Sunday, March 8, 2009

Lei's questions about public sphere

Fraser proposed the idea of “subaltern counter-publics” where “subordinated social groups invent and circulate counter discourses, which in turn permit them to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests, and needs.” And one of its two functions is as “bases and training grounds for agitational activities directed toward wider publics’.

Kellner argued that “he (Habermas) omits the arguably necessary presuppositions for democratic deliberation and argumentation—an informed and intellectually competent citizenry.”

I found Kellner’s argument of “competent citizenry” also applies to Fraser’s counter or alternative public sphere. So my questions are:

(1)Is that the precondition of alternative public sphere still needs the participation of people in higher socio-economic status? For instance, many participatory video projects are always led by media professionals and participated in by some illiterate people in rural area.

(2) If not, how can they be “trained” to wider publics, thus realizing inter-public communication, if all of them in this public are not literate and without and economic or cultural resources at all? There still exists inequality among “a multiplicity of public spheres”.

(3)If the above precondition assumption is true (i.e. led by professional), then is that the counter-publics or alternative publics still “accommodate some expressive modes and not others”?

Kellner, “from this perspective, then, the media are part of a constitutional balance of power, providing checks and balances against the other political spheres and should perform a crucial function of informing cultivating a citizenry capable of actively participating in democratic politics.

(4)Combining both Kellner and Fraser’s critics of Habermasian public sphere, can we say that we need a preliminary sphere to prepare ordinary citizen to enter a public sphere (either Habermasian or counter/alternative public sphere)?

At the end of the article, Kellner pointed out that “a new democratic politics will thus be concerned that new media and computer technologies be used to serve the interests of the people…allowing a full range of voices and ideas to become part of the cyberdemocracy of the future.”

This argument reminds me of Mouffle’s thinking of new media as public space. “…For me democracy is precisely this agonistic struggle where you are being bombarded by different views. The new media are not going into that direction. It reminds me of a form of autism, where people are only listening to and speaking with people that agree with them. To put it in a nutshell, I do not see that the new media would automatically be supportive to the creation of an agonistic public space.”

(5) Can we undertand like this, new media produces a multiplicity of public spheres, yet could not help realize inter-public communication? Or, is that inter-public communication can only be achieved offline?

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