Recent news from the Center for Civic Media | MIT Center for Civic Media

Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

Yes, but does your bowtie have tendrils?

"Counterpublics" refers to the groups of people that are marginalized and/or excluded from what Habermas originally deemed the "public sphere." Their motivating ideologies and goals may be in opposition to mainstream politics, as Squires asserts, or they may simply be regarded as subversive due to their composition. When those people gain access to new technologies that afford them greater connectivity, they become "networked."

Liberar los espacios publicos

Siempre nos dicen que nosotros tenemos el derecho de expresarnos y de entrar en grupos libremente. Es parte de muchas constituciones políticas, porque en teoría para que una democracia funcione plenamente se ocupan espacios donde uno pueda deliberar de forma segura sin amenaza a repercursiones de ningún tipo. Pero la importancia de expresarnos es también la de ser escuchados. Nosotros seremos justamente representados si nuestros intereses son tomados en cuenta, y para que eso ocurra, se ocupan espacios públicos donde otros nos puedan escuchar, y medios que nos puedan conectar con aquellos que representan nuestros intereses y tienen el poder de hacer algo al respecto.

Sin embargo, hay una paradoja. No podemos expresar nuestros intereses si no sabemos cuáles son. ¿Qué es lo que queremos o necesitamos en nuestras vidas? A veces la respuesta no es tan obvia por varias razones. Además, en un mundo desigual, no todos tenemos igualdad de acceso a las herramientas, y espacios públicos, para amplificar nuestras voces.

Why fight against social injustices and disparities using civic engagement media?/ ¿Porque combatir contra las injusticias y disparidades sociales usando medios de participacion civica?

First Blog (English): Why fight against social injustices and disparities using civic engagement media?

During my first semester as a student of Comparative Media Studies at MIT, a masters program that takes a comparative approach to studying different forms of media and their impact on society, among many other things, I have had the opportunity to participate in the discussion regarding civic engagement and social justice media, and how to effectively widen the reach of these topics.

To start off, since this is my first blog post, I’ll dedicate a small part to talking about my past, and how I came to be a researcher of civic engagement and social justice media. (If these terms don’t make sense, please bear with me and we’ll try to examine them together. Also, this blog will probably be a bit longer than normal).

Networked Counterpublics, Access to Broadband Internet, and Public Libraries in the U.S.

I think a “networked counterpublic” is a networked space where marginalized or minority members of a society can create discourse. I think the concept of networked counterpublics is a useful concept and important to understand. By putting information on the web marginalized or minority groups or individuals can make their views and discourses available to countless people.

I think the primary purpose of these networked spaces is discourse, but the counterpublic does create the opportunity to attempt to reform the dominant public sphere. A counterpublic does not have to be well organized or create political change, like Catherine Squires argues. Yochai Benkler defines “tools of networked communication” in his work The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom as E-mail, the World Wide Web, Blogs, and “larger-scale, collaborative-content production systems” such as Wikipedia and

The [Inevitably Networked] Counterpublic

The concept of a networked counterpublic is certainly useful in the arc of history—it helps us gain an appreciation for the means by which counterpublics fought for mass-media attention in the past. As a contemporary concept, however, it is significantly less so. It is hard to imagine a group, marginalized by the dominant narrative, fighting for attention by the greater publics, that is not doing so with the help of any of the technologies called out by Benkler.

Instead, I think it’s more important to consider a number of factors that contribute to or detract from a cause’s effectiveness as a networked counterpublic. The extent to which a marginalized sphere is connected via networked technologies, the speed with which its cause spreads into and throughout the main-stream or dominant media sphere, and the cause’s ability to keep a dominant’s public attention via an intriguing narrative all dictate whether or not a networked counterpublic will gain mass-media attention towards its cause.


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