The Publics … again

In these crisis-ridden times, some processes just continue with little notice, like academic publishing. So I am collecting a few references to recent publications here that deal with transformations in the practices and infrastructures of publics. For future, post-crisis reference and as an invitation to debate – online and offline. Stay safe and sane, everyone.

The Work that Smartness does in the Smart City

With Burcu Baykurt, Assistant Professor of urban futures and communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a fabulous lead author, we explored the work that smartness does in the smart city. What kind of visions of the city does smartness animate? How is it interpreted? What are the differences between corporate platformization and the model of Living Labs? These are only some questions we addressed.

“What Smartness Does in the Smart City: From Visions to Policy.” Convergence. Special Issue on Back to the Future: Telling and Taming Anticipatory Media Visions and Technologies

This article examines what smartness does on the ground by examining how its anticipatory media visions have been interpreted and acted on in policy decisions and local implementations since the early 2000s. Using a comparative-historical analysis that draws on fieldwork in aspiring smart cities in the United States and Europe, we argue that the visions of smartness are neither singular nor fixed across time and space. Instead, the role of smartness in diffusing new technologies is recruited and reshaped in the present to lend legitimacy to future public and private interventions. We first demonstrate that the narrative of crisis, often associated with smartness, shifted from a pre-2008 emphasis on sustainability and climate change to a post-financial crisis engagement with entrepreneurship and platformization. We then discuss how the development of smart city initiatives has followed divergent paths in the United States and Europe, with big tech companies dominating in the former and the ‘living lab’ model prevailing in the latter. Our analysis highlights the importance of investigating the complex relationships between anticipatory media visions of smartness and their varying, down-to-earth implementations in the built environment rather than solely focusing on the discursive appeal of techno-idealism. It also explains the enduring appeal of smartness as an urban vision, despite its various shortcomings, by revealing its adaptability to the changing social and political–economic shifts.

American Public Spheres and its Infrastructures (in German)

This article appeared in Handbuch Politik USA, edited by Christan Lammert, Markus Siewert and Boris Vormann. How to frame the public sphere from an infrastructural perspective? How to regard the work that goes into networks of circulation over mail in the 18th and 19th Century as resources of a public sphere? And what does it mean for the normative and practical concept of the public sphere, when it depends on platforms to realize or betray its appeal and function in society. This handbook article brought up a lot of difficulties in matching arguments from different domains and disciplines. Because the public (sphere) is never only a concept, a way of communication or a technology – it’s always all of that. Special thanks to Boris Vormann for his patience and excellent editing skills.

Opening (my translation):

The public sphere can be assumed or demanded. It is a means of power and a central instrument for criticizing the abuse of power. Often, it was realised through forms of journalism, it is a pastime and forum for exchange, or it questions the current conditions as a counter-public. It finds expression in a tweet, on a poster on the fence, in an everyday conversation or a live broadcast from the parliament or the stadium. The public should be a space for discussion and meaning-making, as well as enabling the control of state power. The public should negotiate political interests and power structures, but is itself not directly endowed with power.

German abstract

Der Begriff der Öffentlichkeit ist zentral für die Analyse der modernen, amerikanischen Gesellschaft. An ihm kristallisieren sich exemplarisch gesellschaftliche Aushandlungsprozesse über demokratische Teilhabe, politische Willensbildung und die technologischen Grundlagen von öffentlicher Kommunikation. Dieser Beitrag behandelt die Medien und Infrastrukturen dieser Öffentlichkeit in den USA seit dem 19. Jahrhundert in Bezug auf Journalismus und soziale Medien der Gegenwart. Im ersten Teil wird die Anfangsphase der Massenpresse als eine grundlegende Konstellation der journalistischen Öffentlichkeit erläutert, die mit dem Aufkommen des Internet und der sozialen Medien seit Beginn der 2000er-Jahre in eine fundamentale Krise geraten ist. Im zweiten Teil wird dann der problematische Charakter von sozialen Medien diskutiert, die sich als neutrale Plattformen für die Vermittlung von Kommunikation zwischen einzelnen Nutzer_innen sehen, jedoch gleichzeitig eine algorithmen- und datenbasierte Infra- struktur der digitalen Öffentlichkeit schaffen, in der Journalismus nur noch ein Akteur unter Vielen ist.

“Amerikanische Öffentlichkeit und Ihre Infrastrukturen.” [“American Public Sphere and its Infrastructures”] Handbuch Politik USA, edited by Christan Lammert; Markus Siewert; Boris Vormann, 1-14. Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden.

Vlogs – Videoblogs

This encyclopedia article took close to 6 years to be published. My co-author Friederike Schönhardt has left the academy in the meantime and the content reads more like a historical footnote to the growth of influencers on social media. But here you go, revisit the beginnings: “Vlog.” The Sage International Encyclopedia of Mass Media and Society, edited by Debra L. Merskin, 1870-1872. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

Performative Publics

Stay tuned for updates on the launch of our project with Margreth Lünenborg (Freie Universität Berlin) in May this year. Under the title “Journalism Challenged: Understanding Performative Publics through Media Practice” we will invesigate with a fabuluous new team how quotidian usage of media shapes public articulation around themes as #metoo, gendered violence and the polarized debate about migration in Germany (runtime till 2022)

More Info:

My matrix to think about journalism and infrastructures of publics. Photo c/o Annette Markham.

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