The concept of a public has been the subject of debate for years and has given rise to the dispute about the difference between “public” and “private” space. Given the various positions in the debate over the public space, I think that the ultimate public space has become online communities because it is the only place that all people can access and speak their voice while not being judged by their appearance or ethnicity.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Scott McLeod.
A public sphere is defined as a space (physical place, social setting, or media arena) in which citizens come together to debate and discuss the pressing issues of their society. In a way this can be symbolic of democracy – a public context in which citizens can debate public issues regardless of their social status. Due to changes in communications systems and cultural norms, today we are living in a digital democracy where there is more participation and less dependence on official expertise. The range of voices than can be heard has been expanded, and although some might be louder/heard more, not one voice has unquestioned authority in online communities. Another way of looking at it is Joe Trippi’s idea that we are living in the “empowerment age” in which average citizens challenge the power of entrenched institutions, and new technology acts as the spreading of this power as it broadens the public sphere to all that can access an online community. In his article on NBC News, he discusses how this empowered group of people through technology can change the world. If one can access a computer, one can join an online community and make a difference.
Featured photo courtesy of Flickr user Eneas de Troya