Journal article Open Access

After the post-public sphere

Schlesinger, Philip

The idea of a public sphere has long been central to discussion of political communication. Its present condition is the topic of this essay. Debate about the public sphere has been shaped by the boundary-policing of competing political systems and ideologies. Current discussion reflects the accelerating transition from the mass media era to the ramifying entrenchment of the internet age. It has also been influenced by the vogue for analysing populism. The present transitional phase, whose outcome remains unclear, is best described as an unstable ‘post-public sphere’. This instability is not unusual as, over time, conceptions of the public sphere’s underpinnings and scope have continually shifted. Latterly, states’ responses to the development of the internet have given rise to a new shift of focus, a ‘regulatory turn’. This is likely to influence the future shape of the public sphere.

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