Date of Award

2010

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Mathieu Deflem

Abstract

The public sphere can be construed as an intermediary institution to solve conflicts between the public and political authority. The public sphere is an arena in social life where people from different social classes can get together to freely discuss various interests and concerns. Following that discussion, public opinion can be formed to include the needs of the public and can influence the political decision-making process. Many sociological studies on the public sphere center on the idea of participatory democracy, deliberation on public concerns and needs, and how the coordination of public opinion steers political action. This study investigates the communicative structure of the public sphere on the Internet by considering public debate as an indispensable component of deliberative-participatory democracy. My research focuses on a popular Turkish website, Eksi Sozluk, because there is increasing enthusiasm to use this web site in Turkey. Eksi Sozluk is used by thousands not only for information ranging from scientific to everyday life but also used to discuss politically controversial topics and to share various opinions. Therefore, by utilizing a case study approach, the Eksi Sozluk website is examined as a new public sphere. This study provides a rich description and illustration to explore to what extent and how this virtual community discusses socio-political issues as active citizens and to what extent this web-based public space has a considerable potential that fosters democratic rational-critical discourse.

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