Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sun Ho's Questions - Week 8

Week eight: Media, Democracy and the Public Sphere

* From Habermas’s concept of “the public sphere” (pg 73): it means “a realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed” and “access is guaranteed to all citizens.” There, “citizens behave as a public body” rather than “behave like business or professional people transacting private affairs.”

Q1. Since the Internet and blogs gained our attention, their potential impact on the public sphere has been largely discussed. But to what extent does this space meet Habermas’s ideal of the public sphere?

Q2. Does it serve as the “media of public sphere” like newspapers and magazines, radio and television? Or is it somewhat different from those traditional media in that it facilitates two-way communication between citizens?

* Some other terms used to describe what we see now on the Internet in relation to Habermas’s public sphere: public discourse and civic engagement.

Q3. Those scholarly works often see online discussions as facilitating public discourse and fostering civic engagement. It’s been years since the term virtual democracy was first introduced – is the Internet really opening up public discourse and engaging citizens to address common issues? What do you we think of this possibility now?

Q4. What are some of the barriers to participation? The concept of digital divide has dominated the debate so far. For those who are uninvolved and suffer from Internet illiteracy and information poverty, is the Internet another form of ‘top-down’ communications?

* On page 18, Kellner states, “the rise of the Internet expands the realm for democratic participation and debate and creates new public spaces for political intervention.”

Q5. Another set of terms related to Kellner’s statement as he mentions about political intervention: informed citizenry and deliberative democracy. There are different thoughts and research results on whether we are better informed or still under-informed citizens with the new technology. Assuming we are better informed, can we really say citizens are “deliberating” online? Is this leading to the formation of “rational” public opinion?

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