Tuesday 6 December 2011

EU social media and online public space

What if the European public sphere owes its existence to social media, asks Michael Malherbe (Décrypter la communciation européenne blog), continuing the interesting presentation by Mathew Lowry on the EU online public space (although reading a Prezi presentation can be a pretty hallucinating experience).


There is an online European public sphere, available through social media such as Bloggingportal.eu, Twitter and Facebook.

There are still great opportunities ahead, building bridges within groups with common interests and between national discussions and the ”Brussels bubble”.

Some EU institutions and politicians, as well as civil society groups and business associations have joined social media sites in order to narrowcast their messages, but few of them have advanced to the level of engagement and sharing (with the exception of some frontline individuals within these behemots).

Hordes of academics and teachers, as well as officials in EU institutions and agencies, or engaged in EU co-funded projects at national level are still surprisingly uncommunicative.

Language barriers are an obstacle to cross-border communication, but active and educated Europeans are often able to understand one or more languages in addition to their own. Some of them can build bridges between different language communities.

Social and other media

Malherbe and Lowry did not ponder media in general that much, but it would be well worth a separate discussion.

The EU online public space (Lowry) is broader than its social media sub-group. Malherbe seemed to reject the notion of traditional pan-EU media, perhaps rightly so if we look at the mass market level, but what about the ”movers and shakers”?

Much material from the EU institutions (primary sources) and mainstream media content is available online.

Renowned media offer both traditional editorial material online and social media content across borders, blurring the lines between the two.

Call them ”elite” if you will, but European political and business leaders are consumers of the same sources for news and opinion, de facto promoting the free movement of ideas.

It may hurt linguistic sensitivities, but many of these sources and publications operate in English (partially or wholly): The Financial Times, The Economist, WSJ Europe, BBC, DW-World, Spiegel Online (International), France24, Euronews, EUobserver, EurActiv, Presseurop, EUbusiness etc.

How does today differ from the Enlightenment with regard to the diffusion of ideas?

Ralf Grahn

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