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Table of Contents

Title page

Copyright page







1: Public Territories and the Imagining of Political Community

Public space between ‘networks of centrality’ and ‘centrality of networks’

Conceptions of communicative space in globalization debates

Moving away from the territorial ‘principle’: ‘decoupling’ processes of public ‘embeddedness’

Scalar processes of de-bracketing of the state–civil society nexus: reconceptualizing the public sphere in a transnational context

Modern publics and transnational extension

Transnational publics and political movements

Transnational publics and the cosmopolitan paradigm: deterritorializing universal political identity

From transnational extensions to post-territoriality as a public domain

De-bracketing, reflective extension and post-territoriality

Post-territoriality and the crisis of legitimacy

Post-territoriality and the crisis of sovereignty

Post-territoriality and the crisis of power

2: Post-Territoriality in Spheres of ‘Public Assemblages’

Appropriation, verticalization – and spheres of public resonance

Deterrorialization and debracketing: Opening up the ‘resonance’ spatiality

Spheres of public ‘assemblages’

Historiography of layers of public assemblages

Assemblages as spheres of connectivity

3: From ‘Reflexive’ Modernity to ‘Reflective’ Globalization: The Public Space of ‘Inbetween-Ness’

Processes of ‘disembedding’ deliberative discourse

Transnational publics and ‘fields’ of deliberation

Interdependence and ‘reflexive’ modernity

Interdependence as ‘reflective’ space of ‘inbetween-ness’

Reflective inbetween-ness in contexts of ‘diaspora’ – the case of Arab communities in Europe

4: Public Interdependence, Interlocutors and the ‘Matrix’ of Influence

Spheres of influence as the ‘meta game’

‘Connecting’ agents: actor, connector and interlocutor

Spheres of influence: Satellite channels as supra- and sub-national ‘interlocutors’

BBC World: dialogical interlocutor in the sphere of interregional connectedness

Deutsche Welle: dialogical interlocutor in thematic connectedness

5: From the Public Sphere to Public ‘Horizons’

Towards reflective discourse

From intersubjectivity to discursive consciousness

Linking spheres of consciousness

Deliberative discourse in public horizons



Title page


This book could not have been written without the continuous encouragement of many colleagues. I am deeply grateful for their support and feedback in different stages of this journey!

I also owe special thanks to David Held who has invited me to the London School of Economics in the second half of 2010. In retrospect, these months at the LSE, liberated from University commitments, have been especially crucial for the broadening of the conceptual scope of this book. I am also grateful for having been appointed as a member of the Institute of World Society Studies, University of Bielefeld, Germany where – during numerous research stays – debates with colleagues and students have alerted me to the fine-lined complexities of globalized inequalities.

I should like to express my gratitude to the executives from Al Jazeera, the BBC and Deutsche Welle who have made themselves available for lengthy interviews despite their busy schedules.

Last – but not least – special thanks go to Susan Beer and Andrew McRae who have been amazing in preparing the final manuscript and to Andrea Drugan, Joe Devanny and Neil de Cort, Polity Press, for their guidance – and great patience.



2.1    World cable network in the 1880s

2.2    World map of Reuters news agency network (1865–1914)

3.1    Trendsmap global

3.2    Satellite footprint


4.1    Process-oriented ‘flows’: intensification, acceleration, dialogical connectedness

4.2    Matrix of influence as flow chart

4.3    Al Jazeera web

4.4    Dialogical interlocutor: dimensions


3.1    Top 20 cities on Facebook, 2012

5.1    Degree of feeling secure by country

5.2    Degree of world citizenship

5.3    Trust in institutions overview


It is often argued that we live in a time of unprecedented connectivity. Statistics show that not only has one-third of the world's population access to the web but – and this is a change from about a decade ago – the majority of users are now located in Asia, followed by Europe, Latin America, North America and Africa. In addition, visual geographical mapping tools show that no longer are these networked structures reaching mainly urban centres of all world regions but stretch across rural areas and even remote territories – from sub-Saharan Africa to the South Pacific Islands and Central Asia. It is an unprecedented landscape of digital connections and a new architecture of globalized communication, which we are only beginning to understand. Almost two decades ago, Manuel Castells published the trilogy of the Network Society (1996), which suggested a novel approach to an inclusive model of networked social, political and economic relations across societies. Today's advanced globalized communication sphere is no longer characterized by these macro-structures of networks, connecting nodes across all continents, which was a fascinating imagination about ten years ago, but nodes are situated within a universe of subjective, personal networked structures linking individuals across world regions. These are dense and authentic networks which are continuously monitored, navigated and configured on commuter trains, on streets and even in university lecture halls. These subjective networks are no longer simply ‘social’, connecting mainly communities of friends, but have become platforms for subjectively ‘lived’ public spaces.

