Mapping and Bill Rankin

I love maps. As a kid, I played a lot of soccer, and I would ride in the car with my dad to tournaments all over. I would usually have a huge road atlas in hand, figuring out which roads went where. I remember being amazed at how far roads can take you – that one road could get you from Key West, Florida, to the Canadian border of Maine. (It’s hard to explain that fully, but I still find it intriguing!) I have two US Geological Survey maps from the 50s hanging up in my house. Maps are cool.

A couple of years ago, I had to use a map as an educational tool for my job. In the fall of 2014, ebola broke out in West Africa, mainly the countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. At the time I was working for an organization that sent college students to East Africa for two week trips. Numerous parents and students called me concerned about the trip to Kenya because of what was going on in West Africa (not a dumb concern, but it was becoming apparent that it was staying pretty contained to those 3 countries). I encouraged many of them that the countries were actually 4,000 miles apart, about as far away as Miami is from Alaska. That generally helped most people realize how far away it was.

It was so frustrating, though, because a couple of parents told me I was outright lying, and I was doing so to put their children in danger. When I could, I would send them a link to this website that shows the true size of Africa. There was something about the map that was more convincing than me simply saying, “Africa is bigger than you think.” It was interesting as a 22 year old educating 50 year olds on why the map they’ve seen their whole lives is pretty misleading.

I have not engaged with mapping very much as a historian. The primary maps I have interacted with recently have been maps in John Nolen’s city plans. It’s been a passive experience of reading his plans, and I have never been involved in mapping like the Mapping Inequality project.

As far as a compelling use of maps in a work of history (others may mention this because it is fresh in our minds from last semester’s Public History class), Dr. Cline showed us an “Animated Interactive of the History of the Atlantic Slave Trade.” It uses a map as a backdrop to visualize the number of slave ships that crossed the Atlantic from 1545 to 1860. The information is well-communicated through this medium – as opposed to someone on a video trying to describe it or reading a graph with all of this information. On top of all of that, you can click on each dot to find out the ship’s name, where it was from, where it was going, and how many slaves it transported (if that information is available).

Rankin lays out his argument clearly at the outset of his book: “the change in the logic of mapping . . . should be understood quite broadly as a shift in the nature of territory” (3). Before reading this book, if someone had asked me to define territory, I likely would have thought of a physical space that can be defined on a map. While I hadn’t thought very much about the shift in the nature of territory, I did know that the process of globalization had changed it. For instance, the United States began as agrarian and rather isolated from Europe, but there have since been many changes that have made people more quickly and easily connected with others half a world away. It is interesting to see an “American empire” today as one that is “informal” and “economic” instead of one concerned as much with physical territory (12).

He explains that theoretically, territory shouldn’t be understood only as “legal, political, or economic geography alone.” Rather, it is also “defined by practices of knowledge,” which changed throughout the 20th century. It had previously been understood as a well-defined space “perfectly coextensive with a particular sovereignty or jurisdiction,” but we should now understand it as a “framework of points – neither a block of space nor a network of flows – that organized knowledge in new ways and facilitated new kinds of intervention and new kinds of governance” (15-16).

His term “framework of points” is particularly helpful in understanding the new concept of territory. The practice of map making changed the way people viewed territory, and people’s understanding of territory has changed the way maps are made and used. As Rankin says, the stories of IMW, UTM, and GPS show a “shift from paper to electronic signals, from the logic of representation to the logic of the grid, from a focus on contiguous areas of space to a framework of points, and from meditations on truth to an interest in practical results” (295).

Intentional Silences and Ways of Thinking About Territory

I’ve always had a fascination with maps since childhood. I have yet to travel beyond the eastern seaboard in my life thus far and as one can imagine this lack of travel in my early life was supplemented by a near intense interest in maps. This had a couple of long term effects on me as a person. For one it helped frame my thinking in geographic terms. Even as a kid I was quickly able to get the way of the land by imagining it from the god’s eye of a cartographer. Beyond that, it spurred in me an interest in various cultures around the world. Figuring I wouldn’t have the chance to ever visit these places I saw on world maps, I instead read about them and their history. Suffice to say, it’s one such reason why I am now in my master’s program at Virginia Tech.

As for working with maps as a historian, I did not do any sort of mapping in my time as an undergraduate. I have however written about the history of cartography. I wrote a paper last semester on the topic of map-collecting. This paper was focused on European cartographers in the early modern period and the evolution of the atlas from this period to the 20th century. A subject I came across in my research that I found particularly compelling was a phenomenon known as intentional silences. These intentional silences are essentially the details left out of any given map by a cartographer because they represent inconvenient truths to himself or his employer. This was most often seen in maps of the New World where resources were coveted by the European powers. Territorial lines of the native Amerindians were blurred and signs were omitted in order to depict a land for the taking without moral consequence. Indeed even ignoring morals, maps helped stereotype natives of Africa and the Americas as the Other through outlandish depictions on maps commonly seen by Europeans in the day.  No doubt contributing to racism that can still be felt and seen today.

