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You will find a complete range of our monographs, muti-authored and edited works including peer-reviewed, original scholarly research across the social sciences and aligned disciplines. We publish long and short form research and you can browse the complete Bristol University Press and Policy Press archive of over 1500 titles.
Policy Press also publishes policy reviews and polemic work which aim to challenge policy and practice in certain fields. These books have a practitioner in mind and are practical, accessible in style, as well as being academically sound and referenced.
This chapter turns to the dynamics of public sphere criticism as a field of political struggle in the digital age. The tense relationship between dystopian and utopian elements as a driving force of public sphere conflicts is traced along three lines: (1) the post-truth challenge in the truth orientation and rationality of public debate, (2) the privacy challenge in the balancing of private and public use of digital media content and platforms and (3) the populism challenge in the contested modes of empowerment of the will of the people. By raising this research agenda of the social and political fields of public sphere criticism, I depart from the narrow confines of media research and its emphasis on media effects to explore the full potential of public sphere research as a theoretical foundation of digital society and its rapid transformation. Instead of focusing on media audiences simply as receptacles of media content, I reintroduce the notion of the public, which is distinguished by critical reflection, and, as such, is norm-guided and reunited to a utopian vision of society and democracy.
The last chapter critically reassesses and ultimately rejects the notion of post-democracy. Mirrored through the critical eye of the public sphere, the world after disruption most likely takes shape as one of renewed democratic forms and practices. When facing the challenges of digitalization and transnationalization, the democratic public sphere will undergo profound transformations, but it will still be populated by critical citizens and progressive social movements. The notion of public sphere resilience is introduced precisely for this purpose, to refer to the everyday practices of critical citizens who might not heroically fight for the reclamation of democracy but will still work tirelessly towards reclaiming their rights, call for trustworthy information and seek alliances to challenge the power of states and industries.
From fake news to infringement of privacy in digital spheres, the changing landscapes of media and public communication have completely transformed contemporary democracies in recent decades.
Disruptions of media functioning can be seen as evidence for a transition from democracy to post-democracy, but how plausible is this scenario? Using empirical evidence, the author asks how imminent the threat of the end of democracy is, and how it can be restored.
Exploring the creative and destructive ways individuals and groups make use of new digital and social media in democratic societies across the world, the book presents a much-needed critical theory of the public sphere as we enter the new digital age.
This chapter turns to contemporary public sphere struggles as resilience and resistance to democratic backlash. I will identify the critical voice of citizens and progressive movements by looking at manifestations of public sphere resistance and resilience in the context of digitalization and globalization: first, the rebalancing of private–public relationships; secondly, the populist backlash and the struggle over political representation; and thirdly, the COVID-19 pandemic public sphere. Selected examples of public sphere resilience refer to: (1) the rebalancing of the public–private relationship with regard to the power of digital industries and the emergence of what is called ‘surveillance capitalism’; (2) the populist and anti-populist backlash, and the struggle over political representation as exemplified in the 48 per cent anti-Brexit mobilization in the UK, the ‘Popolo delle Sardine’ mobilization in Italy, the Yellow Vest Movement in France, and the #FridaysforFuture international mobilization of the younger generations; and (3) resilience and resistance during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown of the public sphere. This detracts attention from considering the new media as an arena of claims and strategic political mobilization to the digital public sphere as the principal arena for the contestation of democratic legitimacy.
Several books have appeared since the early 2000 forecasting the erosion of liberal democracy in connection with what is identified as deep disruptions of media and communications. Much collected evidence suggests that the best days of democracy are over, and that democracy might soon come to an end. But what binds democracy and the media so closely together? Why is the destiny of democracy so intimately related to the health of public communication and the media? This chapter proposes a research framework that locates spaces of democracy within the ongoing ‘structural transformation of the public sphere’ in the digital age. According to this account, public sphere transformations are driven by internal critical forces of disruptions and renewal. With its emphasis on the linkage between the identification of public sphere disruptions in the digital age and critical forces of public sphere renewal, the chapter contributes to our understanding of digital society as a space for the contestation of democracy.