This new communicative sphere is no longer mainly ‘digital’, or even – to use a term which now sounds outdated – a sphere of ‘cyber’ communication, existing as a distinct sphere from ‘mass media’. These distinctions no longer work. Converging media spaces are embedded in content threads, which often resurface on social media platforms available almost anywhere in the world. Media organizations are searching for new ways to ‘connect’ directly to their users – wherever they live. Content is shifted across platforms and – through cookie codes and pixel tags – increasingly framed along users' interests and according to geographical locations. Newspaper sites are becoming multi-media platforms; for example the Guardian in London has launched such a platform, Guardian Witness, encouraging readers across the world to upload information as well as images and to collaborate closely with Guardian journalists to identify and unfold stories. The once clear contours of the term media are fading and new concepts are being suggested to identify nuances of these emerging, densely entangled dimensions. Concepts such as ‘media manifold’ (Couldry, 2012), ‘polymedia’ (Madianou and Miller, 2012) and ‘spreadable media’ (Jenkins et al., 2013) begin to ‘map’ the multiple communicative layers of today's media forms within a world where the user, the ‘audience’ has become the communicative actor: reproducing, delivering, accelerating and magnifying ‘content’ within the chosen logics of subjective networks across a globalized scope. For the purpose of our discussion I suggest the term micro-networks as a metaphor for the merging of content on individualized platforms within the sphere of a subjectively created communicative universe, incorporating multiple communicative terrains. In this sphere ‘bits’ and ‘pieces’ of available media forms are ‘assembled’ and ‘arranged’ – from traditional media (e.g. television and newspaper) to communicative sites of local community engagement; from social media (iTunes channels and ‘apps’, Skype and YouTube), in addition to streaming content of national outlets (from the BBC to Nigerian television) – from mobile communication to networks of direct-to-home satellite platforms.

However, the term micro-networks also allows us to identify the ‘connectedness’ of the communicative actor across an assembled communicative sphere and helps to address the new trans-border-ness of these communicative flows. Whereas decades ago, trans-border communication was understood as being either ‘international’ (i.e. is, connecting nations), ‘trans-national’, (reaching sections of several nations simultaneously) or ‘spatial’ (a secluded sphere of digital flow), today's globalized communications across advanced micro-networks of subjective platforms are no longer ‘trans-border’ but rather discursively interrelated. In this sense, the communicative sphere within a globalized scope is no longer an extension but is situated in interrelated subjective micro-networks. In other words, the global and the national and even the local are no longer distinct spheres but merge in particular in contexts of communicative spheres across diverse sites of subjective micro-networks. When students are asked in classes to identify their news sources, they might pick similar media forms; however, each of them names a completely different hierarchy of sources, which relates no longer to the news agenda of a national sphere but is deeply embedded in their own public ‘horizons’; these are seamlessly situated within a globalized sphere of interdependence: densely and often linked ‘live’ to peers and communities anywhere in the world but also to authentic and trusted sources, which may or may not be located on servers in other world regions. These spheres are no longer situated within international or transnational communication but within new sets of communicative interdependence that not only transform the dimension of communication and challenge our understanding of ‘media’ and civic identity, but also deeply transform the understanding and practice of engagement in ‘the public sphere’.

It could be argued that spheres of interdependence within a globalized scope are not new. For example, debates in media and communication which occured at the time when satellite communication emerged as a new form of transnationalization in the early 1990s, iden­tified spheres of reciprocity of globalized communication processes and shifted the paradigmatic foci to a new sense of interdependence across globalized thematic ecologies. CNN (Cable News Network)'s ‘breaking news’ influenced the daily news agenda of national broadcasters in various world regions. It was also the time when the interdependence of media ‘flows’ across continents was critically assessed, in addition to an emerging powerful strata of political economy and globalized imbalances, for example along the ‘digital divide’, to the concreteness of identity politics and – specifically – political activism. However, there are differences between these layers of interdependence. Today, interdependence is intensified, ‘dense’ and, most importantly, is no longer governed by the national or even transnational media agenda but layers of interdependence are carefully selected from a subjective universe of options, governed by deliberatively chosen ‘loyalties’ and ‘alliances’. In this sense, the sphere of globalized interdependence is no longer ‘out there’ but very concrete ‘right here’ in the way content trajectories are chosen, intersect and relate within the site of a subjective networked ‘universe’, sychronized across devices and always available.

