[iDC] New Structural Transformations of the Public Sphere, new fluencies?
j.schmidt at hans-bredow-institut.de
Wed Jul 27 08:28:39 UTC 2011
thanks for your comment
> I would generally agree with the characterizations of the digital
> media disjuncture Jan here describes, but I wonder if there are
> alternatives to viewing these shifts in terms of "structures" and
> "fluencies." I am struck by how the descriptions of our media
> present tend to encode certain theoretical assumptions about what
> constitutes "productive participation," and that too often we take
> those assumptions for granted.
> Does a public sphere matter if it doesn't accomplish anything? If we
> need achievements (or failures) in order to define politics, then
> shouldn't we center our theories around those actions?
Yes, I completely agree.
Yet... :-) ... I see analytical value in differentiating structures and
actions - and bringing them back together in a concept of "practice"
which is always situationally performed AND situated within structures
(as restraints, rules, ressources).
Short excursus: My own heuristic model of computer-mediated
communication has three of these structural dimensions - rules (shared
norms and expectations), relations (both social and
hypertextual/databased) and code (technological affordances, defaults,
[See http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol12/issue4/schmidt.html for a more
detailed version in the context of blogging practices]
So my focus on "networked public spheres" implicitly includes looking at
the _practices_ that are situated within them, and simultanoeusly
re-/produce them. It is these practices that might bring political or
social change - by changing the structures of the public spheres AND by
using the networked public spheres to achieve change in other social
systems. And it is these practices that call for certain fluencies or
skills (or you could argue that these practices are skills in itself).
>> in these new convergent media spaces, personal publics are pretty
>> dynamic and fluid - the metaphor here is the "stream" or "feed",
>> not the "issue" or the "show" or any other concept we know from
>> traditional media.
> Yet we might respond that the very idea of "public sphere," where
> "ideas" can be "debated" draws too heavily on our ideas about
> journalism and mass media, albeit transposed to distributed,
> peer-level communication networks (with wider reach, less overhead,
> but, generally, smaller audiences).
> Fluencies, too, seems very much about "reading information" or
> "producing push-feeds" on an individual level. The competencies we
> might endeavor to teach in a/b/c below still reproduce the idea of an
> individual, active citizen/netizen
> I'm sure I'm echoing what others have written (this is not super
> original), but I'd be curious to think about how we can redefine what
> civic action means in this post-journalism and inertia-otic
> government era. To me, this means identifying alternative
> collaborative action spheres, platforms for participation, that do
> things in the world.
These are good points - I've recently read Zizi Papacharissi' inspiring
book "the private sphere" where she reconstructs the debates around the
Habermas'ian concept of public sphere and deliberative action with
respect to the Internet. She also argues that the new arenas of
socially-orientied communication (SNS, Blogs, Youtube, etc.) should be
recognized as sites of "new civic habits" (her words).
> So, my own guess is that means a trial-and-error with diverse
> approahes to "productive participation," always questioning the
> theoretical assumptions we are bringing to our notions of action.
> Rather than opting for more open realms for a conversation around
> ideas, it may be that ideas will gain more political traction (and
> perhaps weight with skeptical scientists and administrators) if we
> think less about public "spheres" and more about how things get
As a politically active citizen I agree, as a analytically active
scientist I'd still like to analyse structures and spheres.. ;-)
>> I've enjoyed the lively discussion on the future of humanities over
>> the last couple of days. In preparation for the conference I also
>> agreed to introduce some ideas of my own, starting today - so
>> here's a somewhat different topic, which nevertheless will
>> stimulate responses as well :-)
>> As I've written in my introduction to this list (and I'm going to
>> copy some parts of the introduction below), I have a background in
>> sociology and communication science. I'm particularly interested in
>> identifying the developments, shifts, and mechanisms that come
>> along with digital media (and their social appropriation).
