Pantelis Vatikiotis
University of Ioannina

Democratic Public-Mediated-Space and Alternative Media

The paper proposes the conceptualization of a democratic public-mediated-space, alongside theoretical discourses on vital aspects of such a space and across various moments and agents of its constitution. Particularly, it draws on the lines of approaches that evaluate the interplay between public sphere and civil society as a discursive space for the realization of the democratic process, calling for the need of their 'double democratization'. Moreover, this process is addressed in terms of a pluralistic and active understanding of the constitution of citizenship as a form of identity. Form this perspective, the interplay between public sphere and civil society is evaluated along with the enhancement and enrichment of the realm of citizenry on the grounds of 'difference' and 'agency'.

In regards to media, the article draws on various perspectives that have evaluated their role as conveyors of 'public sphere', in relation to the fulfilment of the very principles of public/democratic communication, either in a universal or in a diversity model. Elaborating into approaches that address a dynamic interface between public sphere and civil society in terms of the representation and participation of different 'publics' both through and within media, the paper takes into account the plurality of media practices that are implemented in the realm of civil society. Prominent is here an understanding of these media in relation to their contribution to, and intervention in, the public and political sphere evaluating the 'lived experience' of their practice – 'every aspect of everyday life constitutes a potential site of social/political struggle'. From this perspective, these practices constitute significant sites for social subjects to negotiate and renegotiate social definitions, their identities, cultures and lifestyles, on the personal as well as on the collective level.

Hence, alternative media are understood in terms of the agents' engagement in/with their practice and the appropriation of communication means within their own socio-cultural environment. Not only do such practices provide the space for the expression of citizenship but they also constitute conveyors for the enactment of citizenship of those involved in them. Overall, a more dynamic and radical understanding of the aspects of representation and participation in public and political life has been advanced here, taking into account a diversity of social actors/agents – social movements/groups, minorities (cultural/ethnic), communities (of place/interest), citizens – and their 'discourses', which reconfigures the realms both of public sphere and civil society, as well as, the very nature of citizenship.

In this view, the politically relevant communication space expands to include practices and processes that are not realized within the formal political society, but across the 'nooks and crannies' of civil society and along 'multiple public spheres'. Accordingly, the terrain of the realization of citizenship incorporates realms of the quotidian field as well, where social agents claim a public space for communicating their experiences and grievances. The paper draws on critical issues addressed in theoretical level by the consideration of alternative media as other active forces within the communication space, as well as in empirical level, in relation to the very practice of relevant projects.

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Peace Institute Slovenian Communication Association Dep't of Media Studies