Article

Public Sphere

Hartmut Wessler

in Communication

ISBN: 9780199756841
Published online February 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0030
Public Sphere

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The “public sphere” is generally conceived as the social space in which different opinions are expressed, problems of general concern are discussed, and collective solutions are developed communicatively. Thus, the public sphere is the central arena for societal communication. In large-scale societies, mass media and, more recently, online network media support and sustain communication in the public sphere. The English term “public sphere” is a translation of the German Öffentlichkeit, which also translates into two related terms: It also denotes “the public,” or the collective of speakers and listeners present in the public sphere, and “publicness,” or the state of being publicly visible and subject to scrutiny by the public. In communication studies, the concept of the public sphere has been applied to political as well as cultural communication. The term carries both a descriptive and a normative connotation. Normative theories of the public sphere usually specify ideal characteristics of public communication, as well as conditions conducive to their realization, and help to evaluate critically existing communication. The most prominent normative theorist of the public sphere is German social theorist Jürgen Habermas (born 1929) whose work has inspired a long-lasting and controversial debate in communication studies and beyond.

Article.  5763 words. 

Subjects: Communication Studies

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