Hey everyone, it’s the public sphere!

Just wanted to point out two recent mentions of the public sphere, which actually managed to appear in the public sphere, the first by Al Gore, the second by the blogger Digby.  Remarkable how much currency this concept has gained since Habermas first published it in 1962 (and remember, it was only translated into English in 1989). 

Here’s Al Gore:

http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1622015,00.html

This is courtesy of atrios (http://atrios.blogspot.com/). 

And this is from Digby at Hullabaloo, who knows his pseudonyms.  I thought Carrie would appreciate this, because it also makes the bloggers and Michael Warner argument we discussed early this year.

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2007/05/i-love-my-navel-so-much-by-digby.html

Best,

DM

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3 responses to “Hey everyone, it’s the public sphere!

  1. J.T Dabbagian

    Amazing. I’m actually getting ready to write a paper about the Internet and Habermas. That’s good stuff.

  2. Our own Tedra Osell has presented an argument similar to Digby’s about the connection between pseudonymous pamphleteering and blogging.

    I really appreciate what Digby says about the way pseuds have functioned across the history of the blogosphere. As he notes, one of the things about the blogosphere that goes largely unsaid in the mass media is that there are people around who have been participating in online communities (Usenet, etc.) for over a dozen years, using the same pseud the whole time. Almost everything that person has ever said online could be found and used to bring that person to task.

    The longer someone uses a particular pseud, the more consistent that person is forced to be in the creation of a single identity. This is why, for example, the Lee Siegel/Sprezzatura thing was taken so seriously by the blogosphere, though it seemed harmless (I suppose) to Siegel himself.

    In a way, I’d even suggest that the consistency of a particular pseud is more important online than consistency under one’s own name, because a pseudonym is a constructed persona with limits, not a fully-formed human being, who is bound to be self-contradictory at times.

    One of the things about early American print culture that differs is that “sockpuppeting” (as we’d call Sprezzatura now) and pseud-changing was very frequent, and even a source of much humor, especially in Franklin. There seems to have been a much different relationship between the writer and the pseudonymous persona that had little to do with consistency or fairness to one’s interlocutors. And after all, the stakes were much higher than they are in the blogosphere.

    I’d like to think about this more, especially as the panel looms nearer. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  3. David Mazella

    I liked the Digby piece a great deal, the more that many of the same references cropped up as a number of us responded to the initial, idiotic George Will post.

    One of the things that blogging has given me an appreciation for is the circulation of certain key phrases or metaphors in political discourse. I’m positive that pamphleteering worked in similar ways, because the tempo of responses was often quite fast, fast enough for readers of one party or faction to recognize their own key terms. In literary studies, we tend to take such language as cliched or conventional, but I’m seeing now how such phrases functioned, as Warner has argued, as a way for publics to organize themselves in relation to one another: say “Friedman unit” nowadays (a term that may have to be glossed in a few years, hopefully), and everyone knows who you’re reading and who you’re opposing.

    I think it was Atrios who pointed out that the pseud-convention was always about the fear of retribution in one’s job, which was and is a real possibility in the present. Academics (at least those with full-time jobs) have quite a bit of freedom of speech, compared to people in other careers, but no one is beyond the reach of a really determinedly punitive p****, here or anywhere else.

    DM