Have you ever heard of the public sphere? If your answer is no don’t fret, nor had I until our week 5 lecture for BCM110. It turns out the public sphere is actually something we have all likely been involved in ourselves. It is an area of social life where individuals are able to come together and discuss societal problems, particularly for those in generation X; issues presented in the media. Jurgen Habermas imagined the public sphere like an 18th century ‘coffee house’, a place where people could meet to share news and debate ideas. Today a public sphere is more likely to be the comment section of a news link, shared as a facebook, twitter or blog post. My involvement in the public sphere is more than often tagging my friends in a post I find interesting or controversial, to bring them into the conversation so that we are able to share our ideas on an open public domain.
In today’s society the public sphere is highly mediated, the media is heavily controlled and so we are shown what we are chosen to be shown. When individual’s choose to stray away from what is specifically chosen to be presented and make extremely public posts and debates concerning controversial topics such as abortion, rape and abuse (amongst other issues) other users of the public domain are able to flag these individual’s for posting ‘inappropriate content’. While we have a lot of freedom when it comes to discussing issues in the public sphere, it is at times heavily censored, putting a limit and strain on what we can say and do. This censorship can be seen as a huge problem in regards to the truth being represented to the public. If certain things are hidden or taken away it can cause a lot of confusion in regards to what is real and what is not.
The public sphere can heavily shape individual’s opinions, as they are able to read something that is presented to them in the media, take into consideration other people’s comments and ideas and then form their own opinion in regards to the matter.
An example of a media text that has recently contributed to debate in the public sphere would be Woolworth’s ‘ANZAC Day’ campaign that featured the slogan ‘Fresh In Our Memories’. The campaign involved allowing the public to create their own ANZAC tribute, by uploading photos of their war-affected loved ones, branded with the (debatably insensitive) slogan.
The problem? It appears that Woolworth’s were more focused on promoting their brand (using the word ‘fresh’, their slogan is ‘The Fresh Food People’) than actually paying tribute to fallen soldiers. Individual’s of the public were able to use the public domain to air their anger regarding the campaign, with some social media users uploading the ‘Fresh In Our Memories’ slogan over pictures of Adolf Hilter and Kim Kardashian.
Woolworth’s apology addressed the public sphere, quoting “The Australian public speak very clearly and very loudly when that fine line is crossed.” This was followed by a specific apology addressing their disrespect in regards to ANZAC and veterans. In this case, the public sphere worked in the favour of bringing to light that a campaign presented by a very large and profitable brand was inappropriate and insensitive.
Turnbull, S 2015, Lecture 5 Media Mythbusting: ‘Big Brother is Watching You’ powerpoint slides, BCM110, presented 31 March 2015.