Micro-networks might incorporate Greenpeace news, NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) reports on climate change as well as monitoring sites of transnational pollution, in addition to resources of local community groups. What we see on television is ‘filtered’ and ‘re-ordered’ through the lens of networks of trust, for example ‘live’ social networks which enable ‘communicative action’. The reference frame for public engagement is no longer within one country, but subjectively assembled across a globalized scope of those who are ‘concerned’. When looking for conceptual frames that could help to further assess this emerging sphere of subjective networked locations within a globalized scope, Manuel Castells' term of ‘mass self-communication’ (Castells, 1996, 2009) comes to mind. It is a term which signifies a ‘post-convergence’ age as it no longer highlights the merging spheres of content of ‘mass’ and ‘digital’ media – which was a key issue a few years ago – but rather the outcome of such a convergence: the sphere of ‘individualization’ of communicative practices vis à vis networked platforms. Saskia Sassen is another author who is relevant here, however, addressing a different angle of this emerging sphere. She has recently pointed out that we are facing the deconstruction of the traditional ‘unitary’ bodies of societal knowledge, specifically through the phenomenon of de- and re-contextualization of ‘bits’ and ‘pieces’ across digital networks (Sassen, 2012: 74).

Leaving these recent attempts to map in more general terms transformative parameters of the networked communication space to one side, globalization debates are also relevant here for identifying signposts of the emerging communicative landscape within a globalized scope. Globalization debates have over the last decades – especially since the early 1990s – addressed the methodology of interdependence and critically assessed the fine-lined ‘logics’ of these entanglements across national and local institutional, economical, political and cultural structures and within specific dimensions of globalization ranging from neoliberalism, to global governance as cosmopolitan multilateralism (Held, 2005) to global civil society (see Kaldor, 2003). Recently, interdependence has also addressed a completely new perspective through lenses that have been invisible for too long. This is due to the new densely globalized formations of communication that are no longer merely the domain of the Western narrative of globalized interdependence but include the diverse perspectives of the approaches of Asia, South America and Africa. Authors from South America and Africa in particular suggest to shift the one-dimensional globalization narrative towards new paradigms of ‘inclusiveness’, i.e. of regional specific world perceptions and a conception of cosmopolitanism that specifically takes into account the new realities of digital networked communication practices in so-called ‘developing’ regions (see Reguilo, 2009; Ndlela, 2009; Oreget, 2010).

Leaving these larger globalized narratives to one side, it seems that methodologies for the assessment of concrete forms of communicative interdependence begin to emerge in specific areas of media and communication research. For example, approaches of ‘conflict’ communication – specifically of national political conflicts and crises – are increasingly moving away from transnational angles and, instead, address a broader globalized thematic terrain (Cottle, 2009; Pantti et al., 2012). Another example is journalism studies, a field which began in the 1990s to draw attention to globalized news ‘flows’, and which focuses traditionally on a professional practice negotiating between national organizational structures and transnational audiences and now begins to define conceptual frameworks of globalized journalism (Hanitzsch and Mellado, 2011; Weaver and Willnat, 2012). Social media research is a third example of a more profound shift towards identifying interrelated transnational communicative forms, for example in contexts of ‘viral’ publics as a new sphere of public accelerators of political crisis across specific interrelated spheres.

Considering these developments, it is surprising that conceptual frameworks of transnational public spheres are somewhat on the periphery. Despite these transformations of communicative structures within larger frameworks of interdependence, public sphere conceptions even in a transnational context are mainly articulated vis-à-vis modern nation-states and – in this framework – often understand the public sphere as the sphere between civil society and the state. Jürgen Habermas' groundbreaking work on the transformation of the public sphere still serves today – I suppose to his own surprise – fifty years after it was first published in Germany as a core framework for the debate of public discourse in the twenty-first century. Habermas' work provided us with a philosophical understanding of public discourse within the larger paradigm of critical theory but his understanding of public culture needs to be recontextualized. It spoke specifically to the changing societal conditions of a divided Germany in the time of the Cold War – a time when Germany was slowly recovering from an age of fascism. However, the reality of public life is different today. Today's geopolitical order has shifted and the nation-state as such is being incorporated into larger regional and globalized governance structures (from the EU to the WTO). Specifically the intensified forms of networked communication become the sites of communicative public ‘action’ among citizens who might never meet in person as they are situated in different world regions as well as different society types.

