Oct 15

Facebook as a public sphere: thoughts on Marko Skoric’s lecture

By Julen Figueras

facebook agora

There is a lot of stuff written on Facebook and its potential for democratisation. We have assumed already that social media alone won’t bring about any revolution, yet there still seems to be a wide acceptance of the idea that Zuckerberg’s social network provides a good opportunity for human interaction. Probably not as close and sincere as in organic spaces, but still a nice place to hang out and share information of all sorts.

For those of us who still think that a healthy democracy needs some amount of interaction and informed debate in the public sphere(s) (Habermas 1964; Frase 1990), Facebook is as promising as it is disappointing. One can observe how kitten pictures, videoclips and “see-what-happened-next” videos proliferate while other contents simply don’t get the same attention. The most recent guest lecture at ComDev, held by Marko Skoric, shed some painful light on this topic. It was a lecture with a ton of interesting information to write down, but two ideas got stuck in my mind. Continue reading →

Oct 15

From ‘villains’ to ‘heroes’, by IOM – perceptions about migration in the public sphere

by Isabel Marques da Silva


The 21st century’s (big) enthusiasm about the potential of new media for fast and generalised social change is not without conceptual basis, and has been underpinned by its theoretically established features: ubiquity, interactivity, recombination, and networking (Leah Lievrouw, 2011, p. 15). But recent research shows that online activism and advocacy are not a contemporary magic wand with super catalytic powers for mobilisation and civic engagement. The ‘click activism’ shortcomings are well documented in the article about the “Save Darfur Cause” on Facebook, (1 billion members, 100,000 USD in donations) where Kevin Lewis, Kurt Gray and Jens Meierhenrich (2014, p.7) state that “Facebook is less useful a mobilization tool than a marketing tool (…) it largely failed to transform these initial acts of movement participation into “a deep and sustained commitment to the work” (Land, 2009, p.220)”.

But halfway between marketing (of trends/concepts) and mobilisation (for action/participation), I argue that new media can have a ‘transitional’ role in what concerns discussion in the public sphere. An example is the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) use of new media to influence perceptions about migration, specifically in Europe, with internal campaigns, but also in association with external partners.

Continue reading →