Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media: Abstracts [P]
Michael Atkinson and Kristina Smith, University of Toronto, Canada
Parkour continues to grow rapidly as physical culture around the globe. Once an activity of marginalized suburban youth, it has become a modern fixture of contemporary metropolitan life. There are Parkour street crews, Parkour gym classes, Parkour courses in physical education, and even Parkour-inspired fashion shops (Gilchrist and Wheaton 2011). While the physical culture has seeped into many modern institutional spaces and has become ideologically diluted in its representation as simply ‘alternative youth exercise’, many urban participants remain loyal to the original ethics of Parkour practice. More specially, as Atkinson (2008) has noted, Parkour carries with it a geospatial-corporeal-political ethic for many practitioners. The physical culture of Parkour is not merely about daring gymnastic performances such as building-to-building leaps, vaults, climbs and rolls, as much as it is about the deliberate use and contestation of urban space as a place wherein youth may articulate their own political concerns, philosophies, experiences and values outside the frameworks of mainstream organized sport and leisure (Kidder 2012). As such, Parkour remains a physical culture that allows some youths to express their social beliefs, political ideologies and lived realities. Important at this time, given the multifold uses of the practice and in the age of engaged citizenship through digital media, is the fact that many practitioners have become meaning-makers through the use of documentary, YouTube style videos, and vlogs. This entry will discuss the burgeoning importance of doing ‘digital Parkour’ as a central technique for representing the practice at this pivotal historical juncture.
Atkinson, M. (2008) ‘Parkour, Anarcho-environmentalism and Poises’, Journal of Sport and Social Issues 33(2): 169-194.
Gilchrist, P. and B. Wheaton (2011) ‘Lifestyle Sport, Public Policy and Youth Engagement: Examining the emergence of parkour’, International Journal of Sports Policy and Politics 3(1): 109-131.
Kidder, J. (2012) Parkour, the Affective Appropriation of Urban Space, and the Real/Virtual Dialectic’, City and Community 11(3): 229-253.
Performance Studies and Citizen Media
Maria Chatzichristodoulou, London South Bank University, UK
This entry will examine a diverse range of performance practices that are, in some way, related to the notion of citizen media. As the connections between the two are emergent – and thus, to some extent, in the making – the entry will be led by current practice, adopting an empirical approach in the first instance. It will start by surveying contemporary performances that unfold within, intervene in or disrupt the public sphere, whether this is physical or digital. These could be street performances, activist/citizen actions, cyber-activist events, performance interventions, public forms of docu-dramas, performative gestures that disrupt quotidian happenings, and so on.
It will then attempt to differentiate – to the extent this is possible and desirable – between performance as an artistic (and activist) practice, and performative action as a methodological approach in the service of a political end; or what journalist Paul Mason has described as ‘gestural politics’ (2012: 1). To achieve that, the entry will apply key scholarly work; most notably Richard Schechner’s performance studies approach (2002, 2006), Austin’s theory of the performative utterance (1962), the notion of the performative turn, the idea of theatricality in relation to gesture and protest (Hughes and Parry 2015), and the concept of the experience economy (Pine II and Gilmore 1998).
Austin, J. L. (1962) How to Do Things with Words, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Hughes, J. and S. Parry (2016) ‘Theatricality and Gesture as Citizen Media: Composure as a precipice’, in M. Baker and B. Blaagaard (eds) Citizen Media and Public Spaces, London and New York: Routledge, 79-95.
Mason, P. (2012) Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere, London: Verso.
Lichtenfels, P. and J. Rouse (eds) (2013) Performance, Politics and Activism. Basingstoke and New York.
Pine II, J. and J. H. Gilmore (1998) ‘Welcome to the Experience Economy’, Harvard Business Review (July-August). Available online: https://hbr.org/1998/07/welcome-to-the-experience-economy (last accessed 20 April 2017)
Schechner, R. (2006) Performance Studies: An Introduction, New York: Routledge, 2nd edition.
