Digital publics and counter-publics: varieties of community participation online

Speaker:  John McCarthy – Cork, Ireland
Topic(s):  Human Computer Interaction


The idea of publics is gaining traction in HCI as a construct for framing design of and understanding media engagement. This talk presents a critical enquiry into the emergence, values, and value of digital publics where a public is a group of people who, in facing a similar problem, recognize it and organize themselves to address it (Dewey 1927).

Building on Dewey (1927), Warner (2002), Varnelis (2012), and others, the concept of publics is put into play with notions of live encounter, voice, dialogue, and community in order to understand participatory publics. Particular attention is paid to the emergence of digital communities and publics as expression of civic engagement in, for example, information, support and advocacy around dementia care, sustainable energy, and mobilising civic resistance.

In this talk, observations from ongoing analyses of online communities and publics that have emerged around experiences and interests such as dementia care, abuse, and socio-political change are presented. Discourse analyses explore the varieties of participation that can be seen in these online communities, including how members imagine their public belonging and how responsive they are to each other online. Findings point to strong intra- and inter-personal tensions between the need to and the challenge of participating, the need for self-expression and for privacy, the need to provide an open space for identification which is intended to be open only to those in a position to identify but which remains open to all (at some level e.g. technological) so as not to appear closed to those who need to join. Conclusions will be drawn about the qualities of participation in online support groups and about the varieties of belonging that emerge.

About this Lecture

Number of Slides:  20
Duration:  40 minutes
Languages Available:  English
Last Updated: 

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