The reliance on the Habermasian paradigm embedded in the public cultures of Western world regions and the European nation-state – has left us with two gaps which become crucial today. Firstly, a lack not only of alternative historiographies of diverse world regions but especially knowledge of specific understanding of public culture and its transformations of diverse society types. Whereas the so called ‘ideal’ of the public sphere is often perceived through the historiography of European public life – understood through the public/private dichotomoy established in the nineteenth century – and assessed in the Habermasian methodology of the merging of private and public interests, there is not much knowledge of alternative methodologies, which would show how to assess the fine lines of a quite a different dialectic within trans-border public spheres. This is the more surprising, as trans-border ‘flow’ is not a phenomenon of the twentieth or the digital networks of the twenty-first century but has existed for centuries, especially – often overlooked – since the time of the invention of the printing press in China and Europe. However, the gap in historiographies of regional traditions of public life and deliberation makes it now quite difficult to conceptualize public communication in non-Western world regions which, for this reason, are too often only studied in the context of the digital sphere, which we are often unable to contextualize across broader layers of local public cultures.

Secondly, the boundedness of national procedural ‘mechanisms’ of public deliberation has become porous for decades – or some might argue – for centuries. Specifically today, the holes in the boundedness of publics within state spheres are rapidly widening. Not only are public communicative forms ‘disembedded’ from national territories but core assets of public ‘civil’ culture, public institutions, are situated within polity regimes of transnational accountability, ranging from legitimacy of the political ‘civil’ action of governments, to elections and previously non-transparent spheres of intergovernmental relations to forms of deliberation. In addition, today's transnational terrain of ‘civil’ action and reasoning is situated within – and magnified through – a transnationally available spectrum of public agencies. Not only is it possible to engage with digital activism from almost anywhere with an Internet access but this spectrum has become more ‘horizontally’ subtle: I can live in Australia, vote in Germany, read news resources from the USA, watch streaming television from Kenya and engage in ‘live’ debates about saving the Amazon rain forest with NGOs in Latin America. These are the new geographies of public ‘horizons’ which are – and this is important to realize – no longer central to the democratic nation-state, they are no longer central to other societies as well! It is a shift towards a subjective axis determining and selecting engagement in a globalized interdependent public debate of chosen networked formations which has implications on deliberation and legitimacy – again – in a geographically ‘horizontal’ spectrum: it is the new calibration of ‘polis’ and ‘demos’: my vote contributes to the election outcome in Germany while engage in climate change communities in Australia who are no longer informed by local knowledge or the climate change agenda of national media but rather by discursively shifting public horizons.

In recent times a number of publications have specifically focused on transnational public communication. Public spheres are in these contexts often understood as quite distinct spaces existing in parallel with national public spheres. As this distinction between the national and the transnational represents the core structure of the specific transnationalization of the European publics, it is not surprising that these conceptions relate quite often specifically to Europe as their case study. Only a few authors identify the implications of a transnational public sphere (in a broader institutional context) for global governance (Crack, 2008) or argue for a more profound integration of the global dimension into the understanding of national publics (Spichal, 2012: 149). In this sense it is not about digital life versus ‘real’ public practices but about a dialectical nexus as an incorporated form of a new sphere of publics in a transnational context. However, despite these new complexities, the public sphere remains a ‘blind spot’ in globalization and network conceptions.

The global public sphere is often considered to be a ‘myth’ and, as some have argued, a terrain which becomes ‘increasingly difficult’ (Gripsrud and Moe, 2010: 10) to conceptualize at all. One reason might be, that paradigms of national embeddedness and the boundedness of public spheres are less related in more general terms to the Kantian notion of ‘cosmopolitan’ reasoning than to the ‘modern’ understanding of a public between civil society and ‘the state’ as a nationally significant terrain of debating and – through this process – the enforcing and re-enforcing of a common ‘normative’ will, i.e. the negotiation of national ‘identity’ and of citizenship within newly formed nation-states of the nineteenth century. It is important to realize here that it was the time – to use Hegel's term – of a ‘Zeitgeist’ of national ‘awakening’, i.e. the emergence of (national) civil society constituting a civil (translated into civic) counter-power, influencing the government of a state in the distinct public culture of different European nations. Not only the core communicative domains but also their relation to the ‘logic’ of nationally anchored democratic institutions, processes of elections, the formation of normative consent, legitimacy and deliberation around well established governance structures and polities is deeply anchored in Hegel's understanding of public life.

This is a complex territory where conventional terminologies and conceptual frameworks require a refinement and a fresh and – possibly – ‘bold’ conceptual lens. The specific construction of the public sphere in the traditions of the European nation-states is a static model which does not follow sufficient space for the assessment of new communicative lines of deliberation. Public engagement within civic spheres has loosened the ties to the nation and has become a communicative practice, negotiating civic identity between values of the ‘human condition’ of a global civil society and the established sphere of loyalties, ‘belonging’ and identity.

