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Challenging Communication Research


Edited By Leah A. Lievrouw

Communication scholarship has not enjoyed the same kind of theoretical cohesion or ontological security as some disciplines. The field’s intellectual «roving eye» and resistance to establishing a single core body of knowledge has inspired serial rounds of soul-searching and existential doubt among communication scholars, on one hand, and celebration and intellectual adventurism, on the other. The theme of the 2013 ICA annual conference thus raised an interesting question: For a field that is perpetually in flux and «decentered», what exactly is, or should be, challenged? How, and by whom?
The chapters in this collection, chosen from among the top papers presented in London, suggest that the challenges themselves are constantly being reinvented, broken down and reorganized. The communication discipline undergoes continuous change rather than following an orderly, stepwise path toward the neat, complete accumulation of knowledge. The chapters challenge familiar approaches, notions or assumptions in communication research and scholarship and reflect on the field’s multifaceted and increasingly open character in an era of shifting social relations, formations and technologies.
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Chapter Five: Would Jürgen Habermas Enjoy The Daily Show? Entertainment Media and the Normative Presuppositions of the Political Public Sphere


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Would Jürgen Habermas Enjoy The Daily Show?

Entertainment Media and the Normative Presuppositions of the Political Public Sphere


The theories of democracy might differ in certain aspects, but they all feature a core element: political power and legitimation are derived from the citizens and are distributed through electoral processes. The freedom of the citizens to vote for their own leaders and to raise their voices in favor of or against certain issues is both a blessing and a curse. On the normative level, democracy demands participation but has no means to enforce it. Thus, politically attentive citizens bear the same weight as inattentive citizens, which can result in problems for the democratic process. Nevertheless, political participation is easy. Kaase (1992, p. 340) lists several possible forms of political participation, including the use of political media. This is congruent with another normative presumption of democratic theory: “Democracy functions best when its citizens are politically informed” (Delli Carpini & Keeter, 1996, p. 1).

If informed citizenship is at the heart of democracy, the means by which this information is provided is crucial to the democratic process. The distribution of political information takes place in the political public sphere. This normative theoretical concept has been described from many different points of view. Keeping the informed citizenship in mind, we turn to Jürgen Habermas’s works on the political...

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