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Global Public Opinion

Is There a Global Public Sphere?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

One of the ways in which the world we live in today feels very different from the one we lived in even a decade ago is how ‘connected’ we all feel these days. It does seem that there are issues that we all talk about, personages and celebrities that we all know, and technological means of information sharing and exchange that we all share.  Yet, can we say that one of the consequences of globalization is that we now have a global public sphere, especially now that Fareed Zakaria of CNN calls his talk show ‘The Global Public Square’?

You will recall that a public sphere is a metaphor for a space that still exists in some contexts: the village square, the town hall… a place where people come together to talk about common concerns, a process that leads to the crystallization of public opinion.  Beyond the level of the village or the small town --- situations where most inhabitants can conceivably gather and talk – the public sphere becomes a grand metaphor, but a useful one. As Denis McQuail asserts in his classic text on communication theory, in most national contests today the ‘media are now probably the key institution of the public sphere, and its “quality” will depend on the quality of the media’. [See McQuail’s Mass Communication Theory, Fifth Edition, page 566.]

The Critical Publics of the International Investigator

Sina Odugbemi's picture

International investigators are the anti-corruption sleuths who work in many international institutions. Their job is to investigate corrupt practices within and around the projects funded by their institutions that are being implemented in different parts of the world. They have to be hard, tough and clever. Because of that they may frighten the people who know about what they do and might come under their gaze. But can they be successful as lone rangers? Do they need friendly, collaborative publics? It is easy to think that they don't; but it turns out that if they really want to be effective there are publics that they need to have with them one way or another.