Milioni, Dimitra. “Probing the Online Counterpublic Sphere:  The Case of Indymedia Athens.” Media Culture Society 32 3 (2009). Print.

Arguing against Habermas’ depiction of the online public sphere as a site of ever-increasing fragmentation and segmentation (2006), but with Habermas’ normative ideal of the public sphere in The Structural Transformation, Milioni claims that the communalization of networked digital spaces actually does counterbalance the disintegration of a whole online public sphere by challenging power constellations.  To achieve this challenge, Milioni correlates Habermas’ three dimensions of the public sphere – the structural, the representational, and the interactional – with “major modifications” that include 1) the multiplicity and diversity of publics (structural) ; 2) the consideration of processes of identity formation and collective action (representational) and; 3) the terms under which deliberation is carried out (interactional).

According to Milioni, the interactional dimension of the public sphere currently assumes a rational-critical character and relies on the force of a “best argument” based in oftentimes alien forms of speech (due to a rhetor’s socioeconomic background).  As a revision, the author references Hauser and Benoit-Barne’s 2002 work that argues for shift from procedural and philosophical reasoning model to one based on equality and practical reasoning to achieve socioeconomically equitable deliberation that accepts vernacular rhetoric.  Utilizing the tri-fold articulation of the ideal Habermasian public sphere, Milioni considered how the Independent Media Center in Athens GA.’s members:

  1. Participated in a vernacular critica-rational, dialogical debate in the forums
  2. Formed a collective identity for representational purposes
  3. Were part of a broader network of social movements
  4. Were shaped by the concept of the public in an alternative, non mass-media environment.

After providing extensive methodological direction for collecting data in CMC spaces – including features of communicative activity and user role differentiations – Milioni argues that Indymedia performs two functions:  an exemplary function that is shaped by the network’s direct structural, normative and ethical opposition to mainstream media and a competitive function provides an alternative to mainstream mass-media.  She also notes that CMC on Indymedia Athens’ website was characterized by critical-rational debate because of an editorial policy that valued politicized and argumentative discourse as well as tightly controlled moderation practices.

Leave a Reply