ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change

Working Paper No. 67

The Internet and the Transformation of Public and Private

Hugh Mackay
CRESC, Open University

Abstract

The Internet is attributed with enabling new forms of connection, with far-reaching consequences for democratic participation. Its interactivity allows diverse voices to be heard, and its global reach facilitates transnational communication. As well as mediating publicness in new ways, it is transforming boundaries between public and private. The paper reports empirical research that found no involvement in a Habermasian public sphere, but found a considerable breadth of activities that could be understood as performing cultural citizenship. Providing a critique of the literature on the domestication of ICTs, it is argued that ‘private’ is more complex than synonymous with ‘the home’, and that the home is less bounded than suggested by researchers in the domestication tradition. The Internet challenges the one-to-many model of the press and broadcasting, but also makes private space increasingly public and intensifies privatisation within the home.

Keywords

Internet, public, private, public sphere, cultural citizenship, domestication