The Emergence of the Global Public Sphere





The Emergence of the Global Public Sphere


The development of new technologies over the past few decades has changed the nature of human life significantly. Modern technology has accelerated the pace of globalization and helped the human community become closer. The ease of communication and travel has effectively created a global village. People are now able to move across the globe with ease and share communication at an instant. Through these developments, various aspects of society have changed with the alterations being negative in some cases and positive in others. One of the effects brought on by the new technologies is the possible of a global public sphere. The concept of a global public sphere relates to that of a public sphere. The public sphere refers to an arena where people can collectively formulate a public opinion on specific issues. Though many scholars dispute its existence, it is likely that the developments in information technology have resulted in the formation of a global public sphere.

Characteristics of the Global Public Sphere

The concept of a global public sphere is an issue that some scholars dispute. According to Vaidhyanathan, people started discussing the concept in the 1990s when the internet started growing (137). Before the debate on the concept begun, globalization had already spawned discourse on the global village and culture. The global public sphere is an extension of this discourse on globalization and its effects. Following up on the original concept of the public sphere, the idea of the global public sphere holds that the debate through which people formulate general opinions, has taken on a new dimension with the use of modern information technology. Accordingly, the global public sphere is an arena located within the mass media and various communication channels where people engage each other in discourse that leads to the creation of a general opinion.

The defining characteristic of the global public sphere is that it transcends physical distance, political borders and cultural barriers. The public sphere existed long before globalization emerged. Scholars credit Jurgen Habermas with defining the concept, as people understand it today (Vaidhyanathan 135). Before globalization, the same barriers of communication that limited society in the early twentieth century affected the public sphere. Factors such as physical distance, cultural barriers and political borders meant that discourse on various issues could not spread throughout the world. With the global public sphere, however, the situation has changed drastically. Globalization has allowed information and ideas to spread around the globe at a rapid pace. This is because globalization has helped the world overcome many of the barriers that were hindering the development of a global public sphere. For instance, improvements in information have made it possible for people to overcome borders and physical distance. Additionally, the world has developed cultural pluralism. This has emerged through the desire that people have to make and share meaning with each other (Sunder 150). Through these conditions, the global public sphere has emerged and allowed people from different ends of the world to partake in various debates without facing various restrictions.

Another key characteristic of the global public sphere is that it exists within media such as the internet. Mass media such as the internet are the main facilitators of the global public sphere because they satisfy most of the conditions that it needs to exist. Vaidhyanathan explains that the global public sphere can only exist where there is a common culture fostering a shared value system and mutual understanding (137). Cultural imperialism is one of the ways through which this mutual understanding has come into existence. Hesmondhalgh explains that with globalization, cultural imperialism took place, allowing people to form a value system that spread all over the world (215). This concept of a global culture is most evident in media such as the internet, where users have a unique system of values that defines their interactions. Accordingly, mass media that allows such understanding and interaction has become the perfect channel through which the global public sphere can grow.

Conversations in the Global Public Sphere

The global public sphere has had a profound effect on the human race over the past two decades. Many of the conversations on the sphere focus on a range of issues that include politics, activism and pop culture. As such, many governments are wary of the global public sphere and the power that it wields, both politically and socially. The power of the global public sphere is visible in the way that governments, civil societies and interest groups view the internet and private companies that are involved in it. Vaidhyanathan argues that the power of groups such as Google is visible in the way that various governments interact with it (116). Many governments are interested in private firms such as Google because they have the ability to control and limit the debates and interactions that are taking place in the global public sphere. For instance, the governments in Iran and China have been involved in recent scandals with Google as they try to clamp down on the firm as a way of carrying out their censorship programs (Vaidhyanathan 116). This is because Google is the largest company involved in the internet and this means that it has the largest amount of control over the global public sphere located there.


Though some scholars and experts dispute the existence of a global public sphere, certain events and occurrences imply the contrary. The emergence of the global public sphere was the result of globalization as the phenomenon allowed the public sphere that already existed to expand its limits. The global public sphere mainly exists on mass media like the internet and transcends most of the existing barriers to communication. Through the sphere, people hold a range of debates on politics and other matters of public interest. This has led to various attempts by governments around the world to limit the global public sphere as they become increasingly wary of the power it has.


Works Cited:

Hesmondhalgh, David. The Cultural Industries. London: Sage Publications, 2007. Print.

Sunder, Madhavi. From Goods to a Good Life: Intellectual Property and Global Justice. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012. Print.

Vaidhyanathan, Siva. The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry). Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2011. Print.

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