The internet and the public sphere have a permanent place in research and inquiry for the foreseeable future. When placed alongside traditional mass media, it creates a communication process that is only going to expand.
The public sphere is made up of three separate parts: structures, representation and interaction.
The structure of the public sphere is based in media organisations and how they work, including political economy and the control of financing. It also promotes free speech as that is one of the main democratic issues. Representation is the output of the media and how it is presented to the public. Given the increasing ‘massification’, communication becomes vital for online context. Interaction comes in two parts; the publics’ interaction with the media and their interpretation, and their interaction with other citizens. Dewey (1954) wrote that ‘public should be conceptualised as something other than a media audience’ – implying that they are free to make up their own minds, something which I agree with.
The idea of the internet being used for political purposes is minor compared to other civic interaction online such as consumerism, entertainment and non-political networking, which is also being used to challenge established power structures. Political purposes do not always promote the civic ideal and as much as the internet can help with political discussion, it is also the cause of fragmentation and the beginning of communications with group that have different views.
The point is made in the passage that there needs to be a link between the public sphere and political discussions, as mechanisms for transforming opinions into decisions and policies are limited. I feel that political discussions that do take place on the internet are often only relevant to political bodies, something which could be altered in the new transitional era but past regards to democracy stop this from advancing.
The internet is now central to new politics, especially with ‘horrizonal communication’ of civic interaction. However this could be seen as a group of activists coming together, enhancing Mouffe (1999) idea of ‘antagonism – groupings of “us” and “them”’ and often allows irrational views to opposing ideas to be expressed.
Jürgen Habermas states that ‘mediated political communication in the public sphere can facilitate deliberative legitimation processes in complex societies only if a self-regulating media system gains independence from its social environments’(2006) This shows that politics and civic culture online can be both strong and vulnerable; yet they both need to formulate a realm of power with democratic views
- Blumler. G J and Gurevitch, M (2001) The new media and our political discontents: Democratising Cyberspace
- Dahlgren, P (2005) The Internet, Public Spheres, and Political Communication: Dispersion and Deliberation
- Dewey, J (1954) The Public and its problems
- Habermas, J (2006) Communication Theory
- Mouffe, C (1999) Deliberative democracy or antagonistic pluralism? P754-748
- Street, J (2001) Mass Media, Politics and Democracy chapter 9