'. The coining ...
offers a feminist revision of Habermas' historical description of the public sphere, and confronts it with "recent revisionist historiography". She refers to other scholars, like Joan Landes, Mary P. Ryan and
Geoff Eley Geoffrey Howard Eley (born 4 May 1949) is a British-born historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a person who studies and writes ...
, when she argues that the bourgeois public sphere was in fact constituted by a "number of significant exclusions." In contrast to Habermas’ assertions on disregard of status and inclusivity, Fraser claims that the bourgeois public sphere discriminated against women and other historically marginalized groups: "... this network of clubs and associations – philanthropic, civic, professional, and cultural – was anything but accessible to everyone. On the contrary, it was the arena, the training ground and eventually the power base of a stratum of bourgeois men who were coming to see themselves as a “universal class” and preparing to assert their fitness to govern." Thus, she stipulates a hegemonic tendency of the male bourgeois public sphere, which dominated at the cost of alternative publics (for example by gender, social status, ethnicity and property ownership), thereby averting other groups from articulating their particular concerns. # Bracketing of inequalities: Fraser makes us recall that "the bourgeois conception of the public sphere requires bracketing inequalities of status". The "public sphere was to be an arena in which interlocutors would set aside such characteristics as a difference in birth and fortune and speak to one another ''as if'' they were social and economic peers". Fraser refers to feminist research by
Jane Mansbridge Jane Jebb Mansbridge (born November 19, 1939) is an American political scientist. She is the Charles F. Adams Professor Professor (commonly abbreviated as Prof.) is an Academy, academic rank at university, universities and other post-seconda ...
, which notes several relevant "ways in which deliberation can serve as a mask for domination". Consequently, she argues that "such bracketing usually works to the advantage of dominant groups in society and to the disadvantage of subordinates." Thus, she concludes: "In most cases, it would be more appropriate to unbracket inequalities in the sense of explicitly thematizing them – a point that accords with the spirit of Habermas' later communicative ethics". # The problematic definition of "common concern": Nancy Fraser points out that "there are no naturally given,
a priori ''A priori'' and ''a posteriori'' ('from the earlier' and 'from the later', respectively) are Latin phrases used in philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaph ...
boundaries" between matters that are generally conceived as private, and ones we typically label as public (i.e. of "common concern"). As an example, she refers to the historic shift in the general conception of domestic violence, from previously being a matter of primarily private concern, to now generally being accepted as a common one: "Eventually, after sustained discursive contestation we succeeded in making it a common concern".
Nancy Fraser Nancy Fraser (; born May 20, 1947) is an American philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, meaning 'lover of wisdom'. The coining ...
identified the fact that marginalized groups are excluded from a universal public sphere, and thus it was impossible to claim that one group would, in fact, be inclusive. However, she claimed that marginalized groups formed their own public spheres, and termed this concept a ''subaltern counter public'' or counter-public. Fraser worked from Habermas' basic theory because she saw it to be "''an indispensable resource''" but questioned the actual structure and attempted to address her concerns. She made the observation that "Habermas stops short of developing a new, post-bourgeois model of the public sphere". Fraser attempted to evaluate Habermas' bourgeois public sphere, discuss some assumptions within his model, and offer a modern conception of the public sphere. In the historical reevaluation of the bourgeois public sphere, Fraser argues that rather than opening up the political realm to everyone, the bourgeois public sphere shifted political power from "a repressive mode of domination to a
hegemonic Hegemony (, () or ) is the political, economic, or military predominance or control of one State (polity), state over others. In ancient Greece (8th century BC – 6th century AD), hegemony denoted the politico-military dominance of a city-state o ...
one". Rather than rule by power, there was now rule by the majority ideology. To deal with this hegemonic domination, Fraser argues that repressed groups form "Subaltern counter-publics" that are "parallel discursive arenas where members of subordinated social groups invent and circulate counterdiscourses to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests, and needs". Benhabib notes that in Habermas' idea of the public sphere, the distinction between public and private issues separates issues that normally affect women (issues of "reproduction, nurture and care for the young, the sick, and the elderly") into the private realm and out of the discussion in the public sphere. She argues that if the public sphere is to be open to any discussion that affects the population, there cannot be distinctions between "what is" and "what is not" discussed. Benhabib argues for feminists to counter the popular public discourse in their own counter public. The public sphere was long regarded as men's domain whereas women were supposed to inhabit the private domestic sphere. A distinct ideology that prescribed
separate spheres Terms such as separate spheres and domestic–public dichotomy refer to a social phenomenon within modern societies that feature, to some degree, an empirical Empirical evidence is the information received by means of the senses, particularly ...
for women and men emerged during the
industrial revolution The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous continent A continent is any of several large landmasse ...
. The concept of
heteronormativity Heteronormativity is the concept that heterosexuality Heterosexuality is romantic Romantic may refer to: Genres and eras * The Romantic era, an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement of the 18th and 19th centuries ** Romanti ...
is used to describe the way in which those who fall outside of the basic male/female dichotomy of
gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between femininity Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women A woman is ...