This chapter traces the ideational dimensions of the public sphere. To validate the evolving form of public sphere criticism, and to find evidence for how it relates back to the utopia of a possible new beginning, I will systematically approach the notion of the modern public sphere and trace its transformation. This requires us, first, to engage with the key texts of Jürgen Habermas and to reconstruct the legacy of the European Enlightenment that formulated the linkage between publicity and reasoning. Secondly, I will identify the core normative dimensions of the public sphere and their interlinkage with democracy. Thirdly, I discuss degrees of erosion of democratic norms and public sphere principles. I investigate these accounts of democratic decay not as an empirical diagnosis but as a form of normative critique. As such, I am interested in what facilitates critique, who promotes it and what the cognitive prerequisites are for expressing critique in the form of specific knowledge about empirical facts and causalities. I call this a sociology of knowledge of public sphere critique.
This chapter delivers an empirical account of ongoing public sphere transformations. I will recapitulate the stock of knowledge about media and public sphere disruptions and their devastating effects on democracy. Within critical media studies, analytical knowledge about media malfunctioning and failures is, however, concurrently taken up by various social carriers and translated into forms of public critique and political mobilization. I distinguish between the critique of instrumental and functional performance and the normative critique of media. Both have developed in parallel, establishing rituals of media critique that are internal to the discipline of media studies (in the tradition of what is called critical media studies), transdisciplinary (in the tradition of cultural studies, as well as approaches of political economy), or external, as a universal template for the critique of media content and performance that is applied by public intellectuals and political actors as well as by audience members.
The book addresses new challenges to the formation of publics in datafied democracies. It proposes a fresh, complex and nuanced approach to understand ‘datapublics’, by considering datafication and public formation in the context of audience, journalism and infrastructure studies.
The tightly woven chapters shed new light on how platforms, algorithms and their data infrastructure are interwoven with journalistic values, discourses and practices, opening up new conditions for publics to display agency, mobilize and achieve legitimacy. It does so across empirical sites such as anti-COVID-19 protest movements, newsrooms in media organizations, comment sections, Facebook groups and data science departments inside media organizations. Building on rich empirical analysis it shows how publics are constructed and negotiated in the intersection of audience agency, digital infrastructures and media cultivation. It conceptualizes publicness as modalities, emphasizing stratification, legitimization, visibility, attention and recognition, and illustrates how datafication as a value system and discourse has an impact on those modalities.
Metadata tags are key to visibility in today’s datafied world as they organize news articles through meta-information that allows news to be recognized by algorithms and disseminated across the web. For the news media, this means that news must be classified according to predefined categories. This chapter examines metatags of 260 European news websites and determines the extent to which they apply metatags that allow webpages to be featured in Google search results. Furthermore, the chapter examines how media organizations are compliant with the metadata library of Schema.org, which is organized by, among others, Yandex, Google and the World Wide Web Consortium. While a majority of media are compliant with Google and Schema.org libraries, only a few large organizations utilize these to the full extent. Finally, the chapter discusses the impact for mediated public formation in the context of access to information via the news delivered through search engines.
This concluding chapter takes stock of the contributions made by this volume, in which we developed the concept of datapublics to understand the transformations that have affected the fields of journalism and media. We suggest seeing the construction of publics as hybrid – not directly connected to any specific media space or enabled by any specific technology – as a struggle between different normative ideals embodied in publics, and as a process involving different modalities of publicness and datafication. Publicness (attention, visibility, legitimacy, hierarchization and valorization) and datafication (as a process, a discourse and a value-system) become physical, virtual and imagined spaces in which struggles for the construction of datapublics take place, struggles that affect not only how datapublics come into being in datafied societies, but with all actors involved in their formation.