Essay Archives

ICA 2009 Mini-Plenary

November 20th, 2009

Affect, Noise, Silence, Protest: Ambient Citizenship

Submitted by Lauren Berlant, University of Chicago

Intensely political seasons spawn reveries of a different immediacy. People imagine alternative environments where authenticity trumps ideology, truths cannot be concealed, and communication feels intimate, face-to-face. In these times, even politicians imagine occupying a public sphere where they might just somehow make an unmediated transmission to the body politic. “Somehow you just got to go over […]

August 4th, 2009

A Family of Public Spheres

Submitted by Michael Schudson, University of California, San Diego and Columbia University

The concept of the public sphere, as developed by Jurgen Habermas, is both historically descriptive and normative. It identifies a historical formation that arose in late 18th century western Europe and it posits a model of what a good society should be. No one still longs to recover the highly idealized late 18th-early 19th century […]

August 4th, 2009

Media Systems, News Delivery and Citizens’ Knowledge of Current Affairs

Submitted by Shanto Iyengar and James Curran, Stanford University and Goldsmiths, University of London

While public sphere theory has provided a useful perch from which to critically evaluate media and public life and has led to useful distinctions between deliberative, agonistic, and other conceptions of democracy, it does need to connect at some point to actual changes that are taking place in society. This essay focuses on one such […]

August 4th, 2009

The Inherent Arbitrariness of the ‘News’ versus ‘Entertainment’ Distinction

Submitted by Michael X. Delli Carpini, University of Pennsylvania

I suspect that readers of this essay would agree that a functioning “public sphere,” supported by a vibrant, discursive “public culture,” and leading to “reasoned public choice” is a fundamental requisite of any truly democratic polity. I also suspect that there is a good deal less agreement on what we mean by the “public sphere,” […]

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