Public sphere on the Internet

Habermas points out that the public sphere is an area in social life where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify societal problems, and thought that discussion influence political action. Since the internet has taken over most communication in daily life, the internet is not only a place to send personal messages or find necessary information, it can also be the place to shape people’s opinions, participate in public discussions about political issues and finding supporting data. It has become a virtual public sphere for users to create a virtual community. From physical to virtual, the concept of public sphere has changed in this information globalized age.
The online discussion on the Umbrella Revolution (2014), for example, was expanded in hours among online platforms. Protestors from Hong Kong firstly posted about the activism on Twitter fighting for democratic freedom. Within 12 hours, protest information spreader across the globe: online respondents with various perspectives actively commented and reposted the original post, and started to respond with heated discussion on sonically media platforms and online forums. Although, the physical protest ended at the beginning of 2015, the online discussion is still happening today as the internet users continue to update their posts and post their thoughts on different platforms.
The internet provides an interactive function to serve as a public sphere. Internet users have the choice to express their thought and practice their freedom of speech. Since some discussions are sensitive, especially about political debates, internet users can choose to participate anonymously rather than saying out their thoughts face to face. Even though people continue to have physical communication in daily life, more internet users rather share this virtual space for public discussions.

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2 Comments

  1. Although you make an excellent point about the ways in which the internet and its varied applications act as a platform for public opinions to be heard, have you considered the internet to be interpreted as both a quasi-public and private space? I was thinking back to your presentation on mobile publics, and the ways in which users of mobile technologies such as cellphones bring private practices (conversations) into what has traditionally been considered public space. I think there are instances online where users feel as though their “anonymous” user names and/or online communities afford them a sense of privacy, when in fact they are still preforming private functions in a vastly public space.

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  2. I can definitely see how Haberma’s idea of the public sphere can come into play within online realms. The internet offers vast virtual space in which political issues can be brought to light, and discussed. It even allows for a bridge to be created between the “virtual” and the “real”, as online forms create the opportunity for real life activities; protests, public gatherings etc. However at the same time, I struggle with the idea that Haberma’s concept is to limited to fully develop the public experience that happens online. We have seen an evolution in public discussion that arguable has resulted in a need to reimagine our understand of the public sphere. Habberma’s understand needs to be reconsidered to better reflect the role that new media plays within our public discussion.

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