Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Once again, Habermas' public sphere?

Through this week’s reading, I have recalled Habermas’ theories once again. How much our lifeworld has been colonized by systems? Do or can mass media function as public sphere to instigate public debate and to provide public forum for public issue? Frankly, I have doubted about a positive role of mass media. However, Fry’s article has given me a room to think about a potential of local media to serve as public sphere. Fry (p. 104) states that “the (local) station was able to broadcast many of the requests, rendering them literally a community bulletin board – a role they had never played in quite that way before or since.” I think that local media are relatively less dominated by the logic of system than national media. Therefore, they might work with the media of language, culture or norm of lifeworld rather than the media of money and power of systems. I think that some local media could work as “a community bulletin board” during the natural disaster because local reporters “had at stake as individuals and members of an affected community.” Buy, I don’t think that being local automatically guarantees a potential to being more public. However, I think that if community members can support local media with their check, the potential of local media to serve as public sphere can become more possible.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Although I am not extremely well versed in Habermas I think you raise some interesting points. Obviously in times of normalcy we very rarely see the media acting as a local bulletin board. Yet, there are still some examples of a community service function of the media. I am thinking of weekly segments promoting adopting an animal from a local shelter, highlighting a little child involved in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program who needs a mentor, or providing information about other places to volunteer.

Still, I agree that often this type of community activism is relegated to a secondary role and may actually serve the "system" by communicating to the public, whom they rely on for ad revenue, a quasi-public interest/connection. The cynic in my thinks maybe that even in the light of disaster, media coverage could be viewed as simply a means to serve the "system." Think of the potential backlash if the station didn't cover the event 24/7 - would the station ever be able to recoup it's financial loses and reputation then? Can everything a station does be spun in a way to feed the dragon of capitalism?

I was also struck by your use of the term "mass media" to describe what I perceived as a television issue. In light of the Internet, often run for little or no profit by dedicated individuals (although I admit it appears these individuals are getting smaller in number by the day), "community" message boards are springing up all over the place, mobilizing, connecting, and allowing communication and civic, or at least paracivic, engagement to flourish. Do we simply need to rethink "community" to make this system work?