We live in a world that is constantly evolving, world where once there was an ‘adequate’ amount of citizens who once did not have the right of speech, inherent inequalities and a place where only the elite were entitled to having an opinion. But as such inequalities have faded, each member of society has become part of what is described as the ‘public sphere‘. Theorist Jürgen Habermas defines public sphere as being a place where public opinion can be expressed. He speaks about “‘public opinion’ is the control and criticism of organized political authority which is officially manifested by the public come elections”. To put it in the simplest of terms the public sphere can be described as a metaphor, a place where individuals of society come together and discuss ideas.
As i’ve grown up my participation in the public sphere has grown from my family, to a classroom and further to places such as various social media platforms. We use our micro and macro worlds to discuss and debate different ideas relating to personal or social issues. Due to the rising dependence on platforms such as television, the internet, magazines, radio etc, control is needed in order to maintain a civil environment; this can be referred to as ‘mediation‘.
Recently former politician Pauline Hanson participated in protests against Islam in Australia. As part of this she has spoked about ‘halal certification’, and spoke on behalf of the many Australians who are against being taxed for this certifications. Channel 9 shows Pauline’s interview from the today show:
Like most social issues and debates, social networks are flooded with trending hashtags, articles, comments etc. By having my own online presence I have found that Facebook has been subject to this trending topic, I have seen numerous statuses, articles, memes, photos etc based on this issue. Facebook has/was being used as a public sphere, various individuals used this in order to exchange opinions, ideas and debate different views and ideologies on the topic. Although a quote from the former politician; “Islam is not a religion, sorry, Islam is not a race, so therefore we’re not talking about racism here whatsoever“, was then utilised as fuel to aid to a debate against various cultural groups in Australia.
Facebook like any other social network is a mediated space, each post is monitored as well as giving users the ability to report offensive or inappropriate material. I came across an article which was based around this issue, although I was denied access as Facebook removed the content.
The image above is a screenshot that reflects Facebook mediating its public sphere. Whilst it gives to individuals to voice their opinions and views, Facebook have the authority to monitor ad remove what they deem inappropriate or offensive.
From Channel 9s ‘Today Show’ to Facebook, these are two of the numerous public spheres we are involved in on a daily basis. Although within these spheres there is mediation which creates a civil and friendly environment for all. Although it is notable that our public spheres are not just conversations with a friend over coffee anymore. They have become international.