Taking these debates into the realm of what could be described as communicative globalization reveals that communicative spheres no longer constitute what was once imagined as core territories of globalizing processes, the ‘intensifying’, the ‘stretching’ and ‘velocity’ but rather subjectively chosen, links across globalized scopes. Anthony Giddens remarked that ‘time–space distanciation’ is a process which ‘links distant localities’ in such a way that ‘local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa’ (Giddens, 1990: 64). Today, interconnectedness exists not only between ‘localities’ but rather ‘observers’ and ‘actors’ who engage in direct ‘live’ interaction with the outcome of refining contexts and ‘meanings’ of ‘events’, ‘re-ordering’ relevance through these subjective points of interconnectedness. It is through this lens that we see public communication changing.

Public communication is no longer ‘local’, ‘national’ or transnational but rather constitutes ‘reflexive’ communication, which unfolds across a sphere of globalized ‘reflective’ interdependence. Reflective interdependence relates here to horizontal spheres where the core domains of ‘communicative action’, ‘justification’, ‘verification’, ‘engagement’ are no longer – together – necessarily embedded in the bounded discourse of a community or nation but scattered across different discursive sites within globalized communicative horizons. These spheres of reflective interdependence are positioned in the trajectories of such a ‘scattered’ territory of public communication, not only overcoming national borders but breaking up paradigmatic boundaries of the global ‘North’ and ‘South’, the ‘centre’ and ‘periphery’, of individual ‘utterance’ and public agency. Reflective interdependence situated across societies transforms not only conceptions of civic and public engagement but also paradigms of globalization, ‘civil’ society, international relations and world citizenship.

This book unfolds a conceptual architecture of public communication within a global public sphere which – admittedly – is a huge task. Given the relevance of this new field, it is important to integrate the specific angles in which enlarged transnational political and public terrains have been addressed – not only in media and communication – but also in sociology and political science.

The first chapter sets the stage for this discussion. We begin by positioning ‘public space’ not only across ‘networks’ or ‘digital’ flows but between ‘networks of centrality’ and the ‘centrality of networks’. Based on this approach, the chapter identifies the openings of the boundedness of the state frame as a container of public culture since modernity. It is argued that this opening not only of the boundedness of the nation-state but of the ‘state–society’ nexus, i.e. the often assumed state ‘frame’ of civil society is relevant for identifying specific links between civic discourses of various types of society which is the core domain for a debate of globalized public communication.

The second chapter takes this discussion further and develops a model of densities of public space which I describe as ‘public assemblage’. A term that relates to the ‘assembling’ mechanism of subjective ‘micro-networks’ (as discussed earlier) but also to the scope of ‘linking’ civil society through the widening holes of the ‘state–society’ nexus. We will assess the few available historiographies of trans-border public communication in different world regions from the time of the printing press to today's digital networks in order to identify the increasing degrees of ‘density’ of transnational public communication flows, enabled through scalar processes of communication.

The third chapter maps the public space of reflective ‘inbetween-ness’ of deliberative discourse: between the networks of centrality and centrality of networks and the reflective ‘verticalization’ of this globally interdependent sphere of public engagement.

As media forms change, the notion of micro-networks is further developed into what I call a ‘matrix of influence’, where diverse communicative platforms take on specific roles, justification, verification and engagement within the subjective location of public space between networks of centrality and the centrality of networks. This model moves away from defining media through organizational forms towards the way media forms are embedded in diverse models of public space. Interview results with executives from the BBC World, Al Jazeera International and Deutsche Welle provide case studies for a definition of media forms within what I describe as the ‘matrix of influence’.

The fifth chapter concludes by proposing a shift to what I call conceptions of public horizons. We will return to the notions of publicness of the Kantian and Hegelian age. The chapter will use Hegel's model to further identify public discursive consciousness not between the state and ‘the people’ but as an outcome of reflective interdependence.

This book could not have been written without the insight of three key scholars of our time whom I would like to mention after concluding the journey of writing this book. Since my training in social sciences throughout my student years in Germany, my work has been greatly influenced by Jürgen Habermas. Since those early days, critical theory has always been an inspiration for a vision for a better world and, looking back, might have encouraged me to choose an academic pathway. I would also like to mention Roland Robertson here as one of the key theorists of globalization. His work has helped me to understand the relativity of globalization as the ‘unity’ of diversity. Manuel Castells' visionary work on the network society has inspired me to understand the importance of communication as one of the drivers of the transformation of societal structures.

The Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan once coined the term ‘global village’. It was a visionary idea at a time of a divided Cold War world and of the first satellites, enabling the occasional ‘live’ coverage of one event across continents. But it was also the time where the image of the earth appeared behind Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon, which inspired the term ‘global village’. McLuhan's term ‘global village’ meant an imagination of the world not as a rational, linear, visual space but rather a colourful ‘resonance’ space of a ‘neo acoustic age’. In today's advanced network society, this is no longer a simultaneous ‘acoustic space’ but rather diverse ‘resonance’ spaces – spaces of simultaneous reasoning across lively communicative domains. It might be time to begin to chart these new ‘resonance spaces’ within a global public sphere and to make a contribution to a better world.


Public Territories and the Imagining of Political Community

Despite the increasing transnationalization of communication, we are only at the beginning of understanding the implications of this new sphere on public communication and civic deliberation. It is a public architecture that evolves as a networked space within and beyond the nation-state. However, when attempting to assess this sphere of public space, we are facing an ambiguity: on one hand conceptions of the ‘public sphere’ are framed through an overarching still dominant modern paradigm which centres public communication in nation-states; on the other, political, civic, and, on the other public communicative practices are embedded in public spheres which are meandering across globalized networks – linking citizens of different societies and, through such an emerging sphere of deliberation, influencing the agenda of politics and, sometimes, governments. It seems that the overarching paradigm of modern public spheres tends to blind us to identifying and conceptually mapping how these new structures of public communication take shape. In this chapter, we will begin to situate public space between specific forms of networks: ‘networks of centrality’, the observing sphere and the ‘centrality of networks’, the engagement sphere. In order to map this ‘terrain’ over the next chapters, we must first carefully assess the ways in which existing debates have defined the ‘openings’ of the nation-state, or in other words, the processes of ‘decoupling’ civil society from the national boundedness. This discussion will allow us to address more specifically the ways in which the public space evolves through such a ‘de-bracketing’ of the state–society nexus, across different spheres of public ‘action’ within a globalized scope.

In his book The Public and its Problems, John Dewey remarked that ‘in no two ages or places is there the same public’ (Dewey, 1927: 33). Dewey's observation, made in the early decades of the twentieth century relates to the transformation of the public sphere at a time when the traditional centrality of vibrant community public life in the USA was still functional but – and this is Dewey's point – already slowly dissolving. The traditional public life of local communities was merging with larger, more centralized forms which now began to ‘mediate’ public debate and shape public opinion, which was no longer an outcome of traditional ‘local’ community reasoning. Such a shift away from the centrality of public discourse of a vibrant local community ‘place’ of the local townhall to the ‘mediating’ centrality of national media spheres of newspapers and radio, left local publics – so Dewey concludes – ‘eclipsed’ and ‘diffused’ (Dewey, 1927: 137). The deliberative role of a vibrant community public, and this is Dewey's pessimistic assessment, is ‘passing away’ as ‘mediated’ spheres of publics emerge where the ‘power’ and ‘lust of possession’ is ‘in the hands of the officers and agencies’ which – and what an irony! – ‘the dying public instituted’ (Dewey, 1927: 81).

About forty years after Dewey, Jürgen Habermas has identified a second major shift of public spheres. This shift relates to another Western world region: modern European nation-states. In this lens, the shift of public discourse in European nation-states towards ‘manufactured publicity’ (Habermas, 1964; 1991: 211) and away from reasoned publicness made room for strategically produced ‘publicness’, a distinct form of public reasoning, which is, however, often translated as ‘public opinion’ or ‘publicity’ of private interests. Such a second further shift of mediated public spheres has significantly weakened the public as a ‘critically debating entity’ (Habermas, 1964, 1991: 162). Furthermore, these ‘private’ representations of publicity, as Habermas argues, not only ‘centralize’ – this was Dewey's point – but ‘streamline’ public debate. A process, Noam Chomsky has called the ‘manufacturing’ (Chomsky, 1992) of public consent. In consequence, the remaining fractures of public debate disappear ‘behind the veil of internal decisions concerning the selection and presentation of the material’ (Habermas, 1964, 1991: 169) and further disempower public life.1 From a quite different perspective, Nancy Fraser (1992) argues for another shift of public spheres not only of ‘private’ and ‘public discourse’ but towards ‘segmented’ or fragmented public debate. Fraser proposes a dichotomy of ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ public discourse. Strong publics are those ‘whose discourse encompasses both opinion formation and decision making’, which means achieving ‘legally’ binding decisions and in weak publics deliberative practice ‘consists exclusively in opinion formation’ (Fraser, 1992: 134).