gender
or whose sexual orientations are other than
heterosexual Heterosexuality is romantic Romantic may refer to: Genres and eras * The Romantic era, an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement of the 18th and 19th centuries ** Romantic music, of that era ** Romantic poetry, of that era ** ...
cannot meaningfully claim their identities, causing a disconnect between their public selves and their private selves.
Michael Warner Michael David Warner (born 1958) is an American literary critic, social theorist, and Seymour H. Knox Professor of English Literature and American Studies at Yale University. He also writes for '' Artforum'', ''The Nation ''The Nation'' is the ...
made the observation that the idea of an inclusive public sphere makes the assumption that we are all the same without judgments about our fellows. He argues that we must achieve some sort of disembodied state in order to participate in a universal public sphere without being judged. His observations point to a homosexual counter public, and offers the idea that homosexuals must otherwise remain "closeted" in order to participate in the larger public discourse.


Rhetorical

Gerard Hauser proposed a different direction for the public sphere than previous models. He foregrounds the
rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of persuasion, which along with grammar and logic (or dialectic – see Martianus Capella), is one of the Trivium, three ancient arts of discourse. Rhetoric aims to study the techniques writers or sp ...
al nature of public spheres, suggesting that public spheres form around "the ongoing dialogue on public issues" rather than the identity of the group engaged in the discourse. Rather than arguing for an all-inclusive public sphere, or the analysis of tension between public spheres, he suggested that publics were formed by active members of society around issues. They are a group of interested individuals who engage in vernacular discourse about a specific issue. "Publics may be repressed, distorted, or responsible, but any evaluation of their actual state requires that we inspect the rhetorical environment as well as the rhetorical act out of which they evolved, for these are the conditions that constitute their individual character". These people formed rhetorical public spheres that were based in discourse, not necessarily orderly discourse but any interactions whereby the interested public engages each other. This interaction can take the form of institutional actors as well as the basic "street rhetoric" that "open a dialogue between competing factions." The spheres themselves formed around the issues that were being deliberated. The discussion itself would reproduce itself across the spectrum of interested publics "even though we lack personal acquaintance with all but a few of its participants and are seldom in contexts where we and they directly interact, we join these exchanges because they are discussing the same matters". In order to communicate within the public sphere, "those who enter any given arena must share a reference world for their discourse to produce awareness for shared interests and public opinions about them". This world consists of common meanings and cultural norms from which interaction can take place. The rhetorical public sphere has several primary features: # it is discourse-based, rather than class-based. # the critical norms are derived from actual discursive practices. Taking a universal reasonableness out of the picture, arguments are judged by how well they resonate with the population that is discussing the issue. # intermediate bracketing of discursive exchanges. Rather than a conversation that goes on across a population as a whole, the public sphere is composed of many intermediate dialogs that merge later on in the discussion. The rhetorical public sphere was characterized by five rhetorical norms from which it can be gauged and criticized. How well the public sphere adheres to these norms determine the effectiveness of the public sphere under the rhetorical model. Those norms are: # ''permeable boundaries'': Although a public sphere may have a specific membership as with any social movement or deliberative assembly, people outside the group can participate in the discussion. # ''activity'': Publics are active rather than passive. They do not just hear the issue and applaud, but rather they actively engage the issue and the publics surrounding the issue. # ''contextualized language'': They require that participants adhere to the rhetorical norm of contextualized language to render their respective experiences intelligible to one another. # ''believable appearance'': The public sphere must appear to be believable to each other and the outside public. # ''tolerance'': In order to maintain a vibrant discourse, others opinions need to be allowed to enter the arena. In all this Hauser believes a public sphere is a "discursive space in which strangers discuss issues they perceive to be of consequence for them and their group. Its rhetorical exchanges are the bases for shared awareness of common issues, shared interests, tendencies of extent and strength of difference and agreement, and self-constitution as a public whose opinions bear on the organization of society." This concept that the public sphere acts as a medium in which public opinion is formed as analogous to a lava lamp. Just as the lamp's structure changes, with its lava separating and forming new shapes, so does the public sphere's creation of opportunities for discourse to address public opinion, thereby forming new discussions of rhetoric. The lava of the public which holds together the public arguments is the public conversation.