Maps have a powerful way of transforming how one fundamentally views the world. The god’s eye view can help bring the world together but it can just as easily wipe away cultural context and finer geographic details that can only be learned from physically being at that location.


As for the discussion question this week, I don’t believe my perspective on territory has drastically changed from reading this book. That said the idea of territory being a new universal nomenclature, divorced from concepts like borders and maps, is an interesting idea in our world increasingly ruled by globalization. Territory is always important and the way digital technology is utilizing it can change a great deal about our global society.

The GPS in a drastically short time since its widespread introduction in the public has absolutely changed how we think geographically about our world. As Rankin details in chapter 6, it has changed viewpoints of the world from that of borders to that of grids (Rankin, 281). Both are artificial in concept within the mind’s eye but to most people the GPS allows them an ease of use that makes it  so that they can barely engage their environment at all. Only the immediate surrounding is of importance and even that isn’t much so. Rankin himself says the following when describing the many uses GPS brought to the public in the 1990’s, “In  reports of its adoption for new uses, GPS is usually not presented as simply a more precise version of earlier techniques, as if it were only a more accurate kind of map. Instead, the emphasis is on reliability, permanence, and the ability to use it as a replacement for other forms of local knowledge” (Rankin, 285).

It can be very easy for this kind of intense reliance to turn into dependency, but at the same time, the GPS has allowed us to think of territoriality on levels beyond on maps provided us in the past. Moving between spaces has never been easier, as is viewing other parts of the world that we haven’t physically gone to. The threat of intentional silences, while still a reality, has the potential to be mitigated in the 21st century. Thus for the first time in centuries, people have the opportunity to redefine “territory” as something more than a space for resources and categorized groups of people. Instead we can bring out context from the smallest parts of the world that had once been silenced.

Mapping, Territory, and History

WEEK 3: Mapping and Rankin’s After the Map

What is your most compelling experience with maps (outside of your work as a historian)? What is your engagement with mapping as a historian? What have you found the most compelling use of maps in a work of history?

I have not used maps much outside of my limited historical work. However, since I drive a very old car, am too cheap to buy a GPS device, and, until December, possessed an archaic phone, I have relied on traditional paper maps and atlases to guide my camping and hiking expeditions. This was more successful for me in the continental U.S. where roads are typically better marked (in my experience) than in Alaska and Germany. I was a hiking counselor in Denali one summer and had numerous showdowns with bears, caribou, and other critters as I wandered aimlessly through the minimally marked wilderness.

Figure 1: Grocery stores and poverty rates in Milwaukee County

Additionally, while working in nonprofits focused on anti-hunger and criminal/restorative justice in the city of Milwaukee for the last ten years, I have used mapping to delineate poverty rates, literacy levels, and criminal activity. In turn, these maps helped to inform where the nonprofit provided services and guide advocacy measures. As an example, I made the map in Figure 1 for Hunger Task Force to show grocery store access and poverty rates in order to better inform advocacy discussions about food deserts as well as decisions on pantry locations or free meal sites.

I have recently discovered the sociological practice of institutional ethnography. This practice uses maps to spatially represent the actions, texts, and behaviors found among various institutions. These maps reflect a different way to conceptualize common, or everyday, activities and potentially expand a researcher’s insight into sequential activity and the interrelationship between independent and dependent variables. For me, this has been a compelling use of mapping because it combines the traditional visual representation of data with areas of analysis which are almost taken for granted in sociopolitical research.

As a historian, my experience with mapping has been primarily in relationship to U.S. slavery, specifically in regards to the expansion of slavery and the growth or spread of Western farmland. I have worked with maps encompassing the global slave trade, as well. Since most of research has focused on the reparations movements and the Reconstruction era, I have also looked at abolitionist movement across the country over time.

Simon Garfield’s book, On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks is my favorite treatment of maps in any text I have read because the book is so creative in its approach to human history and is a fun look at human cultures over time.

Given your own disciplinary perspective and what you gleaned from Rankin’s book, how has your understanding of territory changed? Please offer a specific section or quote from Rankin’s book that is key to informing your answer.

Coming from a mainly political science disciplinary perspective, I typically conceive of territory as an expression of political hegemony or a dominant expression of a state (or states) boundary making. In a nutshell, while it is admittedly a bit cliché, I generally thought of territory—before reading Rankin’s book—as “who wins and who loses” (1). Unsurprisingly, given my background and very conflict-driven understanding of territory, I found the association between wartime globalism retained in the official emblem of the United Nations (77-78) to be a fascinating bit of history of which I was unaware.