Philosophy and Citizen Media
Omid Tofighian, University of New South Wales and University of Sydney, Australia
Community-led and grassroots mobilization are associated with long established intellectual traditions, combine theory and practice in transformative and empowering ways, and intersect with philosophy as positioned in the academy. Multidimensional forms of knowledge production, documentation and cultural expression are central to community advocacy and often synthesized in practice; they not only have continuities with everyday life and struggle but are also sources of epistemic liberation and empowerment. However, questions remain as to why significant forms of citizen media have not been sufficiently recognized for their philosophical potency; community actors have yet to be counted as pivotal interlocutors in dominant epistemic practices or as creators spanning diverse knowledge systems.
This entry explores the possibilities for philosophical practice within community-led and citizen media. In the context of philosophical inquiry, the communication emerging from these advocacy spaces allows for rich and compelling dialogues in their capacity to amplify subaltern counterpublics and cultures of resistance. This appreciation of citizen media thus illuminates the convergence of defiance, philosophical innovation and epistemic pride. In addition, the entry subverts normalized and state-defined categories that often privilege dominant socio-cultural identities; special attention is placed on the knowledge ecologies, accounts of lived-experience, and cultural forms of non-citizens, stateless peoples and colonized populations.
By examining the interdependent relationship between community advocacy, media and philosophical ways of knowing, this entry makes two interventions. First, it challenges the marginalization and limitations in professional philosophy by exploring the philosophical work done in particular community-led and grassroots organizing. And second, it illustrates how the social-cultural-political spaces and communicative practices of community-led initiatives constitute sites of philosophical discovery. This contribution ultimately examines media strategies and objectives in community advocacy in order to motivate critical questions about tradition, methodology and the canon in philosophy.
Blackwell, M. (2011) ¡Chicana Power! Contested Histories of Feminism in the Chicano Movement, Austin: University of Texas Press.
Cooper, G. (2008) ‘Tawhaki and Māui: Critical Literacy in Indigenous Epistemologies’, Critical Literacy 2(1): 37-42.
Denzin, N.K., Y.S. Lincoln and L.T. Smith (2008) Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies, London: Sage Publication.
Fraser, N. (1990) ‘Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy’, Social Text 25/26: 56-80.
Heiner, B.T. (2008) ‘Foucault and the Black Panthers’, City 11(3): 313-356.
McHugh, N. (2017) ‘Epistemic Communities and Institutions’, in I.J. Kidd, J. Medina and G. Pohlaus Jr. (eds) The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice, New York: Routledge, 270-278.
Karen Cross, University of Roehampton, UK
Photography has long been viewed as the medium par excellence of social forms of communication. This is evident right from the moment of its invention with such key figures as Fox Talbot (1944) describing it as a form of ‘light writing’ right up until the time when it became an object of popular and political fascination (Benjamin 1931, and more recently Azoulay 2012). Later still, and the transition of the camera to the mobile phone focused attention on the rise of ‘the networked image’ (Rubinstein and Sluis 2008), along with the emergence of citizen forms of witnessing. Following this history, it is clear that photography is deeply rooted in the experience of the citizen who invests in photography as a means of creating social change (Ritchin 2013).
This entry will consider the role of photography in providing voice to citizen perspectives, including such global uprisings as the so-called Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement. It will also reflect upon the way that the camera phone has been used to documents the immediate aftermath of events where professional photojournalists were not present, such as in the case of natural disasters and terror attacks. In relation to these, the entry will also reflect upon how such productions have come to signify the renewal of a form of documentary ‘truth’, which both provides a departure from institutional concerns but also articulates new relations of power and politics of representation that begs for a renewed critical theorizing in relation to the production and circulation of photographic images.
Azoulay, A. (2012) Civil Imagination: A political ontology of photography, London: Verso Books.
Benjamin, W. (1972) ‘A Short History of Photography’, Screen 13(1): 5-26.
Ritchin, F. (2013) Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, documentary and the citizen, New York: Aperture.
Rubinstein, D. and K. Sluis (2008) ‘A Life More Photographic: Mapping the networked image’, Photographies 1(1): 9-28.
