The idea of the public sphere was initially defined by Jurgen Habermas and is considered “the centre of participatory approaches to democracy” (Department for International Development: 1). It is an arena “where citizens come together, exchange opinions regarding public affairs, discuss, deliberate, and eventually form public opinion” (Department for International Development: 1)
In modern times, the Blogosphere can be viewed as the present public sphere as it is a public areas that are easily accessed (for most) and allow for communication, sharing of ideas and opinion. These platforms have enabled average people to share experiences, become citizen journalists, act as writers and informants on culture and even find a job.
Whether this is via weblogs or less serious stages such as Twitter and Facebook, this shift has provided another opinion platform for citizens who don’t generally trust news media and other mainstream news (which can be biased or framed in a certain way).
However this shift has also lead to the decline in quality journalism as well as a decline in ethical consideration of material that is posted online.
While this seemingly democratic process enables many differing opinions and comments, moderation of such content would defeat the purpose of the democratic process that is the public sphere. As such, these opinions cannot always be reviewed prior to being available for the world to see. If you’ve ever seen a controversial weblog comments section or the comments on YouTube videos, these can very quickly get out of hand and become insult marathons between people. Anonymity of the internet has enabled and normalised the misuse of online arena and demoralised the very purpose of the public sphere.
Department for International Development, 2009 ‘The Public Sphere’ CommGAP: Communication for Governance and Accountability Program, Washington