Media & Participation: Citizenship

on 8 January 2008 at about 22:06

Cross-posted at CEMP

This is a synopsis of the third session of the Media & Participation unit: Citizenship.

The third session of the Media & Participation unit was concerned with ideas about 'Citizenship'. The online assignment was to identify a media space (traditional or new) which allows members of the public to participate in political debate, and explain the extent to which you believe that space empowers people / influences decisions or fails to do so.

Social Contract

A Ladder of Citizen Participation

In the first session, we saw Sherry Arnstein's ladder of citizen participation. Do look at it again, and bear it in mind as we go through some of the theoretical ideas. Also, our theoretical focus will not so much be on very recent (breathless) accounts of how the internet is transforming participation, but instead tackle some hardcore theory heavyweights. Hopefully, you'll find that Benkler , Rheingold , Weinberger , Trippi et al are more useful after considering Hobbes, Rousseau, Habermas, Bakhtin, Chomsky and Foucault.

Political participation

We began with a discussion about voting: the floor was divided between those who felt that not to vote was a waste, and that it isn't really possible to make a persuasive criticism or contribution to political debate if you don't even use your vote; and those who argued that choosing not to vote was the only way to express disapproval of the options on offer, even if it was formally indistinguishable from apathy.

We noted that something like a third of eligible voters aged 18-24 voted in the last election. Even of the entire eligible voting population of the country, only 61.3% of the electorate voted; and only 37% voted for Labour, the winning party. That means that less than a quarter of the UK electorate voted for the government.

We can perform a thought experiment here, and consider some of these numbers: 37% for Labour is considered a mandate for (effectively) minority rule; if we imagine we had all voted, there is no reason to suppose that Labour would have acquired more or less than 37%, because the vote is split between several parties (Conservative 33%, Lib Dem 22%, Other 8%).

This is one of the paradoxes of democratic systems - they are sometimes described as the least worst option, because they tend to result in minority rule.

So even if we addressed one of the central criticisms of our democratic process - there isn't enough choice or difference between parties - by increasing the range of political parties we might vote for, the winning party might have even less share of the vote; and yet, is what we want majority rule? Surely that would require there to be less choice?

Or if we introduced proportional representation, as some of us suggested, mightn't we simply end up with more people's second choice than anyone's true preference?

And finally on this, none of these figures (available here ) tell us why many people don't vote, or whether the choices we have are enough, too much or too little. How would we know?


Political philosophy

Debates about political participation highlight one of the central tensions that result in lots of individuals all living together in a society: the limits of freedom and the necessities of law.

We can explore some of these tensions by going back to some historical big-hitters: Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

[Clay Shirky talks about Hobbes vs Rousseau as a way of thinking about the architecture of participatory websites here (and more on it here) for those IMPS interested.]



Thomas Hobbes wrote Leviathan in 1651. This text is old, long, and frankly pretty boring, but his main thrust as far as we are concerned is articulated by Garrath Williams here:

we should give our obedience to an unaccountable sovereign (a person or group empowered to decide every social and political issue). Otherwise what awaits us is a 'state of nature' that closely resembles civil war - a situation of universal insecurity, where all have reason to fear violent death and where rewarding human cooperation is all but impossible.

Hobbes' argument, that we should submit to a sovereign who rules over us by the force of law, arises because he diagnoses human nature extremely pessimistically. Hobbes believed that without sovereign law, human beings will by nature violently compete for survival, fight each other out of suspicion, and seek individual power and glory through force. In effect, Hobbes believes that human nature - that is humans in a natural state unmodified by any kind of overarching social power or society - is base, animal, and tending to violence and war.

In order to guard against this brutal state of affairs, Hobbes argues that an unaccountable (i.e. non-challengable) sovereign should rule society, and expect total obedience - or members of the society should expect punishment for disobedience. This, he argues, is the only way to ensure that the unruly brutish animals that people are will live together with any kind of co-operation.

