The Internet and Human Rights
Chapter 5: The internet as public sphere
A large cluster of internet-related research has addressed the internet as a new or extended public sphere (Graham 1999; Papacharissi 2002; Barnett 2003; Goode 2005; Benkler 2006; Dahlberg 2007; Hindman 2009). The idea of a public sphere runs through modern democratic theory, as a space in which the public discourse takes place. The public discourse is typically presented as the articulation of the citizens’ opinions, priorities, and crit- icism with respect to the democratic rule of a country. The notion of the public sphere is linked to a democratic norm that presupposes the presence and participation of the public in political debate and decision making. The public only appears in moments of representation that hold in reserve its full representation (Barnett 2003: 23). Speaking of the internet as a public sphere highlights it as a space for public debate and political mobilization, including the new modalities for public participation that the internet represents. Research with a public sphere perspective on the internet often implies or challenges an under- lying presumption of the internet’s ability to democratize and strengthen participation of individuals in public and political life.
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