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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.]

Local Media Hype

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Imagine there is a hurricane sweeping through a region. Imagine that the weather forecasts say that it will be a sizable storm affecting a large part of the country, and that there will be considerable risk to life and property of citizens. Reasonably, the media, especially local television, plan to report on nothing else for a few days in advance and at least a week to come. What should the media do if the hurricane is weaker than expected? In particular, what should the local media do, whose job it is to keep their audience informed of locally relevant developments?

Watching the News on a Deck-Chair

Caroline Jaine's picture

In July I wrote a piece about Simulated Realities, Manipulated Perceptions.  In it I queried our apparent pre-occupation with the gruesomeness of war, as seen through a media lens.  I took Pakistan as a case study for our obsession with disaster and attempted to apply a Baudrillardian theory to new coverage of terrorism in the country.  The irony is, that this article was picked up by an editor for one of the biggest Pakistani news agencies, and ever since I have been writing a weekly column for them.

Having spent years watching and commenting on the media, I have crossed sides, and although I remain a “blogger” not a “writer”, I feel as if I am on the periphery of the very beast I have long deplored.  My short, but intense time at Dawn has been a real challenge, as I have sought to write in a way that I have advocated journalists to and continue to challenge the mainstream media perceptions from within.

"Voices 2.0" - Revolutionizing Participation within Development Cooperation

Patrick Kalas's picture

“……..I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul” (Invictus by William Ernest Henley)

The genie is out of the bottle. Scanning the news reveals that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) such as mobile phones, Internet, Satellite television and social media are having an effect on events in the so-called Arab Spring. The “Facebook Revolution” is becoming a buzzword. Not sure how and why, click here. Does this have any practical significance for our operational activities in projects or programs aiming to increase participation in socio, economic and political change processes? The answer suggested here is Yes. Traditional participation approaches referred to here as “Voices 1.0” are being directly influenced by the witnessed proliferation of ICTs rendering them more interactive “Voices 2.0”. This complimentary shift has direct implications for operational work throughout the project cycle.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

CIVICUS
Building bridges: The future of sustainable cooperation between informal online activists and civil society organisations

"NEW forms of information communication technology (ICT) have begun to counter the paradigms of exclusion by empowering the silent, the invisible, the marginalised, the cynical, the passive and the apathetic to engage and act. ICT has transformed advocacy by endowing transnational networks and communities with a greater capacity to research, report, publicise, organise, campaign and develop policy on pertinent issues.

It is clear that there is a gap between professionalised civil society organisations and the constituencies they purport to represent. Currently most traditional civil society organisations use social media as primarily a promotional add-on to their existing work." READ MORE

Will Someone Find and Control the Master Switch of the Internet?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

A recent  (2010) book by Tim Wu titled The Master Switch: the Rise and Fall of Information Empires is a sweeping, industrial history of the succession of new media technologies that rose to prominence in America in the 20th century: radio, the telephone, television, film and, of course, the Internet. It is an American story with global ramifications because of the powerful global influence of American information empires.

Wu's story is both arresting and depressing.

Yes, The Revolution Will Be Televised. Now What?

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

In a media landscape saturated with images of tweeting revolutionaries and blogging dissidents, it's easier than ever to assume a causal relationship between the spread of technology and political revolution. But take a closer look, and the issue begins to look a lot more complex.

An informative and timely new essay by Marc Lynch, an associate professor at George Washington University and prolific commentator on Arab media and political issues, deftly sums up the main arguments, contradictions and knowledge gaps surrounding the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) on the phenomena collectively referred to as "the Arab Spring." Entitled "After Egypt: The Limits and Promise of Online Challenges to the Authoritarian Arab State," (subscription may be required), the piece implicitly argues for abandoning the usual "optimist/pessimist" trope that plagues such discussions, favoring instead a more nuanced and complex perspective on the impact of ICT in authoritarian states. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, I agree - see this previous post.)

Post-Conflict Justice and ICT

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

We've discussed here and in related papers (such as Towards a New Model and The Missing Link) the role that media and communication (including all forms of information and communication technologies, or ICT) can play in pre-, mid- and post-conflict situations. Too often, donors think of media and communication as an adjunct to their main reconstruction and peacebuilding work, something with which to publicize their activities. I've advocated strongly in the past for assigning a more significant role to the field of media and communication in conflict, urging donors to consider it as a substantive, technical area that needs to be systematically incorporated into donor plannning rather than treated as an offshoot of public relations.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Space for Transparency
Mobilising to Make Aid Transparent

"How much money are donors giving to Liberia, Peru and Sri Lanka?

It sounds like a simple question and one that should have a quick answer – but it does not.

Donors have pledged in international agreements to provide such information by making their aid more open and effective, but most have failed to fulfill these promises. Making aid more transparent allows citizens in countries giving and receiving aid to know what it is funding and where. It is information that is essential for ensuring aid has the most impact. It is critical to make sure aid is not wasted or lost to corruption."  READ MORE

What Influences Individual Donations to Disaster Victims?

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

We see donation appeals everywhere these days - to help the people in Japan, to help the people in Darfur, to help the people in Haiti. What influences our decision to give? An interesting study comes from British psychologists, who analyzed how individuals respond to donation appeals in the wake of man-made disasters - like war - versus natural disasters. The authors around Hanna Zagefka from Royal Holloway University in London found that natural disasters elicit more donations than those caused by people. Their explanation: people tend to assign some blame to the victims of man-made disaster, while they blame no one for being overrun by a Tsunami.


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