The last day of ICA2006 starts with a panel on Weblogs. The first speaker, Jae Kook Lee, couldn't be here, but there's a video message and a recorded presentation by him instead. The first question is whether the blogosphere is a public sphere - to analyse this, the structural and functional mechanisms of the blogosphere, the contentions surrounding the concept of the public sphere, and the possibiity of the blogosphere as a public sphere need to be examined.
To begin with, the blogosphere is the network of blogs connected by hyperlinks. It enables direct audience participation by posting and searching for relevant information, and has grown exponentially in recent times. The public sphere is a space where informed citizens exchange rational discourse, but there are questions over whether it has ever existed, whether it excludes certain groups, and whether rational discourse is actually functional. Thus, the public sphere is really more an ideal form rather than a reality. But how closely can the blogosphere approximate the public sphere? Yardstick requirements are inclusivity: whether all individuals can participate (and on the Net, there is a low barrier of entry and a minimal cost for participation in the blogosphere, and high interconnectedness); equality for all partricipants: retrieving and disclosing information without revealing their identities, and free expression and exchange of opinions are possible (but elites may dominate exchange in the blogosphere); rationality: the blogophere is a knowledge repository and enables the process of meaning-building (but inappropriate behaviours, production quality, self-segregation tendencies, and skewed distribution of attention in the blogophere are problems); and autonomy from state and economic power: no-one is fully independent, but low barriers mean there is no need for advertising to support blogs, and there is no intervention from state at least in democracies (but publicity is distributed unevenly and some commercial models are emerging).