BuzzFeed: The Democratic Revival

A theory is a supposition that has explanatory powers and attempts to provide plausible and rational reason for an observed phenomenon. When it comes to media, there is an array of theories that endeavor to explain how we communicate and discuss within the media, and how media involvement influences the outcome of said discussions. A theory that best describes this notion, by way of integrating democratic views, is known as The Public Sphere, coined by German Sociologist, Jürgen Habermas.

The Public Sphere aims to answer some of the following questions:

What is “the public” and what kinds of power does it have in a representative democracy?

-How does “public opinion” shape political power and policy?

Habermas’ Public Sphere was a place where individuals and government members could meet and produce critical debate over societal matters. This was done in physical, face-to-face meetings in coffee houses, cafes and public squares. Habermas saw the public sphere as a positive force for discussion and liaising between two opposing groups.

The original concept of the Public Sphere was a realm within social life, in which, public opinion could be formed and was accessible to all. The engagement within the public sphere, according to Habermas, was blind to class positions. This, however, was not necessarily the case, as almost all gatherings in the sphere were open only to men of the working class/ bourgeoisie, excluding women from any noteworthy discussion and also excluding lower class patrons from debate that could well have impacted them. Now days, the public sphere is open to anyone, regardless of class, race, gender, age and other such discriminatory factors.

Many Millennials would state that their public sphere revolves around Facebook and social media outlets. Whilst my public sphere is also on Facebook, I credit BuzzFeed as a significant platform, on which, social debate is circulated, being open to all and free of discrimination and seclusion. Although this particular public sphere is heavily mediated, like others, such as Insight and Q&A, both airing on SBS, it is at the forefront of increasing the accessibility of social debate. Covering topics inclusive of the LGBT community, HIV and sex, Buzz feed takes controversial topics and allows them to be discussed in an open and accepting environment, making evident the transformation of the notion of the public sphere since its founding in 1962.

Where is your public Sphere?