The virtual public sphere

As the internet developed from a tool exclusively used by the military and academics onto an engine available for public use, it has been breaking the inertia existing in the mass communications field. The public dominance of the internet ended the ‘one-to-many’ distribution dominated by TV broadcasters and created a many-to-many exchange of information system.

The internet accompanied by the rise of social media extended the role of citizens in political aspects in their societies. Particularly, I can sense a greatest a general public engagement towards political issues. It feels that the internet might be bringing back a feeling that people are truly part of a democracy, that their voice can be heard. The internet allowed the public sphere – a place where people can share their opinions about social and political issues – to be transferred to a common platform where, even being in different places, people could still exchange their thoughts.

There is, however, a point to be considered: the internet is an exclusive environment.  We, educated people from the west, tend to think of the internet as a universal and vital thing. The truth is, though, as official reports from last year showed, that 3.2 billion people in the world have access to the internet – which leaves us with the conclusion that the majority of the global population is actually offline.

Therefore, isn’t it a bit utopic to say that the internet created a ‘virtual public sphere’?

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1 Comment

  1. I completely agree with seeing the idea of a virtual public sphere as a utopia. People forget that the Western world is actually called this way because it’s not the whole world and we can’t really have the same idea of the Internet.
    Freedom of speech was a huge topic after the Charlie Hebdo shooting, but no one was reporting enough about bloggers killed in Bangladesh, and they weren’t offending anyone.
    The same happens when people complain about censorship with campaigns like Free the Nipple, when with Weibo in China they can’t even express their thoughts on some topics.

    Like

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