These and many other carefully drawn distinctions between the dialectical space of public spheres (Curran, 1991; Bohman, 2001; Dahlgren, 2009; Coleman and Ross, 2010) rotate around the dialectic of ‘private’ and ‘public’, ‘weak’ and ‘strong’, ‘fractured’ and ‘mainstream’, ‘online’ and ‘offline’ publics and have made important contributions to the conceptual refinement of the shifting parameter of the public sphere. However, these conceptions of public spheres and deliberative communication seem to be no longer sufficient for assessing today's emerging non-national, non-territorial ‘fluid’ publics as an increasingly powerful multi-directional sphere between place and space in the logic of intersections. Public communication in these spheres of connected, intersecting layers of, for example, thematic ‘threads’ is dis-embedded from the traditional dialectic of public formations and, instead, rotates around what Luhmann might have described as ‘autopoetic’, a self-directed discourse ‘absorbing’ public engagement across national borders ventilated across a ‘viral’ public ‘system’ (Luhmann, 1984). The sphere of climate change debates is an example for such a ‘self-directed’ transnational debate which offers, due to its transnational angle, multiple ‘intersections’ as communicative forms across to national climate change spheres from India to Kenya, the USA, China and Australia.

This public space requires a re-thinking of public deliberation beyond the modern model and also beyond the boundedness of national territories, which no longer exists as a secluded sphere. Today, most nation-states are multi-cultural societies where the Realpolitik of public discourse is already situated within worldwide networks of satellite and Internet communication. It seems that even in modern multi-cultural nation-states, the traditional model of public spheres has become an empty category and does not reflect the complex realities of public discourse practices. What is surprising is the dominance of the paradigm of territorial boundedness of publics in the debate of public communication. It is a debate that not only seems to ignore the deep transformation of nation-states to ‘network states’ (Castells, 2010) but also the varying scopes of transnational public engagement. Such a methodological nationalism of public-sphere conceptions constitutes a – what might be argued – ‘normative’ methodological exclusion of world regions, where citizens have over the last decade become actors and participants in such a transnational public; however, they are rarely conceptually integrated into the lens of media research methodologies.

Large terrains of world regions, for example in Asia, in Africa and South America are undergoing unprecedented regional specific transformations in contexts of ‘compressed’ or what Beck might understand as ‘reflexive’ modernities (Beck, 1992). Dimensions of ‘reflexivity’, however, are rarely incorporated into the transnationalization of networked communication and, in particular, conceptual debates about transnational public deliberation. I should add that despite a few exceptions, specifically so-called ‘non Western’ regions are rarely sites of empirical research. Little is known about the shaping of particular urban networked public cultures in the various and adverse societies of African countries through increasing complexities of satellite television, smart-phone mobile communication and the Internet, which have multiplied over the last years. A new communicative landscape emerges that seems to deeply transform the civic identity and ‘public orientation’ of the emerging middle class in so-called ‘developing’ regions. In (Western) debates, which mainly highlight implications of neoliberal globalization processes on ‘developing’ regions, it is overlooked that the enlarged communicative landscape transforms civic discourse, which is increasingly geared towards new forms of deliberation within networked structures of public engagement. These new vibrant publics, for example of African regions and South East Asia are also not addressed in public-sphere debates. For example, Indonesia is one of the most connected countries worldwide, with about half of its population being youth; yet, not much is known about the way in which social media and other forms of network communication create discourse spheres of civic communication within a transnational network space.

Mainly in times of crises, however, these world regions are becoming visible. A visibility that draws attention not only to the use of social media but also to the spheres of connectedness of regions that in the past have been on the periphery of media research. The Arab Spring has shown how little has been known about the role of networked media in a world region long excluded from the communication research mainly conducted in a centralized Western national paradigm. Since the time of the Arab Spring, various studies, increasingly also from the region, attempt to address the role of social media in non-modern societies; what is needed, however, is an inclusive framework for an understanding of the role of networked communication for public spheres and ‘connected’ civic identities across the complexities of this transnational landscape. These important phenomena require a somewhat inclusive approach to public-sphere conceptions and a conception of the ‘reflective’ situated-ness of public space.

Public space between ‘networks of centrality’ and ‘centrality of networks’

In order to begin to ‘map’ this space, it might be helpful to situate such a ‘reflective’ space in the dialectic of ‘network centrality’ on the one hand and the ‘centrality of networks’ on the other.

