Is mediation of the public sphere good or bad?

Whether we want to believe it or not, our input as an audience and viewers is highly subjected to mediation. In other words some of our opinions won’t be heard within the public sphere. Cultural theorist Jürgen Habermas defines a ‘public sphere’ as a ‘virtual imaginary community,’ these can be opinions or thoughts about certain topics which ‘affirm or challenge’ issues explored in the public sphere. According to Christopher Neal, ‘The public sphere and the new media’, the old theory created by Habermas is ‘endangered by the power mass of the media’ through the way in which it is constantly creating new content, as a platform for opinions and ideas to be heard.

Isn’t the whole idea of a public sphere to allow people to have opinions and add to the discussion, whereas mediation seems to go against the public sphere? Yet we could also say that by having consumer control of mediation to a certain extent allows us to be a part of a new public sphere, e.g. Reporting content on Facebook. Even then however content ‘reported’ is filtered, with a team working through all reports made and deciphering which content is bad enough to be taken off and which content can stay on.

Basically, the media allows us to debate about certain ideas and issues however choose which of those can be heard. QandA, a popular ABC TV show explores this particular mediation, yes, the audience does have an input and can debate about certain issues however their questions must first be approved before it can be asked and aired, the program only selects what they want to discuss, thus mediating and controlling the debate.

According to last week’s lecture two main views were discussed, ‘The public sphere is degraded by the forces of consumer capitalism’ or the ‘Public sphere is enhanced by the emergence of different public’s, and public spaces’ but who is secluded from the public sphere, could we potential say that the media is the public sphere and we are all secluded as mass consumers, through not truly being heard?

Now there isn’t just one sphere but many. The culture reader states ‘The private and public spheres have mixed with each other, social and political organizations are now invading each other. Thus, according to Habermas, a new feudalization of the public sphere is brought about.’

This specific quote reflects and highlights the way in which the convergence of media has exceeded expectations, with users becoming more self-content driven, as well as content creation and individual expression.

It is safe to say, that the convergence of media and the consumers input has greatly affected the public sphere from what it used to be. ‘Cafe setting’ according to Habermas. We are constantly creating new spheres which allow us as consumers to engage with, debate about and be heard, in multiple ways. True, we are highly subjected to mediation, and mediation plays a key role in the power disposition between media and audience, but our individual expressions are now magnified within society.

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5 thoughts on “Is mediation of the public sphere good or bad?

  1. I think that you explained the way we communicate in the media spheres and the effects it has from its consumers, really well. You explained that there is a public and private sphere but nowadays they have all morphed into one so there isn’t any real way to keep an opinion specific or private without it having any influence from an outside source. I also strongly agree with the point you raised that even talk shows and TV shows that apparently cater to the freedom of an opinion, are still monitored and re considered for all the viewers at home. Thus, you have a strong , valid post on the way the media affects the public sphere and the disposition between and audience.

    Great post xx

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  2. I like your observation of the contradictory nature of mediation of a public sphere, it is an interesting insight into why institutions or groups try to mediate a free thinking space such as a game show or social networking site. Everyone has an agenda, and is trying to promote that issue favourably if they can, and such inclusive platforms allow the audience to believe that their opinions are heard, but like with QandA and Facebook these opinions can sometimes be dictated or mediated behind the scenes to keep in line with the platform owner’s agenda or bias. But fortunately, like you discussed, society continues to create and develop new public platforms for open debate through modern technological advances. However, in my opinion it seems we can’t escape all forms of mediation, however minor it may be. Online open forums and chat rooms still have their content monitored by the host, who can determine whether the discussion is on topic. Even in a physical public or private discussion, the initiator of the debate may to some degree mediate the discussion to align with their bias. It seems impossible to eradicate personal bias, and so to some extent, I believe their will always be mediation of the public sphere, however, these modern open platforms still allow interesting and insightful debate and so still allow our individual voices to be heard, even if it can be hard to hear one voice amongst the millions. Great writing and keen observations.

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  3. I really enjoyed reading your blog Jade!! I like how you questioned the public sphere in regards to mediation. I agree that if it is truly a public sphere shouldn’t the public have freedom of speech? Although I still believe it is necessary for a moderated system to keep things in order. For example, if we could post and publicise anything and everything there would be an uprising. I guess some things need to remain in private conversations not in the public eye. I really enjoyed how you showed the merging of private and public spheres with your references and how it affects the individual. I liked your observations of different types of media and how they are individually moderated and the key role it plays in power disposition between media and audience. WELL DONE xx

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  4. I can’t seem to get enough of the public sphere concept 🙂

    Everything that you’ve said I can’t argue with — especially this sentiment “mediation seems to go against the public sphere?”. Not often do we consider this (maybe because we as citizens sometimes look at this issue through a different lens) but if we wish to have a democratic society and an accompanying public sphere to go along with said society: freedom of speech is absolutely essential.

    Of course there’s a bit of contention here as well because often freedom of speech leads to a wide range of information. Some good… some not so good. While nothing can be wholly objective (I believe this to be impossible) a lack of restrictions on the public sphere can lend to a lack of impartiality which goes directly against the concept of the public sphere. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword in that respect.

    Still, great post and that link was a great way to summarize the concept and save your blog post from being too wordy. I also liked your incorporation of the second BCM 110 lecture and the subsequent connections you made with it. Thumbs up!

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