Visualising the Public Sphere

I took part in an interesting workshop last week which was co-arranged by VKS and the Philosophical department at Gronigen University. The discussion spanned over a wide area of topics but with the common theme of how we could understand social, political and physical interactions and how that becomes visible in the public space. Anne Beaulieu talked about “Network realism: studying knowledge production around public databases of images”, Martijn de Waal presented ideas on “Urban screens and the Public Sphere”, Paul de Laat tried to connect two of his research areas with the title “Not so Public After All”, Judith Vega introduced “The visualisation for everyday life: pertinent or impertinent in regard to the public sphere” and Paul Wouters discussed the lessons learned from CYSWIK (Can You See What I Know), a two-day multisectorial workshop on knowledge visualisation. It is almost always fruitful to bring together people from different disciplines and see how the different approaches can hook together and form a bigger picture. One problem that where brought up for discussion was how new is new media? Is there new problems in this area or is it the same kind of problems only in a new setting? It all boiled down to that it is a matter of emphasis. A lot of people are using the digital media and the “user-generated” media and are treating it as something new and that is something we as researchers have to take into consideration.

This morning I was again listening to the Swedish radio and overheard their programme “På nätet” (on the net). They have apparently a series of five episodes about our social life on the net and today it was about blogquakes (“bloggbävning”, like a combination of blog and earthquake). The participants talked about the idea that the blogs are making the world more democratic, is it or is it not? This is the discussion that always comes back when talking about blogs and maybe a bit boring in a sense, but connected to the workshop above it suddenly makes more sense. The social practices in the public sphere that are now also present on the web is dynamic and changing and interesting to study further and especially by joining different approaches and disciplines ways of dealing with the problems or questions as research topics.

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