Tech and Politics

Andreas Jungherr

Digital structures of the public arena

2022-07-17 25 min Season 1 Episode 20 Andreas Jungherr

Description & Show Notes

Digital media have not only challenged the position of traditional structures of the public arena. Digital media have also led to the emergence of new structures hosting the contemporary public arena in digital communication environments. In this episode, we discuss some of the most pressing challenges raised by the digital extension of the public arena.

This includes sites like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube that allow people and competitors within the public arena to publish information and to reach large audiences. But this also includes companies that provide the means for people to run their own sites contributing information and commentary to the public arena. This includes services that allow the comparatively cheap hosting of sites or Apps - like Amazon Web Services - allowing people to run their own sites. Or services that provide them with the opportunity to monetize information or services - like PayPal or Patreon. Also services facilitating the hosting of digital ads contribute to the digital extension of the public arena. Digital ads contribute to the monetization of sites by allowing the owner to host ads and get payed for impressions and clickthroughs. They also support the new structures by allowing their owners to run ads themselves and create easy access points to their sites and information on sites like Facebook, Google, or Twitter, where their information might otherwise not have been able to reach an interested public.

These new structures are important for the new digitally extended public arena. But in their characteristics they deviate from structures that formerly hosted the public arena, news media, and follow different rules. This raises challenges in developing normative goals and binding governance rules assuring their contribution to the public arena strengthens instead of weakens it.


00:00 - Introduction
00:20 - Digital structures of the public arena
02:21 - Responsibilities of digital structures for the public arena
10:08 - Algorithmic shaping of user behavior in the public arena
17:12 - Geopolitics of digital structures
24:32 - Conclusion