In this week’s lecture, we studied the public sphere. A term that I have become familiar with over the years throughout my BCM course.
Just to recap, the public sphere can be defined as the following –
- “The public sphere is . . . a metaphorical term used to describe the virtual space where people can interact. . . . The World Wide Web, for example, is not actually a web; cyberspace is not a space; and so with the public sphere. It’s the virtual space where the citizens of a country exchange ideas and discuss issues, in order to reach agreement about ‘matters of general interest’ – ([Jürgen] Habermas, 1997)
- “The public sphere is . . . a metaphor which keeps us focused on the distinction between individual, personal forms of representation–over which we have a large degree of control–and shared, consensual representations–which are never exactly what we would like to see precisely because they are shared (public). It’s a liberal model which sees the individual human being as having an important input into the formation of the general will–as opposed to totalitarian or Marxist models, which see the state as ultimately powerful in deciding what people think.” – (Alan McKee, 2005)
- “Blogging reverses a trend that had become increasingly worrying in an era dominated by mass media, namely the erosion of what the cultural critic Jurgen Habermas called ‘the public sphere‘–an area where citizens gather to generate opinions and attitudes that affirm or challenge the actions of the state. Mass media offered the illusion of diversity while narrowing the range of real choices available–the ‘600 channels and nothing on’ syndrome. Blogging has revived–and begun to expand–the public sphere, and in the process may revitalise our democracies.” – (John Naughton, 2009)
Typical examples of public spheres include coffee shops, newspapers, protests and so on. However the first thing that popped into my head when thinking about a group of people coming together, sharing similar interests and beliefs, was a music festival.
I’ve been to a total of five music festivals in my lifetime, although that may not be much, I’ve endured the entire experience. I always found it fascinating walking through the Olympic Park, passing multiple stages blasting music and watching people scatter everywhere to dance. It is like we are all brainwashed – and I can guarantee you, if our grandparents saw us they’d probably think we were. There is no judgement, just everyone coming together to dance to a computerised beat. There is no verbal communication, just dance.
Of course not every music festival is the same, so typically, the people you see are also interested in the same style of music and have come for a good time. This makes music festivals a type of public sphere, as fans of the music genre come together to listen to their favourite artists. People are also able to critique particular sets and celebrate life through dance and song.
In my personal opinion, I believe the public sphere allows freedom of speech, expression and brings down the barriers of racism, discrimination, and gender equality.
Click here for more images from music festivals.
Dr. Marcus O’Donnell, 2014, ‘The Public Sphere of Imagination’, Lecture Powerpoint Slides, BCM310, University of Wollongong, 24/03/2014, https://esplay.uow.edu.au/ess/echo/presentation/8e99b70a-7b2d-4fbf-aa8a-f7285ef81c92?ec=true
Nordquist, R., Public Sphere, About.com Grammar and Composition, viewed 24/03/2014, http://grammar.about.com/od/pq/g/publicsphereterm.htm