The Noble Savage


Jean-Jacques Rousseau, writing 'The Social Contract' a century later in 1762, is most famous for his aphorism - "man is born free, but is everywhere in chains." Richard Hooker explains it thus:

everything that civilized people have regarded as progress - urbanization, technology, science, and so on - has resulted in the moral degradation of humanity. For Rousseau, the natural moral state of human beings is to be compassionate; civilization has made us cruel, selfish, and bloodthirsty [...] civilization has robbed us of our natural freedom [...] the price of civilization is human freedom and human individuality.

So here we have a diametrically opposed view from that of Hobbes: it is the product of so-called civilised institutions that the moral degradation of humanity has occurred - war is a product of society, while individual human beings are naturally compassionate. Rousseau's notion of the noble savage, although it has a problematic role in the history of European colonialism, argues that man's natural state is co-operative, compassionate and noble.

Human nature

Faced with these opposing views of political philosophy we were forced to note that they require us to address what 'human nature' consists of - and given that we are familiar with arguments that human behaviour is culturally constructed (gender is socially constructed, cultural differences should be tolerated, etc) it is very difficult to resolve the question.

One issue that arose in our discussion was the inevitability of progress: faced with the hypothesis that there might be some kind of end-state, in which humans finally live in harmony, the response was that this could never happen because it is a part of human nature to constantly strive to know more, do more, achieve more.

These propositions relate to what is sometimes called the 'teleological view of history', or even 'the Whig interpretation of history' - that there is some utopian end-point to which humanity is striving, and that the course of history is the story of ever improving progress towards that goal. Thinkers such as Hegel and Marx might take this view (though we would probably want to hesitate before stating that Marx thinks that this progress is inevitable). But we might also see the constant forward striving as an end in itself - we do not strive towards a goal which we will ever achieve, rather we strive for the sake of striving - and we always will - and what's more this striving will always bring us into conflict with each other. A deeper understanding of 'dialectics' might help us here, but we leave that for another time and place. In any case, there was not much consensus among us that people would ever be satisfied to live in an permanent social state of harmony, even if it were possible.

We could even draw parallels with debates in evolutionary science, where protagonists like Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins argue over whether evolution demonstrates ever-increasing complexity (as though life is 'striving' towards higher life forms), or whether evolution actually does not care whether the world is ruled by worms or clever monkeys and our proclamation of our species as the highest life form is inextricable with our 'evo-eco-ego-centrism'.

More tensions

Some of the ideas you put forward were to think in terms of group associations, and our small understanding of anthropology and group psychology: we have loyalty to and co-operate with those close to us - family, kin, tribes, races, etc - our in-groups; while we may come into conflict with those in out-groups: strangers, other races, religions, aliens. So you argued that Hobbes' and Rousseau's fundamental positions ignore context - we co-operate with those we trust, we conflict with strangers.

One interesting facet here, though, is that those we consider to have shared interests with us change with context: family vs non-family is different to tribe vs non-tribe, etc. It implies some kind of concentric set of relations which overlap in ways which are negotiable: we can find things in common with people we wouldn't normally, in different contexts. Now, let's consider the ways in which communication helps us to negotiate those different realms.

Jurgen Habermas' Public Sphere


Habermasdescribes what he calls 'the public sphere' - as distinct from the 'private sphere' which might consist of family and friends, where what we say to each other and what we think about things is retained in relative privacy. What's particularly interesting to us is that his notion of the public sphere (the public discourses which occur in the wider realm of education, systematic religion, and of course, civil society) is specifically political: that is, concerned with how we communicate in a realm where differences are obvious, but not insurmountable, and how political decision might be influenced by public discourse and communication.

Here's a useful synopsis from the University of Georgetown (Habermas is notoriously difficult to read, whether in the original German, or in translation):

In the public sphere [...] discourse becomes democratic through the "non-coercively unifying, consensus building force of a discourse in which participants overcome their at first subjectively biased views in favor of a rationally motivated agreement (Public Discourse 315)." By looking to rationality, he hopes to produce democratic judgements which can have universal application while remaining anchored within the practical realm of discourse among individuals.