Talbot, F. (2010) The Pencil of Nature, Gutenberg Ebook. Available at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/33447/33447-pdf.pdf (accessed 2 June 2017).
Political Science and Citizen Media
Mette Marie Roslyng, Aalborg University, Copenhagen, Denmark
Political science has long been concerned with the issue of citizen engagement and participation, especially in connection with the development of different models of democracy (Held 2006) and with the liberal democratic imaginary that a social contract exists between citizens and their power-holders (Brown 2015). Work on the role of media within different democratic models, on the other hand, has focused mostly on news media and has been most extensively developed in the cross-field between media/communication studies and political science (Dahlgren 2006; Carpentier 2011). Perhaps as a result of this, citizen media, as a phenomenon and as a concept, has been largely neglected in the mainstream literature within political science.
For classical pluralists, democracy relies on some level of citizen engagement and input, while elitist and corporatist critiques have attributed much less space to active citizenship in increasingly professional and closed decision-making processes (Held 2006). Political science’s conceptualizations of media have historically emphasized news media and its role in shaping democracy through media effects, agenda-setting power and media framing. More recently, the debate has focused on deliberative versus radical forms of democracy and the role played by citizens and by media in either rational or critical public sphere(s). Against this background, this entry will attempt to trace and develop an extended concept of media, drawing on examples of mediated citizen engagement through artistic activist practices in agonistic public spheres. The examples discussed will include the Yes Men’s satirical and anti-capitalist activist use of tactical media in impersonating World Trade Organization representatives, and the new urban non-violent direct action ‘Reclaim the streets’ in Great Britain in the 1990s (Mouffe 2007). Such initiatives can be seen as part of a development of alternative media or counter-media as participatory spaces (Marchart 2011). The democratic implications of digital media for participation will also be explored through examples of how the Zapatistas used media in the rebellion against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and subsequent anti-globalization protests organized by the People’s Global Action (PGA) network (Fenton 2011). Yet another example can be found in De Cleen’s (2015) study of a music festival organized to challenge Flemish far right nationalist movements.
The entry will argue that discussions between deliberative and radical democratic approaches to media and citizenship can be fruitfully explored through the concept of citizen media. Citizen media may work to disrupt the possibilities of an inclusive and deliberative democratic dialogue by not working within the rules of the game. It may therefore make most sense to place citizen media in the antagonistic or agonistic political terrain of radical democracy. The entry will also consider whether and how the idea of citizen media as a particular form of expression by unaffiliated citizens may render visible the contingent and historical foundation of the liberal democratic social imaginary, given that it operates beyond the social contract. This, again, places citizen media in the realm of radical democracy.
Brown, W. (2015) Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s stealth revolution, New York: Zone Books.
Carpentier, N. (2011) Media and Participation. A site of ideological-democratic struggle, Bristol and Chicago: Intellect.
Dahlgren, P. (2006) ‘Doing Citizenship. The cultural origins of civic agency in the public sphere’, European Journal of Cultural Studies 9(3): 267-286.
De Cleen, B. (2015) ‘”Flemish Friends, Let Us Separate!”: The discursive struggle for Flemish Nationalist Civil Society in the media’, Javnost – The Public 22 (1): 37-54.
Fenton, N. (2011) ‘Multiplicity, autonomy, new media, and the networked politics of New Social Movements’, in L. Dahlberg and S. Phelan (eds) Discourse Theory and Critical Media Politics, Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 178-200.
Held, D. (2006) Models of Democracy, Cambridge: Polity Press, 3rd edition.
Marchart, O. (2011) ‘From Media to Mediality: Mediatic (counter-)apparatuses and the concept of the political in communication studies’, in L. Dahlberg and S. Phelan (eds) Discourse Theory and Critical Media Politics, Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 64-81.
Mouffe, C. (2007) ‘Artistic Activism and Agonistic Spaces’, Art & Research. A Journal of Ideas, Contexts and Methods 1(2): 1-5.
