Sunday, March 8, 2009

Teresa's discussion questions

1- Kellner argues that the new media have multiplied information and discussion. Thus, it provides potential for a more informed citizenry and more extensive democratic participation. I wonder to what extent this is an idealized view of the Internet. On the one hand, it is true that new technologies open new public spheres for discussion. But, on the other hand, it has been demonstrated that more media choices is not necessarily good for creating a more informed citizenry. With more media choice, the audience for news becomes smaller because those who prefer entertainment can avoid completely politics and public affairs issues (Prior, 2007). Therefore, does the Internet really provide potential for a more informed citizenry?

2- Kellner asserts that in his book Television and the Crisis of Democracy, he contends that the mainstream broadcasting media are not serving the public interest, therefore they are not helping in constructing a democratic society. Although I haven’t read his book, this argument is similar to Putnam’s idea of television as the culprit for disengagement. I find this argument very problematic: Should we blame the technology (television), the system (commercial, public), or the content for serving or failing to serve the public interest? Not all mainstream broadcasting media are the same. Perhaps, one could argue that the American mainstream broadcasting media are not helping but it is harder to make such a case for the European media. Therefore, does this means that rather than the technology, i.e., television, the culprit would be the system or how it is managed?

3- Many critical authors seem to be anchored in the past. Adorno and Horkheimer criticize the emergence of popular/mass culture. In addition, Habermas applies as norm or ideal a face-to-face communication and discussion. Do these critiques lead us somewhere given the fact that mass media and new media will not fade away? I understand the point of being critical and aware of the system we are immersed. But what’s the idea of keep idealizing the past. It will not come back. Isn’t it better to seek alternatives in the present era?

4- Fraser criticizes Habermas for proposing a single, comprehensive burgeois conception of the public sphere. According to her, this excludes other less official public spheres. Although it is a good point, Habermas defines public sphere as a body of private persons gathered to discuss matters of public concern or common interest. Is it fair to focus the criticisms on the burgeois aspect of the public sphere rather than the definition?

5- Is the public sphere defined by the act of gathering and discussing or by the content of the discussion (enlightened conversations of public interest)? In other words, if women gather to discuss about private/family issues, would that be considered public sphere?

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