Media

Habermas argues that the public sphere requires "specific means for transmitting information and influencing those who receive it". Habermas' argument shows that the media are of particular importance for constituting and maintaining a public sphere. Discussions about the media have therefore been of particular importance in public sphere theory.


As actors in the political public sphere

According to Habermas, there are two types of actors without whom no political public sphere could be put to work: professionals in the media system and politicians. For Habermas, there are five types of actors who make their appearance on the virtual stage of an established public sphere:
(a) Lobbyists who represent special interest groups; (b) Advocates who either represent general interest groups or substitute for a lack of representation of marginalized groups that are unable to voice their interests effectively; (c) Experts who are credited with professional or scientific knowledge in some specialized area and are invited to give advice; (d) Moral entrepreneurs who generate public attention for supposedly neglected issues; (e) Intellectuals who have gained, unlike advocates or moral entrepreneurs, a perceived personal reputation in some field (e.g., as writers or academics) and who engage, unlike experts and lobbyists, spontaneously in public discourse with the declared intention of promoting general interests.


YouTube

Habermas argues that under certain conditions, the media act to facilitate discourse in a public sphere. The rise of the Internet has brought about a resurgence of scholars applying theories of the public sphere to Internet technologies. For example, a study by S. Edgerly et al. focused on the ability of YouTube to serve as an online public sphere. The researchers examined a large sample of video comments using the
California Proposition 8 (2008) Proposition 8, known informally as Prop 8, was a California ballot proposition and a state constitutional amendment intended to ban same-sex marriage; it passed in the November 2008 California state elections and was later overturned in cou ...
as an example. The authors argue that some scholars think the online public sphere is a space where a wide range of voices can be expressed due to the "low barrier of entry" and interactivity. However, they also point at a number of limitations. Edgerly et al. say that the affirmative discourse presupposes that YouTube can be an influential player in the political process and that it can serve as an influential force to politically mobilize young people. YouTube has allowed anyone and everyone to be able to get any political knowledge they wish. The authors mention critiques that say YouTube is built around the popularity of videos with sensationalist content. It has also allowed people to broadcast themselves for a large public sphere, where people can form their own opinions and discuss different things in the comments. The research by Edgerly, et al. found that the analyzed YouTube comments were diverse. They argue that this is a possible indicator that YouTube provides space for public discussion. They also found that YouTube videos' style influences the nature of the commentary. Finally, they concluded that the video's ideological stances influenced the language of the comments. The findings of the work suggest that YouTube is a public sphere platform.


Limitations of media and the internet

Some, like Colin Sparks, note that a new global public sphere ought to be created in the wake of increasing globalization and global institutions, which operate at the supranational level. However, the key questions for him were, whether any media exists in terms of size and access to fulfil this role. The traditional media, he notes, are close to the public sphere in this true sense. Nevertheless, limitations are imposed by the market and concentration of ownership. At present, the global media fail to constitute the basis of a public sphere for at least three reasons. Similarly, he notes that the internet, for all its potential, does not meet the criteria for a public sphere and that unless these are "overcome, there will be no sign of a global public sphere". German scholars Jürgen Gerhards and Mike S. Schäfer conducted a study in 2009 in order to establish whether the
Internet The Internet (or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices. It is a ''internetworking, network of networks'' that consist ...