Popular Culture and Citizen Media
Randa Aboubakr, Cairo University, Egypt
Popular culture has been variously understood within the field of cultural studies. ‘Culture’, on the one hand, could be seen along a spectrum ranging from assigning it a reified status (Arnold 1869, 2009) to thinking of it in terms of the ordinariness of daily practices (Williams 1989, de Certeau 1984). On the other hand, the ‘popular’ – posing the question of who the ‘people’ are – has also moved away from conceptualizations of the ‘people’ as the working classes (Thompson 1980, Hoggart, 1990) to an understanding of the category in terms of its affiliation to shared values and consumerist behaviour (Storey 2012, Bulliet 1998, Fiske, 1989).
Moving from outlining and critiquing some of the most dominant conceptualizations of popular culture, this entry will focus on an understanding of the term derived from neo-Marxist (Gramscian) thought, setting it in relation to institutions of power in a society, whether that of capital mechanism or the state apparatus. Such views stress the relevance of the term to individuals and groups seeking to subvert the hegemony of mainstream dominant culture (Williams 1989, Storey 2012). In this sense, the concept of popular culture comes close to that of citizen media in that it is a means of expanding the range of representation and territoriality of agents seeking to introduce a discourse at variance with the dominant one through practices of everyday life that are not tied to capitalist sponsorship or state legitimation. These practices could range from material production in public space, such as graffiti and street performances which substitute state-sponsored (official) art and act as platforms for dissident views (see Riggle 2010, Martínez 1997), to production in the digital realm such as blogging and comics which aim to be an alternative venue for commentary and news delivery (see Allagui 2014, Gaudeul and Peroni 2010).
Docker, J. (1994) Postmodernism and Popular Culture: A cultural history, Cambridge and New York : Cambridge University Press.
Fiske, J. (1989) Understanding Popular Culture. London: New York: Routledge.
Mukerji, C. and M. Schudson (eds) (1991) Rethinking Popular Culture: Contemporary perspectives in cultural studies, Berkeley: University of California Press.
King, A. (ed.) (1997) Culture, Globalization and the world System: Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Storey, J. (2012) Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction, sixth edition, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Postcolonial Studies and Citizen Media
Bolette B. Blaagaard, Aalborg University, Copenhagen, Denmark
Although there has been no explicit scholarly or artistic relationship between citizen media and postcolonial studies so far, this entry will demonstrate that an implicit dialogue between the two fields operates on several levels, including the level of critiquing power, practices and ambiguities in the context of potential commercialization and cooptation.
Postcolonial studies is primarily concerned with issues of knowledge production and the power of defining knowledge. It critiques European modernity and argues that it is imbricated with coloniality in as much as European literature and practices of history-writing invented the inherent otherness of the colonized in order to narrate and construct Europe’s own modern self. Postcoloniality and the related field of decoloniality set out to reassess the construction of Europe’s ‘other’, and in so doing free that other from its constructed European image. This reassessment is a “way of knowing, doing and being decolonially … simultaneously engaging in border thinking, delinking and epistemic disobedience” (Mignolo 2013:141). Postcolonial critique brings to light alternative, subaltern knowledge productions and positions, which are not necessarily presented in traditional academic or journalistic form. This entry will thus begin by arguing that the political critiques of postcolonial studies are not only compatible with, but may also be illustrative of the performative, creative and political practices of knowledge production in which unaffiliated citizens engage, thus highlighting points of synergy between postcolonial studies and citizen media as defined by Baker and Blaagaard (2016).
The entry proceeds by discussing a number of postcolonial and decolonial practices proposed by various scholars for delinking knowledge production; these, it will be argued, are helpful for understanding practices of citizen media. Firstly, the concept of expressive vernacular, discussed by Paul Gilroy in diverse forms throughout his writings, embodies the practice of remembering colonial culture and continued struggles through art. Secondly, the practice of counter-reading literature and historical accounts, developed by Edward Said (among others), involves reimagining and reconstructing historical narratives. Finally, the entry will return to the concept of border thinking. This is Walter Mignolo’s preferred term for the nomadic and migrant positioning adopted in relation to knowledge production, which may, along with delinking practices, allow for epistemic disobedience, i.e. a rejection of structural subordination of vernacular knowledge productions and formats. Examples of case studies demonstrating how postcolonial practices intersect with citizen media will then be discussed. These will include studies that focus on resistance against the commercialization of the postcolonial cultural industry (Ponzanesi 2014), a counter-reading of a colonial media of resistance (Blaagaard 2016), and an examination of the current use of digital media by postcolonial/migrant citizens to assert their voice in public and create communities in the Netherlands (Leurs 2015). The entry ends by discussing how these very critiques, practices and expressions continually run the risk of exoticism and essentialism of otherness through cooptation and appropriation within a commercial market economy, as highlighted by Baker and Blaagaard (2016) and Ponzanesi (2014), among others.
