The public sphere is where conversation is mediated; democracy is implemented and where social action often takes place. The Cultural Studies reader interprets Jürgen Habermas’ original writing on the public sphere, defining it is a “realm within social life in which public opinion can be formed and which is accessible to all”.
Attributing the public sphere’s development to the coffee houses and households of 18th Century Britain, Habermas concludes that these open dialogues were crucial in democratic ideas and their development (1991).
With new technology and developments in the way we receive and disseminate information, the public sphere is amid great change. These new ways to communicate have had a profound effect on journalism specifically, making the body that once fed us information, now part of a collection of technologies to help us gather information. Easy access to publishing tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogging sites has enabled common people to publish and share news information, with the potential to reach just as many people as ass media did previously. Dan Berkowitz describes this new chapter in the public sphere “… Journalism has become part of a holistic mix of media elements that intentionally and unintentionally provide people with varied glimpses of the world around them” (2009).
Whilst there are fewer restrictions placed on common self-publishing tools, many of them are starting to adhere to traditional journalistic principles. This concept, whilst slightly differing to the journalistic examples, can be seen in the transformation of YouTube from user-generated content to professionally generated content. Simply, this means that YouTube, once a user-driven platform, is adhering to traditional principles of television and advertising to create revenue which, in turn, is changing the users experience altogether (Kim, J 2012). This is just another example of the paradigm shift that new technology is offering, even with traditional media having an impact on it’s growth.
People are aware that exposure to lots of information (whilst it is varied) does not equal quality and accuracy. For this reason, many still remain loyal to traditional news outlets as (for the most part) they can rely on their credibility and reputation.
I think these new technologies are to be embraced and used by people today. It allows us to publish stories that would see the front page of a newspaper but still need to be heard. The public sphere still exists, but now it occurs online!
Berkowitz, D 2009. ‘Journalism in the Broader Cultural Mediascape,’ Journalism, Vol. 10 : 290-292.
Kim, J 2012, ‘The Institutionalization of YouTube: From user-generated content to professionally generated content’, Media Culture & Society, pp.53-65.
Habermas, J 1991. ‘The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere’ pp. 1-31.