Habermas e Internet

Habermas e Internet.

Vejam post do Howard Rheingold no Smart Mob sobre a pergunta que ele fez para HAbermas sobre Internet e Esfera Publica:


“I recently asked Jurgen Habermas in a public forum what his current opinion is about the state of the public sphere, now that the broadcast era has been supplanted by the many-to-many media that enable so many people to use the Internet as a means of political expression. He blew off the question without explanation, and a little further investigation into the very sparse pronouncements he has made in this regard has led me to understand that he simply does not understand the Internet. His ideas about the relationship between public opinion and democracy and the role of communication media, and the commodification and manipulation of political opinion via public relations, are still vitally important. But I think it’s important now to build new theories and not simply to rely on Habermas, who is signalling his ignorance of the meaning of the changes in the infosphere that have taken place in recent decades. He did his part in his time, but the ideal public sphere he described — a bourgeois public sphere dominated by broadcast media — should not be taken as the model for the formation of public opinion in 21st century democracies.


Although I got up at 6 AM last Friday to prepare and commute to a 9-noon class at Berkeley, I added two hours more driving to my day to drive to Stanford to hear Habermas speak at the Richard Rorty memorial lecture. The central question about the meaning of my own work — does Internet communication improve the public sphere, and therefore, democracy, or does it not? — revolves around ideas he is credited with inventing. The lecture was abstruse analytical philosophy. When he finished, only one person stepped up to the microphone to ask a question. (…) I could never forgive myself if I failed to step up, but I have to say that my heart was pounding in my chest. Everybody at Stanford who cares about Habermas was watching. I begged his forgiveness for a brief digression from the discussion of Rorty’s philosophy but said that I could not forego the opportunity to ask what he thought of the future and health of the public sphere, now that the broadcast era he wrote about has been supplanted by an infosphere in which so many people use the infosphere to express political opinion.

He blew me off! He didn’t say “out of respect for Rorty, I will decline to discuss my own work.” He didn’t say “that’s complicated and would take more time than I have.” He didn’t say, “I’m working on that and wish to remain silent until I publish.” He rather inelegantly said that he wouldn’t answer that, and I should perhaps refer to the recent book of interviews with Rorty. I couldn’t let it go at that, so I said, before walking away — in front of all of Stanford, it seemed to me — that many people in the world are very interested in his answer to this question and hope that he will address it in some way.”


Afterward, my friend Mike Love pointed me to this long and thoughtful blog post about Habermas’ statement to the International Communication Association, which quoted Habermas:

The Internet has certainly reactivated the grassroots of an egalitarian public of writers and readers. However, computer-mediated communication in the web can claim unequivocal democratic merits only for a special context: It can undermine the censorship of authoritarian regimes that try to control and repress public opinion. In the context of liberal regimes, the rise of millions of fragmented chat rooms across the world tend instead to lead to the fragmentation of large but politically focused mass audiences into a huge number of isolated issue publics. Within established national public spheres, the online debates of web users only promote political communication, when news groups crystallize around the focal points of the quality press, for example, national newspapers and political magazines. (A nice indicator for the critical function of such a parasitical role of online communication is the bill for €2088,00 that the anchor of Bildblog.de recently sent to the director of Bild.T-Online for “services”: The bloggers claimed they improved the work of the editorial staff of the Bildzeitung with useful criticisms and corrections … ).
(p. 423-4, fn. 3 in the published article; p. 9, fn. 14 in the transcript)