So here we start to see some of the characteristics of 'ideal speech situations' that Habermas thinks are necessary for a vital public sphere to perform a primary role in the determination of civil society: competence, autonomy and rationality.

In some respects, competence is fairly straightforward - it is characteristic of human beings that they are able to tell the difference between these three domains of reference. Humans can tell the differences between individual responses ("I wish I could fly"), shared values ("air travel is good!") and apparently objective facts ("gravity is always present on earth"). Sentences such as the following might give us more problems, but we could extract the various different positions they consist of:

The situation becomes muddied, according to Habermas, because of predominant contemporary attitudes - different cultural and ideological contests within society. What appear to be objective facts may be simply socially constructed inter-subjective positions. Low-copy number DNA evidence is a recent example of 'evidence' whose status has recently shifted; juries of 'peers' - lay people, rather than experts - may have taken LCN DNA evidence to have more objective status than was merited. Similarly, how would we describe a statement such as 'human beings are inhabitants of earth, rather than the owners'? In any case, it is a mark of our communicative competence that we can see the conflict between subjective, inter-subjective and objective positions, even if we cannot always clearly diagnose instances of them.

Such competence feeds into our ability to engage in 'rational-critical' discourse - since we should be able to recognise instances where we attach ourselves to 'subjective' positions, and tolerate and attempt to understand others' subjective positions - and it is only through 'autonomy' that we are free to express our subjective positions at all. And if we are exposed to different subjective positions than our own, perhaps we move further towards a more 'objective' position?

So - in an ideal situation, a public sphere is a space where everyone can engage in communication with each other - but with a specific goal: of accepting each other's subjective point of view, but striving through dialogue to reach some kind of consensus - not coerced or imposed, but reached through rational dialogue. This consensus should be considered the 'formation of public opinion' - which can then be acted on in a truly democratic fashion.

So having posited this ideal situation where we can speak freely, expect to be tolerated, be willing to accommodate diversity of opinion, and somehow, thereby, achieve a consensus which should determine public policy, let's look at some of the examples you suggested, and see if they measure up.

Possible Public Spheres?

jimirich suggested that BBC1's Question Time programme is an example of a space in which members of the public can participate in political debate, and his analysis implies that the extent to which influence is exerted on political decisions is largely one-way - the panel members may be able to persuade the public of their point of view. Note that we're not saying that influence works in the other direction - indeed it is a major aspect of our party political system that being seen to change your mind as a party politician is a sign of weakness.

So, we decided that while QT may have some of the characteristics of a public sphere - it is generally non-coercive and 'rational' - the emphasis here is on politicians defending their policies, rather than any opportunity for 'public opinion' to sway those policies.

cboakes suggested the Labour Party's website where members of the public can contribute to discussions, though he acknowledges that "it is unlikely that their comments will influence Labours actions". The example discussion cboakes cites is quite instructive, since the participants descend to insults like "brown noser", "moron", and "thick white racist". So this space (ironically provided by the party of government itself) fails either to exhibit 'rational-critical' attributes, or to encourage consensus-building.

Indeed, whatever institutions we care to look at, whether it is political debate staged by mainstream media, online fora, or even town-hall meetings, it's difficult to not see Habermas' prescription for public debate as far too idealistic. Perhaps he's asking too much of us? Indeed David Gauntlett describes one of the problems with thinking of the Internet as a potential enactment of a public sphere - even if we did all engage in respectful dialogue, how would the formation of public opinion be measured? Some kind of voting system, presumably... not terribly different to what exists now.

Another problem with this ideal public sphere, is that the logical conclusion is a 'universal' consensus - i.e. the ideal outcome of the dialogue within a public sphere is that we all come to the same point of view, think the same things, agree the same ways forward. At first glance this looks like a laudable, utopian ambition - but actually is it not indistinguishable from totalitarianism?

