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New paper: "From networked publics to issue publics: Reconsidering the public/private distinction in web science"

I've just come back from the First Nordic STS Conference in Trondheim - no doubt the first out of many - and tomorrow it's off again, to WebScience '13 in Paris.

At WebScience, I'm presenting a full research paper entitled "From networked publics to issue publics: Reconsidering the public/private distinction in web science". Since the proceedings apparently have yet to be released, I've decided to post my own pre-print version here so people might browse my paper before the conference, which starts later this week. I'm presenting in the very last session, at 4 pm on Saturday afternoon.

Download my paper from

The paper is to a large extent a follow-up on my paper from the NordiCHI '12 conference in Copenhagen last fall, where I presented a case study of how two Facebook groups were used to collectively make sense of a severe snowstorm situation that hit the Danish island of Bornholm during Christmas 2010. In the WebScience paper, I ask the question of how we might think of such groups in relation to the idea of 'publics'. Here's the abstract:

As an increasing part of everyday life becomes connected with the web in many areas of the globe, the question of how the web mediates political processes becomes still more urgent. Several scholars have started to address this question by thinking about the web in terms of a public space. In this paper, we aim to make a twofold contribution towards the development of the concept of publics in web science. First, we propose that although the notion of publics raises a variety of issues, two major concerns continue to be user privacy and democratic citizenship on the web. Well-known arguments hold that the complex connectivity of the web puts user privacy at risk and enables the enclosure of public debate in virtual echo chambers. Our first argument is that these concerns are united by a set assumptions coming from liberal political philosophy that are rarely made explicit. As a second contribution, this paper points towards an alternative way to think about publics by proposing a pragmatist reorientation of the public/private distinction in web science, away from seeing two spheres that needs to be kept separate, towards seeing the public and the private as something that is continuously connected. The theoretical argument is illustrated by reference to a recently published case study of Facebook groups, and future research agendas for the study of web-mediated publics are proposed. 

This is the first expression of an argument that I will continue to develop during my PhD here at Aalborg University in Copenhagen. Comments are very welcome - either through email or if we meet in person in Paris!