Baker, M. and B. B. Blaagaard (2016) ‘Reconceptualizing Citizen Media. A preliminary charting of a complex domain’, in M. Baker and B. B. Blaagaard (eds) Citizen Media and Public Spaces, New York & London: Routledge, 1-22.
Blaagaard, B. B. (2016) ‘Reading The Herald Today: Postcolonial notes on journalism and citizen media’, in S. Ponzanesi and G. Colpani (eds) Postcolonial Transitions in Europe, London & NY: Rowman & Littlefield, 231-250.
Gilroy, P. (1994) The Black Atlantic, London: Verso Books.
Gilroy, P. (1994) Small Acts, London: Serpent’s Tail.
Leurs, K. (2015) Digital Passages. Migrant Youth 2.0. Diaspora, gender & youth cultural intersections, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
Mignolo, W. (2013) ‘Geo-politics of Sensing and Knowing: On (de)coloniality, border thinking, and epistemic disobedience’, Confero 1(1): 129-150.
Ponzanesi, S. (2014) The Postcolonial Cultural Industry. Icons, markets, mythologies, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Jacob Breslow, London School of Economics, UK
This entry’s exploration of the relationship between precarity and citizen media includes, but is not limited to, the traditional analysis of the precariat. While the precariat has been understood in primarily economic terms to define a class of people constricted by unstable labour conditions and sustained economic instability, this entry expands on the notion of ‘precarious’ to include other forms of uncertainty and insecurity. Taking on the call to situate citizen media as multifaceted and performative interventions in various forms of sociality and world building projects, the entry additionally considers precarity in regards to acts of citizenship, negotiations of criminalized and unrecognized labour, contested geographies, radical subjectivities, and acts of performative refusal. It specifically examines creative acts of collective and individual resistance to forms of precarization which include outsourcing, hazardous working conditions, the criminalization of sex work, the proliferation of flexible labour and zero-hour contracts, anti-black racism, environmental destruction, and the afterlife of apartheid and colonialism. Taking on an intersectional feminist, critical race, queer, and postcolonial perspective, it highlights fleeting, quotidian and longstanding acts of mediation and embodied activism which recalibrate and interfere with dominant narratives and structures of precarization.
Andrijasevic, R. et al. (2012) ‘European Citizenship Unbound: Sex work, Mobility, Mobilisation’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 30: 497-514.
Butler, J. (2012) ‘Precarity Talk: A Virtual Roundtable with Lauren Berlant, Judith Butler, Bojana Cvejić, Isabell Lorey, Jasbir Puar, and Ana Vujanović’, TDR: The Drama Review 56(4): 163-177.
Gill, R. and A. Pratt (2008) ‘Precarity and Cultural Work: In the Social Factory? Immaterial Labour, Precariousness and Cultural Work’, Theory, Culture & Society 25(7-8): 1-30.
Grahm, L. (2016) ‘Representing Marikana’, Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 18(6): 834-851.
Tari, M. and I. Vani (2005) ‘On the Life and Deeds of San Precario: Patron Saint of Precarious Workers and Lives’, Fibreculture Journal 5.
Marianne Maeckelbergh, Ghent University, Belgium
This entry explores the history and recent rise to popularity of the term ‘prefiguration’ within social movement theory and practice. It traces the history of contemporary forms of prefiguration back to a shift in social movement praxis in the 1960s away from linear, programmatic, unitary theories of social change, as embodied in the modernist paradigms of communism and developmental progressivism, towards more experimental and open practices of social change.