Mikhail Bakhtin's Heteroglossia


Heteroglossia is a useful idea which helps us to explore the differences between diverse kinds of discourses and ways of speaking. The concept was introduced by Mikhail Bakhtin, a Russian literary theorist and critic, and it helps to remember that he was writing from the 1930s until his death in 1975 - that is, under the Soviet regime. Certainly, his career coincided largely with the rule of Joseph Stalin, the totalitarian dictator who stamped out dissent with 'purges'; the number of his victims is debated, but the debate is over how many millions they number.

"[heteroglossia] represents the co-existence of socio-ideological contradictions between the present and the past, between differing epochs of the past, between different socio-ideological groups in the present, between tendencies, schools, circles, and so forth, all given a bodily form."

(Introducing Bakhtin, p21)

It is instructive, then, to consider the importance of 'heteroglossia' - literally 'diverse tongues' or 'differently voiced' - as an idea born in the midst of censorship, and imposed conformity at pain of death. Bakhtin's notion of heteroglossia refers both to the fact that language is created through difference (rather like the classically structuralist approach to language as introduced by Ferdinand de Saussure - i.e. it is a formal characteristic of language itself), but also to what might be called 'social heteroglossia'. 'Social heteroglossia' refers to the diversity of discourse that arises from social difference - the different classes within society, and the different situations which 'frame' the events in which discourse occurs.

Bakhtin's work was focussed on the novel as a literary form (which achieved its greatest expression, in the works of, naturally, the great Russian masters like Dostoevsky) as opposed to epic and poetic forms. The novel achieves its most dramatic effects by capturing and expressing the diversity across social spectra.

Social Heteroglossia

The tensions we've seen expressed in ideas are also reflected in Bakhtin's heteroglossia:

"Paradoxically, 'speech diversity in class society indexes actual inequality'."

(Introducing Bakhtin, p19)

The existence of social heteroglossia (the differences in the way people use language) only arises because of actual differences between people expressed in class, education, economic situation, etc. However, we might argue that suppressing heteroglossia through censorship is a worse evil than recognising it - it is therefore better to allow heteroglossia some kind of expression than to pretend it is not there. We might also think back to Habermas' public sphere, and consider that if we are ever able to achieve 'objective' understandings, rather than simply our own subjective opinion, then exposure to the heteroglossia of the many is essential?

So we could interpret Bakhtin as celebrating the heteroglossia of the novel, even as he worked in an environment in which diversity of opinion was curbed with the threat of death. Though it is understandable that he could not explicitly say so, we can imagine that he would have like to go as far as to say that the freedom to express the diversity of opinions at large in a population would be a good thing elsewhere than simply in the form of the novel. Evidence for this can be found in his description of what he called the 'carnivalesque'.


We met the carnivalesque briefly in the introductory session, as a way of understanding why so much of the use of participatory media is humorous and parodic. Given a webcam and a worldwide platform, more people tend to choose to mime ridiculously to disposable pop songs or pull stupid pranks on their friends who take MMORPGs too seriously, rather than engage in overtly political discourse. Carnival helps us to understand that perhaps such humour and parody is, actually, very political, even if unintentionally so.

Here we must be necessarily over-simplistic, and describe the carnivalesque as the kinds of discourse that arise where 'ordinary people' obtain the opportunity to laugh at and ridicule figures of authority. Bakhtin casts a historical eye over medieval carnivals in which performances could take place where the world is 'turned on its head' - the fools and clowns can have mastery over kings and rulers. The discourses of authority (such as, in literature, the epic form) can be appropriated and re-used for humour and parody. Bakhtin argues that in situations where 'folk humour' can occur, the carnivalesque will emerge - in market places, festivals and comic oral culture. The carnivalesque is grotesque, obscene and parodic. In the middle ages in which people's experience of direct authority rested in the church, folk humour is a

"boundless world of humorous forms and manifestations [which] opposed the official and serious tone of medieval ecclesiastical and feudal culture"


"carnival allows 'free and familiar contact between people' who would normally be separated hierarchically, and allows for 'mass action'".