Internet
offers a better and broader communication environment compared to quality newspapers. They analyzed how the issue of human genome research was portrayed between 1999 and 2001 in popular quality newspapers in both Germany and the United States in comparison to the way it appeared on search engines at the time of their research. Their intention was to analyze what actors and what sort of opinions the subject generated in both print and the Internet and verify whether the online space proved to be a more democratic public sphere, with a wider range of sources and views. Gerhards and Schäfer say they have found "only minimal evidence to support the idea that the internet is a better communication space as compared to print media". "In both media, communication is dominated by (bio- and natural) scientific actors; popular inclusion does not occur". The scholars argue that the search algorithms select the sources of information based on the popularity of their links. "Their gatekeeping, in contrast to the old mass media, relies mainly on technical characteristics of websites". For Gerhards and Schäfer the Internet is not an alternative public sphere because less prominent voices end up being silenced by the search engines' algorithms. "Search engines might actually silence societal debate by giving more space to established actors and institutions". Another tactic that supports this view is
astroturfing Astroturfing is the practice of masking the Sponsor (commercial), sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots par ...
. ''
The Guardian ''The Guardian'' is a British daily newspaper. It was founded in 1821 as ''The Manchester Guardian'', and changed its name in 1959. Along with its sister papers ''The Observer ''The Observer'' is a British newspaper published on Sun ...

The Guardian
'' columnist
George Monbiot #REDIRECT George Monbiot George Joshua Richard Monbiot ( ; born 27 January 1963) is a British writer known for his environmental and political activism. He writes a weekly column for ''The Guardian ''The Guardian'' is a British daily news ...

George Monbiot
said that Astroturfing software, "has the potential to destroy the internet as a forum for constructive debate. It jeopardizes the notion of online democracy".


Virtual

There has been an academic debate about how social media impacts the public sphere. The sociologists Brian Loader and Dan Mercea give an overview of this discussion. They argue that social media offers increasing opportunities for political communication and enable democratic capacities for political discussion within the virtual public sphere. The effect would be that citizens could challenge governments and corporations' political and economic power. Additionally, new forms of political participation and information sources for the users emerge with the Internet that can be used, for example, in online campaigns. However, the two authors point out that social media's dominant uses are entertainment, consumerism, and content sharing among friends. Loader and Mercea point out that "individual preferences reveal an unequal spread of social ties with a few giant nodes such as
Google Google LLC is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational stat ...

Google
,
Yahoo Yahoo (, styled as yahoo''!'') is an American provider. It is headquartered in and operated by the namesake company , which is 90% owned by s managed by and 10% by . It provides a , , and related services, including , , , , and its adve ...

Yahoo
,
Facebook Facebook is an American online social media and social networking service owned by Meta Platforms. Founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg with fellow Harvard College students and roommates Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, an ...

Facebook
and
YouTube YouTube is an American online video sharing and social media platform Social media are interactive technologies that allow the Content creation, creation or information sharing, sharing/exchange of information, ideas, career interests, an ...

YouTube
attracting the majority of users". They also stress that some critics have voiced the concern that there is a lack of seriousness in political communication on social media platforms. Moreover, lines between professional media coverage and user-generated content would blur on social media. The authors conclude that social media provides new opportunities for political participation; however, they warn users of the risks of accessing unreliable sources. The Internet impacts the virtual public sphere in many ways, but is not a free utopian platform as some observers argued at the beginning of its history.


Mediated publicness

John Thompson criticises the traditional idea of public sphere by Habermas, as it is centred mainly in face-to-face interactions. On the contrary, Thompson argues that modern society is characterized by a new form of "mediated publicness", whose main characteristics are: * Despatialized (there is a rupture of time/space. People can see more things, as they do not need to share the same physical location, but this extended vision always has an angle, which people do not have control over). * Non dialogical (unidirectional. For example, presenters on TV are not able to adapt their discourse to the reactions of the audience, since they are visible to a wide audience but that audience is not directly visible to them. However, internet allows a bigger interactivity). * Wider and more diverse audiences. (The same message can reach people with different education, different social class, different values and beliefs, and so on.) This mediated publicness has altered the power relations in a way in which not only the many are visible to the few but the few can also now see the many:
"Whereas the Panopticon renders many people visible to a few and enables power to be exercised over the many by subjecting them to a state of permanent visibility, the development of communication media provides a means by which many people can gather information about a few and, at the same time, a few can appear before many; thanks to the media, it is primarily those who exercise power, rather than those over whom power is exercised, who are subjected to a certain kind of visibility".
However, Thompson also acknowledges that "media and visibility is a double-edged sword" meaning that even though they can be used to show an improved image (by managing the visibility), individuals are not in full control of their self-presentation. Mistakes, gaffes or scandals are now recorded therefore they are harder to deny, as they can be replayed by the media.


