The Rise of a Networked Public Sphere: The Role of Social Media in India's Media Landscape

The Rise of a Networked Public Sphere: The Role of Social Media in India's Media Landscape

Debashis ‘Deb' Aikat (School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijicst.2014010105


The world's largest democracy with a population of over 1.27 billion people, India is home to a burgeoning media landscape that encompasses a motley mix of traditional and contemporary media. Drawing from the theoretical framework of the networked public sphere, this extensive case study focuses on the role of social media in India's media landscape. Results indicate that new social media entities complement traditional media forms to inform, educate, connect, and entertain people from diverse social, ethnic, religious, and cultural origins. The author concludes that social media enable Indian citizens to actively deliberate issues and ideas, increase their civic engagement and citizen participation, and thus enrich India's democratic society.
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The roots of skepticism [sic] in India go back a long way, and it would be hard to understand the history of Indian culture if skepticism [sic] were to be jettisoned. Indeed, the resilient reach of the tradition of dialectics can be felt throughout Indian history, even as conflicts and wars have led to much violence.

  • Author Amartya Sen, 1998 Nobel Laureate in Economics, in The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity (Sen, 2005, p. xii)


Theoretical Framework And Literature Review

German sociologist and philosopher Jürgen Habermas in 1962 theorized a 19th century bourgeois public sphere as a social space for political dialogue, debate, and dissent in his Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. His idea of the public sphere was initially propounded to delineate the vibrant realm of social discourse between the state on one hand and the private sphere of the market and family on the other (Habermas, 1989a, 1989b). Since then, the theory of the public sphere has spawned a wealth of related concepts and counter theories that re-defined the role of the media in a democracy (Curran, 1991; Dahlgren, 2009; Dahlgren & Spark, 1991; Friedland, Hove, & Rojas, 2006; Kellner, 1990).

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