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Social Media Public Sphere Essay

1248 words - 5 pages

Through the emergence of the Internet, the last 20 years have seen a transformation in the way the society communicates with one another. There is no doubt that the Internet has changed the way the world interacts with one another on a democratic scale. Can it be said that with the emergence of the Internet, a new public sphere has been created? If so, is this new public sphere capable of embodying the theory that Habermas constructed? Petros Iosifidis article “The Public Sphere, Social Networks and Public Service Media” (2011) examines reasons that hinder social networks from becoming a seamless public sphere, and why Public Service Broadcasting should change over to Public Service Media.

Social Networks
Iosifidis starts the article by discussing in detail his first topic- social networks as a new public sphere. His main argument is that while social media spaces create new public spheres of both “democratizing and empowering functions” (2011), the Internet is also capable of both informing individuals and manipulating them. He argues that the public sphere is still a strong analytical instrument in today’s societies, as it “helps us help us make sense of the relationship between the media and democracy (civic engagement)” (2011). Iosifidis brings up several interesting and debatable reasons why social media is mostly overstated and represents hopefulness in the ability to be a public sphere. His six reasons are: open participation of social media may turn chaotic; the Internet lacks all-inclusiveness; the Internet content is prejudiced in favour of particular causes; some countries use censorship; it has become stage for corporations to take possession of; and there is often an inability to have extensive dialogue and critical discussion. With those reasons, he concludes that social networks allows individuals to feel involved, though they do not turn that participation into civic life.

Analysis and Evaluation
These six reasons are valid arguments and all contribute to existing theories and understanding of the issue of social networks as a public sphere. Firstly, Iosifidis states that the open participation of the Internet can lead to chaos, because there are no guidelines that allow for structured conversations. This reasoning coincides with Dean’s (2003) idea that there are too many voices and opinions on the Internet for it to be a proper public sphere. The Internet allows people with opposing theories about a variety of topics to see themselves as united, though they generally do not share an agreeance (Dean, 2003). She states that there are no filters that regulate the authority of structure on the Internet, calling it a ‘nightmare of inclusion’. There is no baseline which guidelines are developed, leading to chaos.
Secondly, Iosifidis argues that not everyone has access to the Internet or cannot afford it, therefore lacking all-inclusiveness. His argument can be seen in correspondence with Papacharissi’s argument that...

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