My research is located in a post-Habermasian landscape of the digital public sphere, an extension of Jurgen Habermas' public sphere theory. The Public Sphere was originally understood as a sphere of private people coming together in a public environment (e.g. a salon or coffee house) in order to critically discuss public authority and demand that it legitimates itself before public opinion. The idea recognizes political participation as the core of a democratic society. However, postmodernists, feminists and critical race theorists have criticized the theory for being too homogenous, rationalist and universalist.
This emergence of a 'digital public sphere' is understood in this study as a potential to extend and transform the modern Habermasian public sphere. The Internet and other new media, such as mobile phones, blogs, social networks and more, are seen to have given Habermas' concept of the 'Public Sphere' a new meaning, through their capabiltiy to enable a participatory culture. However, in extending Habermas' concept of the public sphere, the new concept of the digital public sphere itself is not excluded from new debates and criticisms that would also be explored in this study.
The aim of this project is to identify and explore how developing democracies can build a solid democratic culture around an effective digital public sphere. This raises questions as to what exactly is this new digital public sphere? In what ways has digital media facilitated democracy and its companion elements such as information dissemination, political decision-making, democratic debate and deliberation? Also, what new cultural, social and political changes have been affected by the new digital public sphere, what existing societal forces are disadvantageous to its development, and lastly, what strategies can be found to be instrumental in developing a fully effective digital public sphere in Nigeria, to serve as a model for global developing democracies.
Photo: Copyright © Tomi Oladepo
J dot P dot Vickery at warwick dot ac dot uk