The public service model

Examples of the public service model include
BBC The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a public service broadcaster, headquartered at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London. It is the world's oldest national broadcaster, and the largest broadcasting, broadcaster in the world by ...

BBC
in Britain, and the
ABC ABC are the first three letters of the Latin script known as the alphabet. ABC or abc may also refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Broadcasting * American Broadcasting Company, a commercial U.S. TV broadcaster ** Disney–ABC Television ...
and SBS in Australia. The political function and effect of modes of public communication has traditionally continued with the dichotomy between Hegelian State and civil society. The dominant theory of this mode includes the liberal theory of the free press. However, the public service, state-regulated model, whether publicly or privately funded, has always been seen not as a positive good but as an unfortunate necessity imposed by the technical limitations of frequency scarcity. According to Habermas's concept of the public sphere, the strength of this concept is that it identifies and stresses the importance for democratic politics of a sphere distinct from the economy and the State. On the other hand, this concept challenges the liberal free press tradition form the grounds of its materiality, and it challenges the Marxist critique of that tradition from the grounds of the specificity of politics as well. From Garnham's critique, three great virtues of Habermas's public sphere are mentioned. Firstly, it focuses on the indissoluble like between the institutions and practices of mass public communication and the institutions and practices of democratic politics. The second virtue of Habermas's approach concentrate on the necessary material resource base for ant public. Its third virtue is to escape from the simple dichotomy of free market versus state control that dominates so much thinking about media policy.


Non-liberal theories

&
Alexander Kluge Alexander Kluge (born 14 February 1932) is a German author, philosopher, academic and film director. Early life, education and early career Kluge was born in Halberstadt in present-day Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. After growing up during World War ...
took a non-liberal view of public spheres, and argued that Habermas' reflections on the bourgeois public sphere should be supplemented with reflections on the ''proletarian public spheres'' and the ''public spheres of production''.


Proletarian

The distinction between bourgeois and proletarian public spheres is not mainly a distinction between classes. The proletarian public sphere is rather to be conceived of as the "excluded", vague, unarticulated impulses of resistance or resentment. The proletarian public sphere carries the subjective feelings, the egocentric malaise with the common public narrative, interests that are not socially valorized :"As extraeconomic interests, they exist—precisely in the forbidden zones of fantasy beneath the surface of taboos—as stereotypes of a proletarian context of living that is organized in a merely rudimentary form." The bourgeois and proletarian public spheres are mutually defining: The proletarian public sphere carries the "left-overs" from the bourgeois public sphere, while the bourgeois public is based upon the productive forces of the underlying resentment: :"In this respect, they " .e. the proletarian public spheres" have two characteristics: in their defensive attitude toward society, their conservatism, and their subcultural character, they are once again mere objects; but they are, at the same time, the block of real life that goes against the valorization interest. As long as capital is dependent on living labor as a source of wealth, this element of the proletarian context of living cannot be extinguished through repression."


Production

Negt and Kluge furthermore point out the necessity of considering a third dimension of the public spheres: The public spheres of production. The public spheres of production collect the impulses of resentment and instrumentalizes them in the productive spheres. The public spheres of production are wholly instrumental and have no critical impulse (unlike the bourgeois and proletarian spheres). The interests that are incorporated in the public sphere of production are given capitalist shape, and questions of their legitimately are thus neutralized.


Biopolitical public

By the end of the 20th century, the discussions about public spheres got a new biopolitical twist. Traditionally the public spheres had been contemplated as to how free agents transgress the private spheres.
Michael Hardt Michael Hardt (born 1960) is an American political philosopher and literary theorist. Hardt is best known for his book ''Empire (Negri and Hardt book), Empire'', which was co-written with Antonio Negri. It has been praised by Slavoj Žižek as t ...
and
Antonio Negri Antonio "Toni" Negri (born 1 August 1933) is an Italian Spinozistic-Marxist philosophy, Marxist sociologist and political philosophy, political philosopher, best known for his co-authorship of ''Empire (Negri and Hardt book), Empire'' and second ...
have, drawing on the late
Michel Foucault Paul-Michel Foucault (, ; ; 15 October 192625 June 1984) was a French philosopher, historian of ideas Intellectual history (also the history of ideas) is the study of the history of human thought and of intellectual An intellectual is a ...