The entry follows the emergence of prefiguration from practices of ‘participatory democracy’ within the 1960s and 1970s movements to the emphasis on ‘horizontal politics’ within the alterglobalization movement of the 2000s and finally the Occupy movements of the 2010s to explore the close relationship between prefigurative politics and the radical shifts in democratic theory and practice that occur within movements when large groups of unaffiliated citizens come together in public space(s) to effect social change. The various definitions, approaches and interpretations of the strategic value of prefiguration as a practice of social change will be discussed through an exploration of both the growing body of literature dedicated to this concept as well as concrete examples of how prefiguration works in practice across multiple contexts and decades of movement organising.
The entry ends with a survey of recent literature that places prefiguration in relation to practices of representation, capitalism, the state and the success/failure approach to understanding social movement practices.
Dinerstein, A. C. (2015) The Politics of Autonomy in Latin America: The Art of Organising Hope, Basingstoke: Palsgrave Macmillan.
Franks, B. (2003) ‘The Direct Action Ethic from 59 Upwards’, Anarchist Studies 11(1): 13-41.
Graeber, D. (2002) ‘The New Anarchists’, New Left Review 13: 61-73.
Maeckelbergh, M. (2009) The Will of the Many: How the Alterglobalisation Movement is Changing the Face of Democracy, London: Pluto Press.
Polletta, F. (2002) ‘Freedom Is an Endless Meeting’, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Yates, L. (2015) ‘Rethinking Prefiguration: Alternatives, micropolitics and goals in social movements’, Social Movement Studies 14(1): 1-21.
Process vs. Event
Carlie D. Trott, University of Cincinnati, USA
Despite their interdependence, the concepts of ‘process’ and ‘event’ are often distinguished from one another in social movement studies. Where events are conceptualized as discrete, temporally-bound, externally-directed products of collective struggle, processes refer to their continuous, ever-shifting practices and democratic potentialities. Events, as unitary entities, may consist of particular projects or products in citizen media, whereas processes, as fluid arrangements, encompass a diverse range of methods and practices surrounding—and making possible—the production and circulation of content. In citizen media, as in other forms of resistance, disproportionate scholarly attention has been paid to tangible, visible ‘outputs’ (or events), rather than to the more abstract, less visible ‘inputs’ (or processes) that facilitate or constrain the former. In recent years, the everyday, temporally-extended social practices and tensions within social movements have garnered increasing attention. As a result, citizen media events are increasingly understood as physical and digital extensions—or public expressions—of ongoing, deliberative processes, rather than as spontaneous eruptions of creative resistance. Moreover, events are recognized as points along a continuum: not only as products of preceding activities, but as sites of process-oriented (re)generation. Beyond their practical inseparability, distinguishing process from event is further complicated in citizen media initiatives guided by the prefigurative ethos, whereby the medium itself embodies the empancipatory message of movement actors. Drawing on theoretical and empirical works, this entry will examine the nature and meaning of ‘process vs. event’ in citizen media, and discuss the theoretical and practical significance of the distinction.
Baker, M. and B.B. Blaagaard (eds) (2016) Citizen Media and Public Spaces: Diverse expressions of citizenship and dissent, New York: Routledge.
Haiven, M. and A. Khasnabish (2014) The Radical Imagination: Social movement research in the age of austerity, London: Zed Books.
Maeckelbergh, M. (2009) The Will of the Many: How the alterglobalisation movement is changing the face of democracy, New York: Pluto Press.
