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Transnationalisation of the Public Sphere, Vol. 13 - 2006, No. 4

, , , pages: 5-26

Habermas’s late theory of the public sphere is fundamentally about democracy and growing complexity. The network form is at the core of growing complexity, and the centrality of networks in the economy, political system, civil society, and the lifeworld calls for revisions in central theoretical assumptions about the structure of the public sphere. We argue that in order to maintain Habermas’s larger democratic project, we will have to rethink theoretical assumptions linked to its neo-Parsonsian systems theoretical foundations and to systematically integrate new network forms of social life into theory.

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, pages: 27-44

This article proposes that paying attention to popular cultural practice will benefit “cultural citizenship” and, in turn, the vitality of the public sphere. Although popular culture in Habermassian terms does not fully qualify as a lifeworld domain, the enthusiasm of its users is a strong point to its advantage. Otherwise “ordinary people” hardly participate in public life, which foregrounds them as (emotional) witnesses rather than as experts or persons holding a view or an (interesting) opinion. As debate resulting from popular culture use tends to be among fans, neighbours or co-workers and is in point of fact “hidden,” a further step would be needed to use the underlying issues and points of view debated in everyday life for public use. Internet communication shows that this is well possible. Indeed, the public-private and the fiction-non fiction boundaries are blurring, and citizenship is practiced in many places. Qualitative audience research could be a key force in reinvigorating the public sphere. By involving audience members themselves and following their cue or by using peer-to-peer formats, it could develop into “civic research” in much the same manner as civic journalism.

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, pages: 45-62

This paper argues that public opinion theory has been guided by a confused, arguably contradictory relationship between the public and the state. Guided by an elitist view toward the masses, traditional theories argue that the public takes place only in opposition to the state yet cannot be trusted to run society on its own. Such a normative ideal, while perhaps inherently troubling, is more irrelevant in a world defined by globalisation. In particular, several social movements and governments in Latin America offer an alternate approach to conceptualising the relationship between the public and the state – a model whereby the two work in tandem to run society. Such moves, critically examined here, are particularly fueled by neoliberal economic policies.

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, , pages: 63-80

This article aims to analyse journalists’ professional imagination in connection to EU news. A special attention is paid to the variety of ideas about European public sphere that inform (or fail to inform) journalists’ work. The article is based on 149 semi-structured qualitative journalist interviews conducted in the home offices of mainstream news organisations in ten European countries. The article takes up Charles Taylor’s idea that public sphere belongs to the key social imaginaries of modernity and treat journalists as important carriers of these social imaginaries. These professional imaginaries are traced by looking at how journalists perceive the locus of news, how they define their professional role vis-à-vis their audience, and finally, how they would describe the political and communication problems within the EU. From this reasoning three relatively coherent lines of thought were derived: classical professionalism, secular discourse, and cosmopolitan discourse. As a conclusion the article attempts to map out these different discourses in connection to modes of political communication. The three discourses detected in the article can be seen as contemporary versions of professionalism in European news organisations. As such, they do not give much ground to assume that a European public sphere would emerge out of national journalistic cultures. Given the emergent nature of publics and public spheres, this does not mean that such practices may not be developed outside journalism.

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, pages: 81-98

This article provides an insight into the public journalism discussion and offers a way of understanding how journalists at local, regional and national levels interpret and practise public journalism slightly differently. Journalists’ interpretations of participatory public journalism initiatives in three Finnish newspapers from local, regional and national public spheres are used as a point of departure for discussing professionalism in journalism. The paper argues that professionalism offers a way to articulate journalists’ relations to the market, administration and the public in different ways in different public spheres.

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