Distracted by technologies and captured by the public sphere

Fenton, Natalie. 2020. Distracted by technologies and captured by the public sphere. In: Leah Lievrouw and Brian Loader, eds. Routledge Handbook of Digital Media and Communication. Abingdon: Routledge. ISBN 9781138672093 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

This chapter offers a critique of the ways in which we approach the study of civil society, and digital technologies through the notion of public sphere theory. In it, I question whether public sphere theory is up to the job of dealing with a democratic deficit so large that it challenges the notion that liberal democracy should always be our ‘go to’ democratic frame. Classical public sphere theory begins and ends with liberal democracy as its overarching premise and ultimate political institutional arrangement. But what if we start from a different position where we acknowledge that liberal democracy has been so dismantled that it is now eviscerated and unrecognizable to many in civil society? Can a concept so undone really offer a critical perspective suggestive of democratic futures or is it rather holding us back, capturing us in the comfort zones of liberalism that threaten ultimately to erode democracy yet further?

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Book Section

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies
Media, Communications and Cultural Studies > Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre


June 2017Accepted
17 November 2020Published

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Date Deposited:

17 Oct 2017 09:24

Last Modified:

17 May 2022 01:26



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