Conflict and seduction in the public sphere

Goode, Luke & McKee, Alan (2013) Conflict and seduction in the public sphere. Media, Culture & Society, 35(1), pp. 113-120.

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In a critical but sympathetic reading of Habermas’s work (1984, 1987a, 1987b, 2003), Luke Goode (2005) recently sought to rework his theory of deliberative democracy in an age of mediated and increasingly digital public spheres. Taking a different approach, Alan McKee (2005) challenged the culture- and class-bound strictures of Habermasian rationalism, instead pursuing a more radically pluralist account of postmodern public spheres. The editors of this special section of Media, Culture & Society invited us to discuss our differing approaches to the public sphere. Goode holds that the institutional bases of contemporary public spheres (political parties, educational institutions or public media) remain of critical importance, albeit in the context of a kaleidoscopic array of unofficial and informal micro-publics, both localized and de-territorialized. In contrast, McKee sustains a ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’ toward the official, hegemonic institutions of the public sphere since they tend to exclude and delegitimize discourses and practices that challenge their polite middle-class norms.

McKee’s recent research has focused on sexual cultures, particularly among youth (McKee, 2011). Goode’s recent work has examined new social media spaces, particularly in relation to news and public debate (e.g. Goode, 2009; Goode et al., 2011). Consequently, our discussion turned to a domain which links our interests: after Goode discussed some of his recent research on (in)civility on YouTube as a new media public sphere, McKee challenged him to consider the case of pornographic websites modelled on social media sites.1 He identifies a greater degree of ‘civility’ in these pornographic sibling sites than on YouTube, requiring careful consideration of what constitutes a ‘public sphere’ in contemporary digital culture. Such sites represent an environment that shatters the opposition of public and private interest, affording public engagement on matters of the body, of intimacy, of gender politics, of pleasure and desire – said by many critics to be ruled out of court in Habermasian theory. Such environments also trouble traditional binaries between the cognitive and the affective, and between the performative and the deliberative.

In what follows we explore the differences between our approaches in the form of a dialogue. As is often the case, our approaches seemed less at odds after engaging in conversation than may have initially appeared. But important differences of emphasis remain.

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1 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 58241
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Pornography, Public Sphere
DOI: 10.1177/0163443712464565
ISSN: 1460-3675
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > POLITICAL SCIENCE (160600) > Political Theory and Political Philosophy (160609)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > COMMUNICATION AND MEDIA STUDIES (200100) > Media Studies (200104)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > CULTURAL STUDIES (200200) > Culture Gender Sexuality (200205)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Past > Schools > School of Media, Entertainment & Creative Arts
Copyright Owner: © 2013 Sage Publications Ltd.
Deposited On: 14 Mar 2013 05:23
Last Modified: 04 Apr 2014 03:56

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