Jürgen Habermas defines a public sphere as a “virtual or imaginary community which does not necessarily exist in any identifiable space.” He also believed “In its ideal form, the public sphere is made up of private people gathered together as a public and articulating the needs of society with the state”.
Our public sphere is no longer is restricted to face-to-face conversation in an 18th century coffee house like Habermas originally imagined, but it has now opened up to the social media realm, allowing for our ‘public sphere’ to now be found online too. With apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, more people can actively get in involved in their public sphere and share their ideas and opinions with others.
I’m in my public sphere when I’m on my couch.
Due to the access I have to technology and the apps I have such as Facebook and Twitter, I don’t need to leave the couch in order to consider myself a part of a public sphere. Facebook was founded in 2014 by Mark Zuckerberg with the purpose of “giving the people the power to share and make the world more open and connected” (Gresham, T 2018) and this idea has also expanded into Facebook being an app where we can access news updates and find out what’s going on around us.
A survey was conducted among 18-24-year olds and it was found that “28% cited social media as their main news source, compared to 24% for TV.” (Wakefield, J 2016)
All these social media platforms share current issues and news on political, cultural and social issues and have an area dedicated to comments for viewers. Through these apps I am able to keep up to date with what’s happening and get involved in my public sphere. Although I am not one to use the comment section to share my own thoughts, I do enjoy being able to read what others have to say and coming across people who share the same opinions as myself.
There are definitely people who are considered ‘excluded’ from this online public sphere such as those of a low socioeconomic status. A lot of people do not have access to technology and for this reason they lack the opportunity to actively be involved in current debates around the world. Although they have someone speaking for them, it leaves a gap in the public sphere as there is a whole group without their individual voices being heard by myself and others.
Gresham, T 2015, ‘The Purpose of Facebook’, viewed 29/3/18, https://www.techwalla.com/articles/the-purpose-of-facebook
Wakefield, J 2016, ‘Social media ‘outstrips TV’ as new source for young people’, viewed 28/3/18, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-36528256