(Introducing Bakhtin, pp151-152)

Carnival is where folk (or popular) culture can make the sacred profane, the serious ridiculous, and the master a slave, and its medium is grotesque and obscene humour. Taboos can be broken, and censored ideas can be expressed.

Televised heteroglossia?

We should immediately be able to see that the examples we've seen so far can't be described as including the full spectrum of heteroglossia. Television programmes like Question Time exact strict editorial policies which limit contributions to what we might describe as 'rational-critical discourse', but therefore exclude many kinds of contribution.

ro5iesuggested 'The Jeremy Kyle Show' as a traditional media space in which participation occurs. While Kyle's show has been described by a judgeas 'human bear-baiting', and is often written off as trash TV along with Jerry Springer, et al, our new view of the desirability of heteroglossia might redeem these kinds of programme. ro5ie's diagnosis does go to the heart of the problem, though:

this is a television programme made for entertainment and [the] extent of help that the contestants receive is debatable.

Online heteroglossia?

The Labour Party's website's forum also appears to exhibit a very narrow range of heteroglossia, consisting mostly of 'flaming' contributions. This might normallybe diagnosed as a consequence of the disinhibitingeffects of online interaction - we are distanced from the consequences our words when we talk online. But might there also be aspects of the carnivalesque to such trolling and baiting? When is it humorous, and when malicious? Must we always write off such behaviour, and is it not better that such discourse be possible, than that we should operate under censorship?

Meanwhile, Patrickidentifed the 'rise of citizen media' as a space where political participation occurs. Patrick notes the same argument which we saw in the last session, where increased participation by 'non-professionals' somehow degrades and threatens the contribution of non-amateurs. We might note that we have a new argument to use against Arnold, Keen, et al: excluding contributions from those who aren't considered to be the 'professionals' decreases the heteroglossia we are exposed to - better to have increased participation, even if it is 'crud', than to supress the galaxy of possible contributions.

Patrick also identifies the fact that the traditional media do not always express the range of opinion that exists:

[blogging] has enabled people to go against the traditional forms of 'mass media' [and] publish their own views and opinions [but] at the same time allowing the freedom of discussion of others opinions, which the traditional media doesn't.

Let's consider some ideas about why traditional media only reflects a small range of the possible discourses that circulate in a society.

A Propaganda Model

As we've seen, traditional media forms do not necessarily reflect what we might think of as 'social heteroglossia'. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman suggested a model for understanding why traditional media outlets inhibit certain kinds of discourse. In their book 'Maunfacturing Consent', they describe what they call 'A Propaganda Model'.This should not be understood as the traditional kind of propaganda we may be familiar with, which is intentional and deliberately constructed to produce certain kinds of opinion - as we might understand the kinds of propaganda created by both sides during the first and second world wars.

Chomsky and Herman suggest that certain kinds of opinion are produced and perpetuated by the media, which are not necessarily deliberately deceitful or conspired, but nevertheless act as propaganda. This propaganda is an effective form of censorship, as there are 5 filters which limit the kinds of discourse which may emerge from traditional media. These filters are ownership (who owns the media); advertising (which sponsors subsidise the producers); sources (the kind of sources that can be regarded as 'authoritative'); flak (the negative reactions that content may attract; and finally, ideology (the kind of hegemonic ideas or orthodoxies that prevail at any given time).


The owners of any outlet decide what media will be created. Rupert Murdoch owns, amongst many other things, The Sun, The Times, Sky, Fox, etc. There is often much speculation as to which political party Murdoch will back in an election. We do not need to assume, however, that he tells his editors what to say. Since he owns the various media companies, he is able to appoint editors, and is likely, therefore, to appoint those who will take the kinds of line he supports. There might also be examples of more overt censorship, though: Murdoch owns the publishing house Harper Collins, who dropped plans to publish the book East and West, by Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong. It also happens that Murdoch has a huge interest in being able to access the Chinese market as it opens to the West. This is, of course, possibly coincidental, though Chomsky and Herman's model would imply otherwise.