The term ‘network centrality’ refers here in a broad way to the networked structure of ‘centralized’ discourse – in other words to the ‘monitoring’ of public discourse. The second sphere, ‘centrality of networks’ relates to the sphere of discursive engagement, the sphere of actors, for example, uploading links, engaging in viral publics, posting comments and blogs but also interacting with ‘equals’ with shared interest in such a spatial landscape. The sphere of ‘centrality of networks’ of public discourse relates, in other words, to the broader terms to public engagement through chosen platforms as continuous discursive and interactive ‘reference points’ but also through engagement in social media and blog sites. These two spheres, network centrality as the monitoring sphere and centrality of networks, the engagement sphere, allow us to unfold the dialectical architecture of advanced globalized public communication, which is no longer exclusively related to modern Western nation-states but to other states (authoritarian, ‘failed’ states') and has ‘reflexive’ implications across societies. This inclusive dialectical architecture in the advanced phase of globalized networked communication positions civic identity as ‘reflexive’ imagination in the subjectively chosen horizons of ‘world consciousness’ (Robertson, 2011).

This dialectic of such a public space between ‘networks of centrality’ and ‘centrality of networks’ emerges today across all world regions, however, in varying fabrics and patterns. Contours of this emerging public space between, for example, national media as a ‘networks of centrality’ and social media as ‘centrality of networks’ can be observed in contexts of political conflicts in various world regions. For example, national media in Syria deliver limited – and often argued – censored information; yet, citizens have access to social media forms that not only provide information but discursive sites for engagement in alternative conflict scenarios within regional but also larger transnational spheres. This parallelism of public spaces can also be observed in contexts of European policy debates where, national media might serve as ‘networks of centrality’ and constitute spaces for active engagement in transnational, cross-European debates. The geopolitics of such a networked public space has increasing impacts on the ‘public’ agenda not only of Western nation-states but also of diverse state formations. However, such a public space also shapes new formations of public deliberation: forms of deliberation that, for example, emerged in the context of the Wikileaks disclosure practices, such as of diplomatic cables and war logs. Wikileaks could be considered as a ‘network of centrality’, a monitoring sphere in some world regions where Wikileaks is fully accessible and publicly discussed. The platform might be considered to be a ‘centralized network’ for discursive engagement in other world regions for political actors who upload information and have access to otherwise banned web content. For example, the so-called ‘war logs’ disclosure, as well as the disclosure of diplomatic cables, have influenced through the role of ‘network centrality’ the national public agenda from Spain, Lebanon to Costa Rica, Russia to Cuba. Despite the controversial debates of the Wikileaks model of transparency as a deliberative strategy of radical disclosure in transnational publics (see Sifry, 2011; Fenster, 2012), this transparency model has been even adopted by mainstream news organizations; yet, there are different degrees of disclosure across world regions. In some Western regions the focus on public ‘impact’ in contexts of transnational public engagement was enabled through collaborative links, intersections, with national networks of centrality: mainstream media organizations, such as the Guardian in the UK and Der Spiegel in Germany. These sites have even enhanced the role of, in this case, Wikileaks, as a globalized site for radical transparency. Networks of centrality as the ‘monitoring’ sphere might also be constituted by the minute-by-minute accounts of subjective perceptions of political crises on micro-blogging sites – from local violence during the crisis in Somalia, to the coordination of demonstrations in Istanbul.

The dialectic of ‘networks of centrality’ as the ‘monitoring’ sphere, and the ‘centrality of networks’ as the ‘engagement’ sphere, helps to set very broad parameter of the discursive unfolding of public space beyond national boundaries. Furthermore, public discourse across such a diversity of communicative ‘networks’ can no longer be merely related to ‘web-based’ spheres or technological ‘connectivity’, since communicative networks constitute multidirectional, multilayered communicative forms. In this sense the term ‘network’ as used here reflects a diversity of discursive sites, the Internet as well as satellite channels, traditional media forms and ‘apps’ on tablets and mobile phones, in addition to new forms of ‘networked’ television, streamed as IPTV (Internet Protocol Television), social media sites, Skype and Facetime accessible in local public spheres in an increasingly transnational scope. This is the new dimension of networked complexities of cross-platform communicative practices, which through this multi-layered spatial dimension begins to de-territorialize public communication from the territoriality of national information and communication spheres. The centrality of the local townhall from Dewey's time and the national centrality of the Habermasian age, as well as the assumed ‘linearity’ of international, cross-border communicative forms are shifting towards a ‘reflective’ public space emerging in the dialectic of networked discourse.