Michel Foucault
's writings on
biopolitics Biopolitics is an intersectional field between human biology and politics. It is a political wisdom taking into consideration the administration of life and a locality’s populations as its subject. To quote Michel Foucault, it is "to ensure, su ...
, suggested that we reconsider the very distinction between public and private spheres. They argue that the traditional distinction is founded on a certain (capitalist) account of property that presupposes clear-cut separations between interests. This account of property is (according to Hardt and Negri) based upon a scarcity economy. The scarcity economy is characterized by an impossibility of sharing the goods. If "agent A" eats the bread, "agent B" cannot have it. The interests of agents are thus, generally, clearly separated. However, with the evolving shift in the economy towards an informational materiality, in which value is based upon the informational significance, or the narratives surrounding the products, the clear-cut subjective separation is no longer obvious. Hardt and Negri see the
open source Open source is source code that is made freely available for possible modification and redistribution. Products include permission to use the source code, design documents, or content of the product. The open-source model is a decentralized softwa ...
approaches as examples of new ways of co-operation that illustrate how economic value is not founded upon exclusive possession, but rather upon collective potentialities. Informational materiality is characterized by gaining value only through being shared. Hardt and Negri thus suggest that the
commons The commons is the culture, cultural and nature, natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. Commons c ...

commons
become the focal point of analyses of public relations. The point being that with this shift it becomes possible to analyse how the very distinctions between the private and public are evolving.Hardt, Michael; Antonio Negri (2009), pp. vii–xiv


See also

*
Argumentation theory Two men argue at a political protest in New York City. Argumentation theory, or argumentation, is the interdisciplinary Interdisciplinarity or interdisciplinary studies involves the combination of two or more academic disciplines into one ac ...
*
Commons The commons is the culture, cultural and nature, natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. Commons c ...

Commons
*
Interpersonal relationship The concept of interpersonal relationship involves social associations, connections, or affiliations between two or more people. Interpersonal relationships vary in their degree of intimacy or self-disclosure, but also in their duration, in t ...
*
Online deliberation Online deliberation is a broad term used to describe many forms of non-institutional, institutional and experimental online discussions.Bächtiger, A., Dryzek, John S., Mansbridge, Jane J., & Warren, Mark. (2018). The Oxford handbook of deliberative ...
*
Protest File:Demonstration in front of the headquarters of the Spanish National Police in Barcelona.png, Demonstration in front of the headquarters of the Spanish National Police in Barcelona during the 2017 Catalan general strike against 2017 Ca ...

Protest
*
Public place A public space is a place that is generally open and accessible to people. Roads (including the pavement), public square A town square (or square, plaza, public square, city square, urban square, or piazza) is an open public space commonly ...
*
Project for Public Spaces Project for Public Spaces (PPS) is a nonprofit organization based in New York dedicated to creating and sustaining public places that build communities, in an effort often termed placemaking. Planning and design rooted in the community form the co ...
* Public hypersphere * The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article (1964) *
Res publica ''Res publica'' (also spelt as ''rēs pūblica'' to indicate vowel length In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for stu ...
*
Rule according to higher law The rule according to a higher law is a statement which expresses that no law may be enforced by the government unless it conforms with certain universal principles (written or unwritten) of fairness, morality, and justice. Thus, ''the rule accor ...
*
Richard Sennett Richard Sennett (born 1 January 1943) is the Centennial Professor Professor (commonly abbreviated as Prof.) is an academic An academy (Attic Greek: Ἀκαδήμεια; Koine Greek Ἀκαδημία) is an institution of secondary educat ...
* ''
The Lives of Others ''The Lives of Others'' (german: link=no, Das Leben der Anderen, ) is a 2006 German drama film written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck marking his feature film debut. The plot is about the monitoring of East Berlin residents ...
'' – A film that describes the monitoring of the cultural scene of East Berlin by agents of the Stasi during the
Cold War The Cold War was a period of geopolitical Geopolitics (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country loc ...


References


External links


Public Sphere Guide
a research and teaching guide, and resource for the renewal of the Public Sphere
Transformations of the Public Sphere
Essay Forum
Jürgen Habermas, "The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article," New German Critique 3 (1974)

Spark summary of Habermas' public sphere book
{{Authority control Civil society Critical theory Democracy Public opinion
Sociological terminology This category relates to sociological Sociology is the study of society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or s ...