PUBLIC PROBLEMS AND CONTROVERSIES: DIVERSITY AND PARTICIPATION IN THE MEDIA SPHERE
KEYWORDS: Public Problems; Controversies; Public Sphere; Mediatization; Participation
MAIN RESEARCHERS: CRISTINA PEÑAMARÍN y HÉCTOR FOUCE
Democracy requires a public sphere (PS), an informative space open to debate that guarantees diversity and allows the participation of actors and voices that are interested in common problems. From a pragmatic perspective, we understand the PS not as given entity (a priori), but as the result of an ongoing construction driven by different actors, which is accompanied by an institutional support that must guarantee a sphere and a democracy with a minimum level of quality. We argue, in particular, that this PS emerges has the result of communicative actions and interactions around public issues and problems.
Our aim is to analyze the processes through which public problems and controversies are constructed in the current and mediatized public sphere, and to study the way in which citizens, media, political actors and information professionals interact in those processes. In order to comprehend the new PS, which is more open and unstable than ever, we will study the mediatization processes in which “social problems” are transformed into “public problems”, as well as the ways in which the controversies discussed within the PS generate or limit the interests, perspectives and solution proposals of the actors interested in common problems.
In our hypothesis, the PS may be characterized as a constantly variable space of two-way mediation-mediatization (connection and transformation) between citizenship, common world and institutional-political order. In this regard, the PS appears as:
- a combination of public arenas or scenarios;
- a space for controversy, recognition and power;
- a space for inscription, memory and shared temporality;
- an institutional space.
We propose to study this PS, as suggested by pragmatism, “in its making”, and in relation to its consequences in the political life of the public (its meaning and practice).
This study should inquire the relation between the peripheral public spheres and the central PS, as well as the formative and participatory logics of the peripheral spheres involved in the process of transforming a social problem into a public problem; in other words, into a themed and controversial problem within the central PS. To this end, it should describe the practices and discourses of the actors interested in a given social problem in order to inform the definition, treatment and solution proposals in the different stages of mediation, as well as in the formation and development of controversies about problems that access the central PS and about the role of media, that participate as actors and spaces in this process.
Finally, our goal is to develop a comparative analysis of the different case studies included in the research corpus considering its different status:
1) problems that have emerged in peripheral spheres and have not reached a recognized status as public problems;
2) problems that are limited to specialized, technical-scientific spheres;
3) and problems that have been stabilized as public problems and controversies in the central sphere.
This study will provide a precise knowledge about the current communicative and participatory practices that shape the PS, as well as about the dynamism between center and periphery that characterizes life within this public space. Furthermore, it will contribute to consolidate a research line focused on public problems and controversies in the PS, which allows an articulation between media matters and dynamics of political participation.