Beyond Broadcast: is this public media?

I’m at the Beyond Broadcast conference in Washington, DC, convened by American University’s Center for Social Media. It’s good to see a lot of old and new friends and the continuation of some projects I worked on when I was at the Center for Social Media. The question on the table is how new kinds of digital maps can help a public form — in the Deweyan sense. Pat Aufderheide started off the meeting with a great synopsis of what public media is — not just (or even only) media funded by the public, but media that helps a public find itself, connect, and be effective.

The presentations and videos this mornings so far show how powerful and innovative new uses of media are, how they provide new content and perspectives for journalistic practice. I worry that the innovations begin to be seen as ends in themselves, rather than as means for helping a public form in the Deweyan sense. There’s a profusion of content with a great deal of democratic potential, but the next step has to be how to help people connect. What are the spaces and ways in which that can happen? Can Second Life be that space? Can participatory media be the ways? I think these are steps but we’re still far short of finding ways for connecting.

By Noelle McAfee

I am professor of philosophy at Emory University and editor of the Kettering Review. My latest book, Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis, explores what is behind the upsurge of virulent nationalism and intransigent politics across the world today. My other writings include Democracy and the Political Unconscious; Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship; Julia Kristeva; and numerous articles and book chapters. Edited volumes include Standing with the Public: the Humanities and Democratic Practice and a special issue of the philosophy journal Hypatia on feminist engagements in democratic theory. I am also the author of the entry on feminist political philosophy in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and well into my next book project on democratic public life.

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