Week 5 – Public Sphere and Space

1) “examinations of the internet as a public sphere all point to the conclusion that online digital technologies create a public space, but do not inevitably enable a public sphere.” (Papacharissi, 2009)

There is a clear distinction between public sphere and space. Public is a sphere where citizens, people gather and come together, like a forum, to express opinions, to engage in debates over regulations, rules, laws etc in a space or an area where it’s regulated by higher authorities, leaders, organisations and the government. Papacharissi said something similar where he mentioned, “The public sphere presents a domain of social life in which public opinion is expressed by means of rational public discourse and debate”.

Whereas public space is a social space given to everyone to meet and communicate.

2) Papacharissi (2009) argues that for a variety of reasons it might not be appropriate to think about the internet as the public sphere. However, she does argue that there are ways in which it enriches democracy.

What examples does Papacharissi give of ways in which the internet enriches democracy?

The Internet is now a sphere that acts as an intermediary between the public/society and state/organisations. In the liberal model of a public sphere, “mass media has played a big role in informing and directing public opinion” (Papacharissi, pp.5). It has enabled access to information, made it possible for privately motivated individuals and groups to challenge public agenda, bridge a connection between government and citizens and allow two-way communication (Papacharissi, pp.9). Discussions can be done online, opinions can be expressed which then can be empowered by people who feel the same way and this helps connect people of democracy. This can be through blogs, where society has a chance to be media producers. Kerbel and Blooms said that “some bloggers exerted sizable influence over mainstream media, usually by creating noises over issues or political candidates initially marginalised by mainstream media” (Papacharissi, pp.14). Bloggers blog their personal thoughts and publish it in a public sphere where readers are invited to read. It provides an alternative view and thoughts from mainstream media. An example Papacharissi quoted from Semetko and Krasnoboka, where users in Russia and Ukraine, “sites of online only newspapers are of primary importance and online versions of offline news outlets, along with politician web sites, only minimally used”. Blogs can be a powerful medium in the case where unofficial advocacy blogs in Kyrgystan has lent it’s support to a revolution, voicing opposition thoughts to the republic’s leadership by “providing information not available through mainstream media” (Papacharissi, pp.18).

3) In your groups find an example of internet use that you think contributes to democratic possibilities. Provide a link to this example on your blog and write a short paragraph explaining why you think it works. Link this to the Papacharissi discussion by noting whether or not this is a classic public sphere use of the internet or a different way of enriching democratic process


Number 10 Downing Street is the residence of the government and this website has provided members of the public or citizens a platform to contact, engage and communicate to the government. Under the ‘Take Part’ tab, you can find various pages that ordinary citizens may partake in. We have chosen the ‘Petitions’ page as our example. Here, you may submit an online petition (or e-petition as they call it):

“You can create an e-petition about anything that the government is responsible for and if it gets at least 100,000 signatures, it will be eligible for debate in the House of Commons.”

Members of the public are given power to contribute as successful petitions will be discussed in on a higher, more powerful platform: the House of Commons. Papacharissi has said that “politicians and media institutions make use of digital media to supplement their own agendas and objectives” (pp.18), the website is a good example of it. In a way, it is a different take from the traditional petition signing. Their voices and opinions maybe heard, thus democracy is achieved. But this model as Papacharissi has mentioned “the model may ultimately have a democratising effect but does not bear a direct resemblance to the public sphere” (pp.18).


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