Volume 6, 2007
D. Beybin Kejanlioğlu
The 'Public Sphere' and the Problem of 'Information'
This paper examines the debate over the relationship between the public sphere and communication, which has become a focus of attention after the publication of Jürgen Habermas's Structural Transformation of Public Sphere in English in 1989, following the two volumes of his The Theory of Communicative Action in 1984 and 1987. Although the historical account of the public sphere has also received a good deal of attention, I deal mainly with the normative dimension of Habermas's theory as it led to a rethinking and reassessment of public broadcasting, to the end of restructuring it as a site where 'citizens act as a public'. That is to say, a site where people assemble and unite freely, and express and publicize their opinions on matters of general interest without constraint in an age of deregulated communications. Several scholars have provided us with maps for re-organizing the media of communications in this respect, but they have failed to analyze the 'information' which feeds the 'informed citizen'. This paper addresses not only what information means today—whether it is a digit, a signal, or content—but also how it is produced within daily routine practices and how the nature of the means of its dissemination influences its character. Another serious aspect of those assessments, including that of Habermas, is the global character of communications today. Habermas is well aware of the mismatch between the global market and the absence of its corollary in politics. Yet his silence in the economics of information, even as he acknowledges the digitalization of communications and 'a world public sphere', also calls for a critical account of the relations between 'information', democratic politics and the question of scale.