>> One, if not the main disruption digital media bring about is the
>> emergence of a new type of public sphere - thus the reference to
>> Habermas in my subject line - by lowering technological barriers to
>> make information or content available. Tools like (micro-)blogs,
>> social network sites, video platforms etc. afford the emergence of
>> "personal public spheres" (or "persoenliche Oeffentlichkeiten" in
>> German). These can be best understood by contrasting them with
>> "traditional" public spheres produced by professional journalism;
>> personal public spheres are formed when and where
>> a) users make available information that is personally relevant to
>> them (instead of the information being selected according to
>> journalistic news factors or news values),
>> b) that is directed to an intended audience of strong and weak
>> ties (instead of the disperse, unconnected, and unknown audience
>> of mass-mediated public spheres),
>> c) and that is presented mainly to engage in conversation (instead
>> of the one-way mode of publishing).
>> Some elements of this development have been described in other
>> concepts or theories as well. E.g., Axel Bruns' idea of "produsage"
>> also emphasizes the idea that the boundaries between "producer" and
>> "user" are blurring - he is giving lots of examples from different
>> fields; I'm focussing here on the blurring boundaries between
>> "senders" and "receivers" - within personal publics, users are
>> both, since they are constantly "sending" information (e.g. by
>> updating their Facebook Status or tweeting) to their social network
>> as well as receiving information which is filtered through their
>> social graph.
>> In addition, as sub-type of digital public spheres, or networked
>> publics, or whatever you want to call these new convergent media
>> spaces, personal publics are pretty dynamic and fluid - the
>> metaphor here is the "stream" or "feed", not the "issue" or the
>> "show" or any other concept we know from traditional media.
>> Information in personal publics is also simultaneously de-packaged
>> (because users can take single news items, stories, microcontent
>> and like, (re-)tweet, digg, blog them) and re-packaged (into one's
>> stream or feed etc.).
>> These are just a few of the structural characteristics of this new
>> form of public sphere, and I'm happy to add and/or discuss other
>> elements with you.
>> What I'd also like to discuss with you are the implications for
>> necessary competencies / fluencies. Some first ideas and
>> statements, feel free to add more:
>> 1) "media competence" is becoming "social competence" - it is no
>> longer only about finding, understanding, appraising given media
>> content (e.g. the newspaper article; the tv show; advertisment vs.
>> editorial content), but more importantly about how to use
>> convergent media (including journalistic content) within
>> conversations and social interactions. This includes, for example,
>> competencies and skills regarding participation in reasonable
>> discourses as well respecting (privacy of or viewpoints of) one's
>> communication partners (think: cyber-bullying etc.).
>> 2) Filter Competence is crucial: As Clay Shirky put it (I
>> paraphrase from memory): "There is no information overload, only
>> filter failure." - With personal publics the volume of potentially
>> relevant information is expanding even more rapidly, so it is up to
>> the individual user to construct filters - including both
>> traditional gatekeepers as well as one's social graph.
>> 3) Participation as a meta-skill: Not only do we need to be fluent
>> participants in these new public spheres; we also have to
>> participate in the more general power struggles around the design
>> and control of these new structures, which are often proprietary
>> and intransparent. Put it the other way round: Being an active
>> citizen in a "convergent media democracy" includes participation
>> regarding our own rights and responsibilities as "netizens".
>> Looking forward to your ideas and comments,
>> -- ---- Dr. Jan-Hinrik Schmidt Wissenschaftlicher Referent für
>> Digitale Interaktive Medien und Politische Kommunikation
>> Hans-Bredow-Institut für Medienforschung
>> Warburgstr. 8-10 D-20354 Hamburg Germany
>> T: 040-450217-83 F: 040-450217-99
>> j.schmidt at hans-bredow-institut.de http://www.schmidtmitdete.de
> Ian Condry Associate Professor Comparative Media Studies Program MIT,
> Cambridge, MA 02139 http://iancondry.com http://mitcooljapan.com
> phone: 508-314-2567
Dr. Jan-Hinrik Schmidt
Wissenschaftlicher Referent für Digitale Interaktive Medien und
Hans-Bredow-Institut für Medienforschung
j.schmidt at hans-bredow-institut.de
More information about the iDC