Rodriguez, C. (2001) Fissures in the Mediascape: An international study of citizens’ media, Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
Steward, H. (1997) The Ontology of Mind: Events, processes, and states, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Petros Iosifidis, City, University of London, UK
The concept of the public sphere is a central analytical tool that helps us to make sense of the relationship between the media and democracy (civic engagement). Political theorist Habermas explained that in the late eighteenth century a new political class (the bourgeoisie) came to the fore in Britain in particular and formed a public body which, in sharp contrast to the old authorities, notably the state and the church, provided the conditions for reason-based, public opinion. The creation of a network of institutions by the bourgeoisie within the civil society and, more specifically, the launch of a number of newspapers provided the means through which private thoughts could become public. However, Habermas pointed out that this space for rational and universalistic politics created by the capitalist market was historically damaged by both the extension of the state and the evolution of monopoly capitalism. The role of the media was central to the replacement of the ideal speech situation by conditions of ‘distorted communication’. Whereas the independent press at the turn of the nineteenth century had led to the formation of rational public debate and public decision-making on political and judicial matters, it later functioned as a manipulative agency controlling public opinion.
Although often dubbed idealistic and criticised on its ‘rationality’ principle, Habermas’ theory offered a good starting point for understanding the media’s role in public communication. But in today’s global multi-cultural society it is argued that the public sphere should take a universalising angle and consider the cultural ‘difference’. Therefore, the debates surrounding the idea of the public sphere have taken a renewed interest with the emergence of the Internet and other new online and citizen media which can provide new communication spaces where debate can be conducted. This entry discusses the role of the traditional public sphere in terms of citizens’ political actions and engages critically with up to date scholarship in the field by debating whether new electronic media act as a public sphere where critical discourse can emerge and influence political action. To illustrate this, the entry provides concrete examples and makes reference to a number of cases, including the way the Brexiteers and Trump used citizen media, and Twitter in particular, to win the 2016 UK Referendum and the 2016 US Presidential election, respectively.
Castells, M. (2007) ‘Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society’, International Journal of Communication 8 February: 238-266.
Coleman, S. and J. G. Blumer (2008) The Internet and Democratic Citizenship: Theory, practice and policy, Cambridge University Press.
Dahlgren, P. (2009) Media and Political Engagement: Citizens, communication and democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Habermas, J. (1962/1989) The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a category of bourgeois society, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Hague, B. N. and B. D. Loader (eds.) (1999) Digital Democracy: Discourse and decision-making in the information age, London: Routledge.
Papacharassi, Z. (2009) A Private Sphere: Democracy in a digital age, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Publics (and Networked Publics)
Elaine Yuan, University of Illinois at Chicago, US
This entry provides an overview of the notion of ‘the public’, the tensions inherent in the multiplicity of publics, the idea of public good, as well as the process of public formation in relation to the changing media landscape. The discussion begins with the Habermasian notion of ‘public sphere’, understood as an institutionalised arena of discursive interaction. Based on a historical depiction of a rising bourgeois class, Habermas (1991) developed this concept to postulate the existence of a public whose ‘public opinion’ served as ‘the abstract counterpart of public authority’. This historically specific bourgeois public sphere, however, was both exclusive and transient. A post-bourgeois modern public sphere is necessarily defined by multiple publics in changing relations and conjuncture alliances instead of one of any singular, foundational form (Calhoun 1998).
Such publics are self-creating and self-organised through discourses, therefore both powerful and elusive. The modern sense of the public as the social totality only exists on the basis of partial publics of discourse (Warner 2002). In this sense, the publics are emergent. They are formed in ‘open-ended flows of communication that enable socially distant interlocutors to bridge social-network positions, formulate collective orientations, and generate psychical ‘working alliances,’ in pursuit of influence over issues of common concern’ (Emirbayer and Sheller 1999: 156). During this process, differences are articulated and notions of the public good constituted (Calhoun 1998: 22).
Calhoun, C. (1998) ‘The Public Good as a Social and Cultural Project’, in W. Powell and E. S. Clemens (eds) Private Action and the Public Good, Yale University Press, 20-35.
Emirbayer, M. and M. Sheller (1999) ‘Publics in History’, Theory and Society 28(1):143-197.
Fraser, N. (1990) ‘Rethinking the Public Sphere: A contribution to the critique of actually existing democracy’, Social Text (25/26): 56-80.
Habermas, J. (1991) The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An inquiry into
a category of bourgeois society, MIT press.
Warner, M. (2002) ‘Publics and Counterpublics’, Public Culture 14(1): 49-90.