BCM 110

The Public Sphere of the Media- A platform for Mediation or Arbitration?

According to Jurgen Habermas, a theorist who justified ‘The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere’,  ideally the ‘public sphere’ is a space in which citizens are allowed to voice and debate their mutual concerns.  A public domain which comes to mind besides the literal, is of course the media and all of its platforms.

In light of both monologic and dialogic forms of media being available to members of the public, Hubermas’s ideal of the public sphere not being interfered with by the state or any methods of creating structuralized content meant to control citizens affordances within it, has been questioned.

Some still regard the public sphere (or spheres as there are many different spaces in which people can interact) of the media as highly beneficial because of a public platform’s ability to voice the opinion’s of the little man, for example through social media, blogs and citizen journalist’s. However others have identified the growing concerns of the media being a highly mediated public sphere; a place in which the media decides 1) Who participates, 2) Who is excluded?  and 3) Whose voices are and are NOT heard.

This is because even television or radio shows that allow for ‘public participation’ , whether it be by twitter feed like the show Q + A or calling up like Today FM, for example, control the issues discussed, who can participate out of the public and who can’t. These public spaces each raise issues and control the publics responses to them via choosing the people they allow to participate in their discussion. This control, no matter how innocent, allows for a mediation of sorts of the general public and their interactions within the public sphere, limiting the opinions of those who they do not wish to listen.

This South park video for example portrays how both of these views of the public sphere, the mediated and the egalitarian, are managed to be held at the same time.

Media issue body image

The video exposes the magazine media’s representing of Kim Kardashian in a way that she isn’t in real life.  Obviously this touches on the public concern of body image, and how the media sometimes glamorises individuals to make them seem better than they actually are in real life, in turn inducing expectations within younger women and men, about themselves, that are unrealistic.

Ironically this media text is being used freely in criticising the mediation methods that other media’s use to control what the public see and thus respond. What is happening here, is that through it satirising, the medium of the video is openly commenting on the falsified methods of another medium, magazines. This video thus contributes to the debate in the public sphere by first exemplifying the existence of both views 1) An infinitely open platform to discuss public concerns, and 2) A controlled environment in which how the public can view things ‘external’ to their immediate world, in the way the media chooses to present them. In deeper analysis, what this can come to mean is that although a public sphere can be mediated, clearly other forms of media can override and expose the mediations effects by exploiting its moderate setting to create controversy.

The real question is, are those mediums that expose the mediation of other public spaces, too mediated themselves? 




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