Internet and the Public Sphere Essay

1765 Words Aug 15th, 2015 8 Pages
Internet and the public sphere
The ideological arena that Jürgen Habermas has named ‘the public sphere’ provides the foundation for discussions of the public sphere in contemporary societies. However, the public sphere has been radically transformed by new mass media. Within one generation, the Internet has grown from a nascent technology into a tool that facilitates the phenomenon of the public sphere by transforming how people, businesses, and governments communicate and engage. It has also generated changes in society by connecting individuals and communities, providing access to information and education, and promoting greater transparency. In this essay, I will elaborate on the extent on which the Internet can be
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Marcinkowski (2008), p. 4041. 2 Cf. Habermas, (1989).
3 Cf. ResetDoc (2014), n.p.
Is the Internet a public sphere?
Over the past decade, there has been much debate among scholars concerning the Internet’s ability to extend the public sphere. They have focussed on the potential of the Internet in cultivating a public sphere where clear, equal, and open dialogue among citizens can flourish. The optimists claim that the Internet technology seems to match all the basic requirements of Habermas’s public sphere: it is a universal, anti-hierarchical, complex, and demanding mode of interaction. “Because it offers universal access, unforced communication, freedom of expression, an unrestricted agenda, participation outside of traditional political institutions and generates public opinion through processes of discussion, the Internet looks like the most ideal speech situation.”4 However, some qualifying comments should be made as the “Internet plays an active role in the current dramatic differentiation of the public sphere, in terms of topics debated, styles applied and persons involved”5 as well as the self- regulating norms.
According to Papacharissi, it is the intent and related technologies that have created a new public space for conversation. “Whether this public space transcends to a public sphere is not up to the technology

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