Colloquia #18: The Need and Possibility of a Transnational Public Sphere: European Experiences and Challenges

, Tampere, Finland

Call for papers

The political strengthening, deepening, integration and widening of the European Union means that political life is no longer conducted primarily at a national level. Such a political reality raises the question of the possibility of a transnational public sphere in which political questions can be subjected to debate and criticism. The often-noted problems of the democratic deficit and public political passivity faced with European issues increase the urgency of addressing this question practically as well as intellectually.

The existing centralised and large-scale mass media still form the mainstream of public information for most citizens in all of the countries of the EU. These media remain essentially national institutions. Professional journalistic cultures translate most European issues to their audiences through their existing strong national foci (reasons for this ranging from source politics in the news to the obvious limits of national languages). On the other hand, the new media offers at least the potential of opportunities for interactive, de-centralised and more transnational information flows and public action.

This international Colloquium will address these challenges both from theoretical and empirical perspectives. Papers are invited tackling these and related questions:

  • What sort of conceptual challenges do the changes in political and media structures raise for understanding the role of public sphere in democracies?
  • Is the concept of public sphere still useful for making sense of the current developments?
  • Is the concept of public sphere still appropriate for talking about the new transnational conditions?
  • What sort comparative results or other kinds of experiences do we already have of the representation of common European or transnational issues in the media?
  • What kinds of insights into the routines of PR, practices of professional journalism or strategies of other actors do we have, and what sort empirical questions should we ask to extend that knowledge?
  • What sorts of methodologies work best in enhancing our understanding of these issues?
  • What are the most interesting and promising plans, ideas and experiences in the use of new media technologies in strengthening transnational public debates, reducing the democratic deficit and furthering political participation?
  • What are the main obstacles for realising these potentials?