Commercial media outlets which depend on advertising for income cannot upset their advertisers if they wish to stay in business. If Coca-Cola is your sponsor, and you run a story about the potential carcinogenic ingredients of coke, you may well lose your sponsorship. If your major sponsors are members of the automotive industry, you may think twice before campaigning for higher petrol taxes. If your advertisers want high viewing figures, you're likely to create populist programming, rather than produce 'worth' TV. Or, consider the challenge faced by a media sales agent selling advertising space to car and clothing manufacturers for slots around an anti-consumerist programme?


'Sources' refers to who has the authority to tell us what is true and what is not true. So for example, when you watch Newsnight, there are usually a couple of people asked to engage in some pointless argumentative adversarial debate to explore an issue. These people are usually 'establishment' figures who have some kind of 'authority' on a subject: professors, experts, police, politicians, lawyers, etc. None of these people necessarily have a great deal of interest in revolution and unpopular ideas. After all, when you're an 'authority', why would you advocate ideas which undermine your authority? Why would Britannica praise Wikipedia? Why would politicians want young people to vote when most of them think middle-of-the-road politicians are wankers, and are therefore just as likely to vote Green or Monster Raving Loony?

If you do see 'ordinary' people asked for their opinions on current affairs, it is often in a series of vox-pops which illustrate how ill-informed or generally apathetic and stupid 'ordinary' people are. You and I are not asked to debate topics in mainstream media, unless we are there explicitly there as examples of 'stupid, ordinary people'.

Foucault's ideas about power and knowledge (below) will be relevant to the way certain kinds of people are considered to be authoritative sources.


Flak is a deterent. Flak is what you'll get if you broadcast controversial material or opinions. The BBC got flak from the Christian right over Jerry Springer The Opera, and over their reporting of the Iraq war (the Hutton Report was a form of flak). Chris Morris' spoof news show Brass Eye got a tonne of flak for its episode about paedophiles and its hoodwinking of celebrities. Theo van Gogh got flak and it cost him his life.

Broadcasters sometimes don't like flak (might lose advertising revenue from one quarter), and sometimes do like flak (higher ratings and therefore more advertising interest from other quarters) - there is flak and there is flak.


When Chomsky and Herman were writing in 1988, before the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the cold war, they called this last filter 'anti-communism'. This filter refers to the orthodoxy that might not necessarily seem to be even open to question, or the prevailing hegemony that informs all the other filters. Do you ever see factual programming exploring economic alternatives to capitalism, or political alternatives to democracy? Have you ever seen a BBC documentary celebrating anarchists or advocating revolution?

What can be said and what cannot be said

So we've seen that Chomsky and Herman see the traditional media players as a part of a self-serving capitalist system which excludes competitive ideas, and leaves little room for dissent. Even if we accept that this is so, why would we think that allowing room for dissent, or increasing the heteroglossia expressed in media forms, might have any effect anyway? Just because the internet offers potential heteroglossia in a way that traditional media do not, does being able to 'say things' really 'change things'?

Power / Knowledge


Here, we're going to meet Michel Foucault briefly (we'll return to him in the last session of the series too). Before we go on to Foucault, though, let's look at what Allon White has to say about heteroglossia. Foucault is a tricky customer to read and understand, so White's analysis of Bakhtin's ideas here will help.

"As Allon White puts it, 'because languages are socially unequal, heteroglossia implies dialogic interaction in which the prestige languages try to extend their control and subordinated languages to try to avoid, negotiate or subvert that control'."

