Democratization and the Networked Public Sphere

Panel Discussion Fri 13 Apr 2007 6.30PM-8.30PM The New School, Theresa Lang Community and Student Center
55 West 13th Street, 2nd Floor
Admission: $8, free for all students as well as New School faculty, staff, and alumni with valid ID
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Over the past ten years the public sphere has been dramatically expanded by participatory web-based technologies. The speakers at this panel will argue for the potential of sociable media such as weblogs and social networking sites to democratize society through emerging cultures of broad participation. They will focus on various arguments for and against this central claim by examining present-day understandings of the public sphere, ranging from theorists such as Jurgen Habermas and Alexander Kluge to Lawrence Lessig and Yochai Benkler.
Danah Boyd argues four points: 1) Networked publics are changing the way public life is organized. 2) Our understanding of public/private is being radically altered 3)
Participation in public life is critical to the functioning of democracy. 4) We have destroyed youths' access to unmediated public life. Why are we now destroying their access to mediated public life? What consequences does this have for democracy?

Trebor Scholz talks about the paradox of affective immaterial labor. Last year, content generated by networked publics created the ten sites on the World Wide Web with most Internet traffic. Community is commodity: very few get rich through the immaterial labor of very many. Net publics share their life experiences and archive their memories while context-providing businesses gain value from the public's attention, time, and uploaded content. Scholz will argue against what he calls a "factory without walls," and will demand that net publics control their own contributions.

Ethan Zuckerman presents his work on media and the developing world, and the issues related to the technical, legal, speech, and digital divide. After a critique of cyberutopianism, Zuckerman addresses in particular citizen media and activism in developing nations, their potential for democratic change, and the ways that governments (and sometimes corporations) are pushing back on their ability to democratize.

Danah Boyd, School of Information, The University of California-Berkeley, Graduate Fellow, The Annenberg Center for Communications, University of Southern California
Trebor Scholz, media theorist, artist, and activist, founder of the Institute for Distributed Creativity (iDC)
Ethan Zuckerman, Research Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard Law School, founder of Geekcorps

This event is presented on occasion of the Vera List Center's program cycle on "The Public Domain."