A public sphere, as said by Jurgen Habermas, is an area where individuals can discuss various information, ranging from political and social and using the discussion to influence politics, with opposing and alternate viewpoints in these discussions. It can be “a virtual or imaginary community which does not necessarily exist in any identifiable space”.
My own public sphere is an online mass media site called Reddit, which has 543 million monthly users, definitely enough to have a good debate. Reddit can be used by anyone, and they can post whatever they want to the site. Users can post in r/all, where everything is allowed, or post in individual ‘subreddits’ such as r/movies, r/gaming etc. The best analogy is as if each subreddit was a club at uni and it was a discussion group for that particular topic. They post anything related to that subject there, and its visibility is determined on how many ‘upvotes’ a post or comment has, making it a popular opinion. People can also post their own comments below, and there are also ‘downvotes’ and being excessively downvoted for an opinion basically guarantees hostility towards your comment.
With all this information in mind, the debates that come up regularly on the site lean more towards a left leaning bias, promoting more forward-thinking and liberal people. There are many discussion topics, the more serious ones being around issues of mental health, rising cost of living and gender issues. There are some non-serious topics about dogs and memes that are also posted on the site, providing a small respite for the heavy debating seen on other posts.
The people who are included are ones that go along with mainstream opinions such as advocating for gay rights, supporting certain political figures and parties. Since there’s no way to view a person and what they look like on the site, their opinions matter the most.
The media allows for thousands of people to voice their own opinions, whether or not it is sane or controversial. As a result, too many people in one space can allow others to have a very extreme opinion to be heard, which then circulates around other mainstream channels as a ‘discussion’ to cherry pick a few bad comments over the majority of calmer comments. The media itself has to yell over other media channels to get attention, and so shocking titles work better. The media plays the role of amplifying the discussion.
Jurgen Habermas and Public Sphere –
Jürgen Habermas and the Public Sphere. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.media-studies.ca/articles/habermas.html
Reddit User Numbers –
Website Traffic, Statistics and Analytics – Alexa. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/reddit.comhttps://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/reddit.com