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Questioning the ideal of the public sphere: the emotional turn

Wahl-Jorgensen, Karin ORCID: 2019. Questioning the ideal of the public sphere: the emotional turn. Social Media and Society 5 (3) , pp. 1-3. 10.1177/2056305119852175

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This article discusses the usefulness and limitations of Habermas concept of the public sphere, on the basis of the trajectory of the author’s work. It starts from the observation that the concept has generated a rich scholarly debate on tensions between the normative ideals and the nitty-gritty lived experience of mediated publics. While fundamental norms of interaction associated with the ideal of the public sphere remain essential to the creation of meaningful debate, it also relies on a series of unhelpful binary distinctions that may be neither normatively desirable nor attainable. Key assumptions of the public sphere model include the idea that public debate should be rational, impartial, dispassionate, and objective. This, in turn, implies the undesirability of emotionality, partiality, passion, and subjectivity. In recent years, particularly in response to the rise of digital and social media, scholars have begun to question the rigid delineation of such norms. The article draws on the author’s work to illuminate how an “emotional turn” in media studies has opened up for a more nuanced appraisal of the role of subjectivity and personal stories in the articulation of the common good, challenging Habermasian understandings of rational-critical debate. This “emotional turn” constitutes an essential resource for theorizing public debate as it unfolds within a hybrid media system, for better and for worse. The article shows how the “emotional turn” has shaped the author’s work on mediated public debate, ranging from letters to the editor and user-generated content to Twitter hashtags and the “emotional architecture” of Facebook.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Publisher: SAGE Publications
ISSN: 2056-3051
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 July 2019
Date of Acceptance: 12 July 2019
Last Modified: 05 May 2023 23:45

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