The public sphere is a notion, a metaphor, an ideal way to share ideas, to govern and to lead change. But, as nice as it all seems on paper, it doesn’t really work that way.
German philosopher Jürgen Habermas described the public sphere as the place where open and rational discussions can take place. He claimed the ideas should be important to all citizens and have a goal of common good. Habermas also described the sphere as a place where personal notions that affect others become public. This way grassroots movements and ideas grew to criticize the government and forced a change; feminism would be one example for that.
Habermas’ public sphere allows people to hold states accountable and in a global prospective that makes international communication crucial. A global public sphere relies on international communication to share the information but also to create a global identity which will lead to action. It is clear that Issues in Africa won’t reach Canada without the means of global communication. But more so, without international communication, people in Canada couldn’t feel they are a part of global community with Africa, and that they should discuss it in the global public sphere.
The problem with everything that is mentioned above is that ideals usually don’t exist in real life. While educated public, rational discussions and a fair playing field are all desired, in reality the public sphere according to Habermas is nothing but a dream.
So when we consider the public sphere today, we have to remember it is filled with clutter, propaganda and local agendas, locally and globally. Common good is defiantly not the first priority and media all around the world is tainted with politics and business interests.
With that being said, we should at least try to hold our global public sphere to Habermas’ high standards, or the very least be aware of the gap between what is desirable and what reality is. Who knows maybe one day we’ll reach Habermas’ sphere.