Charity Hitt MMC 6660 Blog

University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications

Week 10 Essay

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What is meant by a public sphere and how did Habermas came up with this concept? Describe some public spheres you might be familiar with.

The public sphere, as defined by Habermas, is a virtual (or even physical) place where citizens can voice their opinions on and discuss problems in society, in the hopes of influencing action or change. Through discussing issues of societal importance, members of society can collaborate to form a public opinion.  This idea of the public sphere as it was explained by Habermas, was born as an intermediary between the “private sphere”, and the “sphere of public authority” (the nobility, the state, the church, the bourgeois class, etc.), which was once considered as representative of the ‘public’.

Habermas points to a polarization and separation of public and the public authority at the end of the eighteenth century as the catalyst for the creation of the public sphere.  Citizens no longer wanted to just be represented by those in authority, and they called for change.  “The general interest, which was the measure of such a rationality, was then guaranteed, according to the presuppositions of a society of free commodity exchange, when the activities of private individuals in the marketplace were freed from social compulsion and from political pressure n the public sphere,” (pg. 53). It was this move towards the representation of the ‘general interest’, coupled with a rise in literacy that led to the formation of critical journalism, outside of the bulletins and notices that comprised ‘journalism’ of the time. This led to the public sphere model as we know it today.

We see the public sphere as a model in our everyday lives: From town hall meetings to the PTA, the public sphere model is at the basis of a democratic society. In today’s world, the public sphere also still exists in the media, just as it did at its inception at the end of the eighteenth century.  However now, with the internet as a medium for public discourse, the public sphere is arguably more inclusive than ever.  Virtually any person with acces to the internet can join in the conversation, contributing their opinion, signing petitions, or just participating in the general conversation that comprises the public sphere.


Written by charityhitt

October 24, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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