:::: initials thoughts

16 Mar

My initial thoughts that brought me to being engaged in virtualized transnational public spaces were feeded by two strands of research. Though research about transnational public sphere – with an ‘s’ in brackets – is in its fledging stages, there is a growing amount of mainly empirical studies  trying to grasp transnational and/or European public space. Looking at this ongoing academic discussion I realised that two noticeable aspects were fore grounded particularly:  The majority of the rather positive analysis puts emphasis on the role of conflicts for the emergence of transnational public spheres. In doing so, mostly formal analysis is conducted, focusing on structures in media communication trying to detect supranational, vertical and horizontal forms of public communication. In my view such an approach misses a normative foundation and lacks the acknowledgment of discourse and meaning which is central to the construction of common public and political spaces, namely communicative spaces in which relatively unconstrained debate, analysis and criticism can take place. Against this backdrop I would like to tie the question of transnational public spaces up to a model of public sphere which acknowledges contestation. At the same time current analysis and reflection of the democratic potentials of online public communication depict the Internet as a contested terrain in which most notably the existence of counter-publics is underlined. Hence I developed the idea to link the two yet unrelated strands of research to each other. So, if one follows Dewey at least with his dictum that the public sphere may not remain a phantom but is able to transform itself through the reconstitution of communities as vital nodes of outbound orientated democratic life, it is useful, I contend, to investigate the net in order to trace emerging forms of mutual claim making in conflicts as well as experimental forms of reciprocal communicative exchange within transborder civil society which is ‘doing public’. If we want to think sincerely of a post-Westphalian notion of transnational and/or European public sphere we do not only have to conceptualize public sphere as a network of decentred publics but also to shift away the attention from the notion of consensus to the notion of dissent.

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