Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Situated Networks: in [re]search of the public
T. F. Tierney
2nd Author
3rd Author
Doctor of Philosophy DE: New Media
Number of Pages
University of California Berkeley
Thesis Supervisor
Jean-Pierre Protzen
Supervisor e-mail
protzen AT
Other Supervisor(s)
Kenneth Goldberg, UCB Berkeley Center for New Media
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
College of Environmental Design
Languages Familiar to Author
URL where full thesis can be found
networks, publics, online activism, public sphere, counter-publics, public space, netethnography
Abstract: 200-500 words
Public space has been under attack at least since the mid-1970s, the date that social geographer David Harvey refers to as a sea change in cultural and political-economic practices. That change has been reflected in an unbundling of public infrastructural elements, global market forces, and a dismantling of the neo-liberal state. Today the Internet, social software, and mobile technologies have placed increasing pressure on the physical public sphere while simultaneously offering new modes of participation. Does this trend predict an end to the West European concept of civitas? On the contrary, the same tools that have been organizing our social lives are being appropriated for political activism. What follows in this book is a comprehensive examination (historical, philosophical, psychological and sociological) of social media’s structural transformation of the public sphere. The author first examines the necessary philosophical conditions for publics in general and outlines a theory for understanding social media as a public of publics. Second, the author describes social media’s emergence in the 1980s and presents new empirical research focused on social networking. This research contributes to a deeper understanding of how social and technological forces converge to form meaningful connections, including some unexpected counterpublic activities. Finally, there is a discussion of the complex effects of social media on close, long-term relationships and communities. It includes an examination of globalism, changing boundaries, and recent political activism enabled by mobile technologies. The author argues that social media is much more than a new communication platform. Enabled by participatory practices, social media is generative in its potential. Social media is seen as a mutual process where structural media and human actions co-produce each other. The combination creates a third new thing – a restructured, individualized, mediated, and powerful public sphere.