Tom Whayman

Social Media and the Public Sphere

This dissertation will examine social media in regards to Habermas’ public sphere in an attempt to determine to what extent social media, and more specifically YouTube, can operate as a working public sphere in accordance with Habermas’ theory. The many aspects of the public sphere such as access, quality of conversation and autonomy will be assessed and applied to YouTube in an attempt to understand how it may or may not be able to form such a space. Racism will be used, not only as an example of an important societal issue and focus of deliberation and discussion between citizens, but also as a measure of the levels of rationality and reason-based discourse and discussion that can take place on YouTube in accordance with the idea of a working public sphere. In order to determine the potential YouTube holds in creating a working example of Habermas’ concept, the most interactive part of YouTube – the comments section will be subject to a content analysis and individual comments pertaining to Habermas’ theory and will used to highlight the possible strengths or weaknesses that YouTube holds in creating a public sphere.