Coleman, S. & Ross, K (2010); The Media and the Public: “Them” and “Us” in the Media Discourse. United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell Publishers.
For this book length reading, I chose two chapters from this book: Chapter 1: Imagining the Public & Chapter 5: Virtual Publicness. In the chapters chosen for this review I see a distinction that the authors have made with the public before the Internet and ho the public has eveloved over the years. They discuss how the public used the public used to meet at a central point which was open for all (e.g. parks, parking lots, town centres, etcetera), for deliberation-to them these are the conditions for citizenship, where there is “an informed level of access”, (Coleman & Ross, 2010: 24). The authors discuss further discuss what characterized the public before the Internet; they (the ‘publics’) were characterized as receivers of messages and the basis of the success of relationships was on the extent to which a public was vibrant-which in their view is characteristic of the Habermasian public sphere. However, they move on to explain how the Internet and cyberspace is becoming a significant factor in the life of the public and how it is becoming a “space of mediated publicity”, (Coleman & Ross, 2010: 12), but also how public opinion is so detrimental to demcracy within the society.
They also discuss how cyberspace offers interaction but again how it maintains the public through communication. Mediated publicness is expressed through technologies which convey space is what they mention in the book. Coleman and Ross touch upon the changing media landscape and the nature of the public in the digital age. But also how the audience has taken up roles such as publishers, editors (gatewatcher and gatekeeper), knowledge manager,journaler, etcetera. Through e-empowerment, the ‘public’ has taken ‘control’ of the media in the digital age. In chapter 5 they give five claims made by other scholars in the field about the possibility for the Internet to become a democractic media space (Coleman & Ross, 2010: 94-95):
(1) the condition for the abundance of information and the disruption of elite dominated knowledge;
(2) access to inexpensive media technology: anyone can be a media producer through User-Generated Content (UGC);
(3) digital media makes it easier for people to form and join dispersed communication (allowing peole to communicate with each other from different locations);
(4) the possiblity of one-to-many and many-to-many communication which is ‘inclusive of the democractic public culture’; and
(5) new media (inclusive of social media as well) allows for the sharing, comparing and reflection of views among citizens.
These caims I found were also characteristic of social media since they also allow for the audience to interact through the sharing of content, comparing and reflecting upon the views within and among the citizens and with the audience taking upon themselves the role of gatekeeper, the sharing of content and comparing of views, they are then able to set the agenda for other Internet users in the virtual space-this environment is also extended towards social networkering where users of Facebook and Twitter get to provoke, argue and debate with each other on politically-oriented topics(Goode, 2009). Coleman and Ross further discuss the control of the media moving from the elite to ordinary citizens also allowing them to access protected and costly information and pretty low rates-so basically the ordinary “citizen does not have to rely on knowedge producing centres”, (Coleman & Ross, 2010: 95). The virtual public allows for the citizens to respond to those in power by commenting, or remixing information so as to make sense to them and by so doing, making it possible to access and distribute news, political leaks, opinions and rumours with the intention of setting the agenda by transfering the importance of certain issues-even when there is no clarity in the sources.
However, the authors do highlight that the Internet deepens inequalities and at the same time gives rise to fresh ones and that the ‘digital divide’ is just not about unequal access to but that its also about he relevant literacy and computer skills (Coleman & Ross, 2010). Even though the Internet creates platforms for political discourse access is not guaranteed for all or even available to all. Chapter 5 ends with the authors saying: “there is a need for a connecting of energy and heterogeneity of online-offline voices to debates, decisions and reflections of governance at all levels”, (2010: 122).
Coleman, S & Ross, K (2010); The Media and the Public: “Them” and “Us” in Media Discourse. United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell Publishers.
Goode, L (2009); Social News, Citizen Journalism and Democracy; New Media and Society; Volume 11 (8), pp. 1287-1305