(Introducing Bakhtin, p19)

So in amongst all this heteroglossia, there are 'prestige' and 'subordinated' languages, which struggle for dominance. How is this so? Well consider medical langauge (one of Foucault's favourite subjects). If I say I have a blocked nose, then I sound a little snuffly and pathetic. This assertion will not be enough for me to take prolonged sick leave. However, if my doctor writes on a piece of paper, 'this patient suffers from post-nasal drip and caused by a compression of pus in the ethmoid sinus, requiring a submucous resection and functional endoscopic sinus surgery', then my employers will pay me statutory sick pay for as long as the law demands.

On the surface, we might simply say that the doctor's language is an expression of his expertise, while my language is simply a lay description of my symptoms. However, the point is that authority comes with expertise - or 'power' comes hand-in-hand with 'knowledge'. Foucault argues that 'power' and 'knowledge' are inextricable.

"...the production of knowledge and the exercise of administrative power intertwine, and each begins to enhance the other... This is the reciprocal nature of these two words that Foucault titled "power/knowledge" For Foucault, this is a reciprocal, mutually reinforcing relation between the circulation of knowledge and subsequently the control of conduct..."

So here we see that our conduct (remember Hobbes' and Rousseau's positions on human nature were about what our natural 'conduct' is) is controlled by the total set of knowledge we have about the world - what we feel to be true. (E.g. we could say it is true that if I am diagnosed with ADHD, or bipolar disorder, or other mental health problems, then I have a pathology that must be treated, and my behaviour is therefore abnormal). And what we feel to be true is determined by those who are credited with knowledge: experts. And how are expertise circulated? Through discourse.

We'll leave Foucault there for now, since we'll return to him in the final session about identity and therapy. In the meantime, lets see him as another plank in our hope that increased heteroglossia is a good thing because it pushes much more 'knowledge' - and therefore 'power' - into everyone's sphere.


Finally, let's worry about increased participation in political discussion being nothing more than tokenism. Recall Arnstein's ladder, in which limited participation is described as tokenism - where a population may be 'informed' of policy, even 'consulted', but ultimately, merely 'placated'. Bucy & Gregson put it this way:

"...civic engagement through media, even if only symbolically empowering for the citizen, contributes substantially to legitimising the political systems of mass democracies..."

Bucy & Gregson
Media & Participation, New Media & Society, 2001

So our big question, ultimately, is not so much, 'what is human nature', but rather, 'does increased participation result merely in legitimising the orthodoxies in society, rather than changing them'? We'll leave this question open...

The next online assignment, on 'Property' is here.


Bucy, E., & Gregson, K., 2001., 'Media Participation - A legitmising mechanism of mass democracy' in New Media & Society, Vol 3, No 3, pp 357 - 380 [Online (Athens required): ]
Vice, S., 1997, Introducing Bakhtin, Manchester: MUP

Photo Credits

The Social Contract, psd
Leviathan, senorwences
Jean Jack Rousseau, topsy
Democracy of few, Disgrace of many, ledpup
Unisphere, wallyg
Postmodern Dialogues - Round One, huxleyesque
Powertools as a pasttime, lachlanhardy

Lecture archive

  • Media & The Body Readings
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  • Narratives: Endings, Meaning and Morals
  • Narratives: Performers and Players
  • Narratives: Performers and Players
  • Narratives: Familiarity and Strangeness
  • Intro to Media and Participation 2008 - 2009
  • Narratives: Stories and Structures
  • Narratives: Opening and Introductions
  • The Writerly Text: Part 1
  • Media & Participation: Identity
  • Media & Participation: Truth
  • Media & Participation: Citizenship
  • Media & Participation: Culture
  • Ownership of Ideas: Part 2: The History of Copyright
  • Ownership of Ideas: Part 1: The Romantic Author
  • Bournemouth Soundseeing: collaborative authorship
  • Marx's Critique of Capital: 101
  • Key concepts: Ideologies ...a historical view
  • Narrative and Structuralism and the brothers Grimm
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