The problem with the public sphere.

Imagine a place open to any member of the public like you and I, a place where every human can have a chance to talk; an environment of fair speech and informed debate. This is the public sphere. A vital part of any democratic democracy. I suppose your wandering; where is this public sphere? The answer? anywhere that fits the definition, it could be a classroom, a café or even the pub.

McGuigan (2012) tells us that media has an effect on what people think they know. For example when we look at the wider picture you can see where most of today’s public sphere resides and that is in our media. Wherever you have a sphere most people are acting on knowledge they have gained from media such as TV news, tabloid papers or social media. Furthermore, the media is fast becoming the only source of debate, with interactions like comments and forums allowing us to become involved in what we see online. Think. When was the last time you had a real conversation with at least 5 people about politics?

Veglis, Siapera (2012) inform us that  the media today is known to confuse, complicate and misinform. With private media ownership becoming more and more common. The media that is fast becoming our only medium of debate informed or otherwise is owned by a wealthy elite who care more about profit than objectivity.  Objectivity is key to the public sphere. How can we have an informed debate where every man, woman and child can learn from one another; though fair speech if most of our source aren’t giving us the whole picture? Like a real sphere the public sphere must be 3 dimensional; meaning we need to look at it from many angles to see the world as it is.

“Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people” Charlie Chaplin 

In the world, we live in today politics is made to be confusing. We are lost, misinformed and apathetic. This is not a new dilemma by any means. The public sphere was born in 18th century London, back then it was built round a patriarchal society. Made up of the elite who would gather in coffee houses to discuss politics. This was amongst the first time we started gaining knowledge. Habermas (1991)  argues that this brave new idea of open public debate was despised by governments as informed people are much harder to control. Thus, a new age of people power was sparked and the fire still burns today.

From those times, we have come far. Men and woman both have equal rights, we can talk to humans and learn from across the globe with the internet. We have more ability to communicate than ever before. Governments and the elite will and do work together to keep us in the dark but that is not the final word. The public sphere is made of people. If we communicate intelligently use the internet and the media as stepping-stones to gain power though knowledge, though informed debate. Knowledge is power, the power to make the government fear the people to keep the balance betwixt us and the state. When the government fear the people, there is liberty.


Habermas, J. (1991) The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: MBT Press.

McGuigan, D. (2012) Culture and the Public Sphere: Routledge

Siapera, E and Veglis, A. (2012) The Hand Book Of Global Online Journalism: Wiley Blackwell



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