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Javnost - The Public, Vol. 31 - 2024, No. 2

Counterpublics and Structural Change in Media and Politics: A Theoretical Framework on Transformations Within a Long-Term Historical Perspective

, pages: 231-252[open access]

The paper contributes to current debates on counterpublics and the applicability of the concept to various ideological contexts with a long-term historical perspective on structural changes in media and politics. It analyses problems of theory formation, offers an alternative approach and places current upheavals in the context of previous changes. Based on a literature review of current research in view of the increasing importance of right-wing actors’ online communication, a shift in theory is identified. On the one hand, theories of hegemony are expanded to describe alleged exclusions and, on the other hand, by emphasising the discursive construction of counterpublics, actors’ claims and perceptions are adopted as analytical criteria. As an alternative to approaches that focus on discursive construction of actual or alleged exclusions, this conceptual article presents a definition of counterpublics as opposed to structures of (hybrid) media systems and offers a framework to examine ideas and practices of counterpublics derived from classical approaches of counterpublics and adaptations based on findings of communication and media research. A sketch of transformations in communication history in the US and Europe from press under feudal rule to diversifications in hybrid media systems in liberal democracies is used to illustrate the framework.

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