The Public Sphere Of Imagination

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.



Just another selfie.

For many, encountering a selfie is often followed by a hefty eye-roll and sigh. However, Jerry Saltz’, Art at Arm’s Length: A History of the Selfie  manages to depict selfies as artistic, even going as far to describe the genre as an artistic movement. I personally, am still a member of the former category (the eye-roller).

Whilst selfies have revolutionized how we share information, take photographs and the broadened the uses of technology, however, many people are using them merely for personal gratification.

Saltz references Kyle Chakya, curator of the National #Selfie Portrait Gallery who describes the selfie as ‘creating your own digital avatar’, going on to say that “Smartphone selfies come out of the same impulse as Rembrandt’s… to make yourself look awesome”. Here, Chakya refers to the work of Rembrandt, who is renowned for the self-portraiture that recurs throughout his work. This prompted me to think about the reasons behind Rembrandt painting himself – did he want to be perceived a certain way? Was he being selective with the physical traits he chose to enhance in his images?

This is certainly the case in today’s day and age. Taking a selfie enables the photographer to enhance their best features and withhold the elements of themselves that they don’t want the audience to see. This ability to amend images and construct a profile that hides your flaws and magnifies your strengths poses many ethical questions. Should we consider these people liars and frauds or just accept that social media fosters embellishment?

Typically, the selfie is subjected to numerous stages of editing, including the multiple staged photos that a person will take before settling on one to post on Instagram (or other social media). Then comes the choice of filter, which again alters the image, exposing the audience to an unrealistic depiction of a person.

The essence of the selfie is false, edited, skewed and partial. But now a way of life, the selfie is here to stay. So whatever your feelings towards the selfie or the people that constantly post them, embrace it, albeit with the knowledge that not all is what it seems.