Andrej Škerlep,
Faculty of the Social Sciences,
University of Ljubljana, Slovenia


Tanja Oblak,
Faculty of the Social Sciences,
University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Contribution of New Media to Dialectics between Publics and Counterpublics

Half a century ago, when American sociologist C.W. Mills formulated his famous proposition that we can speak about democratic public sphere if and only if as many people that recieve media messages can publicize their original messages as well, seemed utterly utopic. With the rise of new media the potential for practical realization of Mills's proposition is within reach for the first time. The paper is focused on the question, what is the impact of new media on public sphere, understood as unconstrained public communication on important social issues among concerned citizens. On the one hand, the impact of new media on public communication seems rather disappointing. Research in practical use of  new media shows that they are either predominantely colonized by traditional political, economic and cultural organizations for an extention of their services and institutional communication or used by private individuals for what could be termed as ordinary daily pracitces guided mostly with mundane interests and hobbies (dating, games, entertainment, pornography, etc.). But on the other hand, the contribution of new media to emerging public sphere is in augmentation of alternative media and/or alternative means of communication that facilitate formation of counterpublics. Using conceptualizations of Jurgen Habermas, Nancy Frazer and Michael Warner, we are arguing that new media can be effective tools of public communication if they are used and/or supported by social movements and interest groups so that special counterpublics can emerge. Combination of alternative public communication and movements and groups adds relevance to public discourses so expressed and can push them from perifery to the center of public attention.

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Peace Institute Slovenian Communication Association Dep't of Media Studies