How Have New Media Enabled A Renewal Of The Public Sphere And Extension Of Democratic Processes?

2461 words - 10 pages

'Mass communication has existed for little more than the average person's lifespan, and yet in that short time we have moved from what now seems the most basic form of radio communication.... to the apparent sophistication of digital broadcasting' (Street, 2001:163). We have yet to experience the entire consequences of these latest developments, but we can be sure that in the near future people will look at our new system of communication as being as primitive as we now regard radio. 'It will not just be the technologies that change, it will be the way in which people relate to these new forms of communication.' (Street, 2001:163) The Internet in particular has provided an almost compl ...view middle of the document...

' (Hobbes 1998:14) The most recent form of communication and perhaps the fastest growing medium present in today's society is the Internet. It is common to say that the internet is the most significant new communications medium of our times and that 'the internet changes all' (Cunningham 2002:244) With the number of world-wide Internet users now standing at 560 million (global reach stats), the Internet could possibly be classified as a new public sphere.This communication between people who cannot not see face-to-face has became extremely important in the new age. With the coming of the industrial revolution, businesses main concerns were with productivity, and the majority of jobs at this time were in some way linked with agriculture, thus communication was solely by word of mouth or written text. The industrial age bought with it, however, greater demands. As time went on, technology was used to develop machines such as the typewriter, telephone and most importantly, the computer, and consequently, the Internet.As well as serving the needs of business, the Internet acts as a communication tool to any person interested in utilizing it. Thus, it can be said that the Internet creates somewhat of a community in itself, which ultimately has the power to renew what we presently refer to as the public sphere. Craig Barret, one of Intel's past Chief Executives even goes as far as to claim that the internet does not only 'represent an online community: it represents the formation of a "virtual" continent' (Thussu 2000:225).Upon making this claim however, the term community must be classified accordingly, as it is elusive and often used in many different contexts. Anderson (1983) argues that communities are merely imagined ones, and they have boundaries within which people exhibit a deep sense of comradeship, with a desire to be free from the interface of outsiders.Such new technologies as the Internet, 'suggest new forms of human association, and the emergence of different kinds of communities' (Cunningham, 2001:249). Within these communities, those with similar interests, or those simply interested in being involved in an online community, can have their voices heard. It is this notion of new communities, which brings us to explore the concept that the public sphere is being renewed.A public sphere is a place of discourse or a 'civil society'. It is a public place not governed y the state, a gathering point, where people come to talk, discuss and debate various political, environmental and social issues. What was initially seen as a market place is now being transformed. From the traditional gathering in physical places such as coffee shops, to what we now refer to as 'virtual communities'. Howard Rheingold defined virtual communities as 'social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on those public discussions (using the internet) long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships...


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