The most meaningful section of Rankin’s book was part two on cartographic grids and the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) because it helped me to understand how “states have lost the ability to fully govern their economies, their borders, and even the legitimate use of force” (11). Coming from political science, I tend to think of states and globalized spaces as bearing structural or institutional power, and was skeptical of Rankin’s early contention. I found Rankin’s treatment of UTM and grids overall to be accessible and convincing in thinking about the ways that the map, points, and data interact with and invite their surroundings. The distinction between simply making a map, versus using a map, was very helpful for re-positioning my thinking on territory. Specifically, Rankin’s discussion of resistance versus domination was useful to me. I really appreciated this quote: “Rather than centralizing information into the hands of a the few (as with maps), grids were a way to make geographic knowledge widely accessible and to put everyone—tax man and farmer alike—on a level playing field” (140). This helped me to appreciate the way that Rankin was conceiving of territory as political, but not political in the same constraining sense as earlier decades or even centuries. Likewise, the emphasis Rankin places on convenience (201) helped me to understand how territory transitioned into modern times under an evolved definition as “something made and remade every day, by individuals as well as institutions, as a form of knowledge and as a way of inhabiting space” (299). Ultimately, Rankin’s discussion of territory helped me to think of it as a much more social construct than purely political, or even historical, which is useful to me understanding the links between different kinds of mapping over time, as well as anticipating new approaches still to come.

Week 3 Blog Post-Discussion Leader Question

Hi all!

First off, we (read: Rebecca who has been looking for a reason to insert this clip into a class)  thought you might enjoy this clip from The Office wherein Michael Scott follows his GPS into a lake.

Now, for our discussion prompt: Given your own disciplinary perspective and what you gleaned from Rankin’s book, how has your understanding of territory changed? Please offer a specific section or quote from Rankin’s book that is key to informing your answer.

We look forward to reading your responses and discussing in class on Thursday!


Drew, Rebecca, and Mary


For some background on Mapping Inequality, a project that has created a digital archive and provided interpretation of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation for scholars and the public, listen to this WUNC interview with Richard Marciano and Nathan Connolly.

Mapping Inequality is part of the American Panorama project at the University of Richmond.

For some background on the spatial turn, see these two introductory essays (written by an early modern Europeanist).

Why Shamanism Now / The Impossibility of “New Public Spheres”

My favorite podcast is called Why Shamanism Now. It focuses on shamanism as a healing modality: the host, Christina Pratt, is a shamanic healer based in Portland, Oregon who conducts remote classes in shamanistic therapeutic modalities. Her podcast is in one sense a sort of self-promotion for her business. As is the case with most of her listeners (I imagine) I have no intention of soliciting her services or giving money to the project, despite her frequent pitches for donations. I just enjoy learning a little bit every now and then, which is simple enough, since all of her shows are available for free online  at The podcast is evidently intended for people like me — those who  don’t know very much about shamanistic beliefs and worldviews but are broadly interested in the subject.

I think the podcast format is very well-suited to the topic.  Her tone of voice and general style of speaking are as impactful as the content itself, so it certainly works more effectively than a print medium. I’d wager to be that the relatively low cost of producing a podcast makes this a profitable venture. She features several guests and often (though not in every episode) makes reference to the season and time of year, although rarely doe she comment on current events, which gives the podcast serious lasting power.  Listeners can select what to listen to seasonally — for example, if it is late March, they can listen to an episode about the vernal equinox — and the messages will hold up year after year.  The purported universal applicability of shamanism makes it a natural fit for an online archive: in Christina’s view, shamanism is a healing method available to everyone, regardless of cultural background, making the open (supposedly open —but I won’t digress into my political perspective on that quite yet)  Internet a natural home for the work. I will suspend commentary on cultural appropriation and simply offer my observation that having a free podcast online (and on iTunes) is a good way way to spread a message that is supposedly so universal. This must be why religious radio shows have enjoyed lasting popularity.

Christina begins every episode with a shamanistic invocation — calling out to ancestral spirits to bless the episode. This takes up about ten minutes every time, which is  fairly counterintuitive to marketing logic —spending ten minutes repeating the same spiritual invocation every single episode is pretty bold, given the ever-more competitive  state of the attention economy. To me this confers legitimacy on the project. If I didn’t genuinely believe that Christina and her guests were deep believers and enthusiastically involved in their spiritual practice — not just within the context of their profession, but as a way of life — I would not listen.  That they take the time to do what they believe is spiritually necessary in every single episode reflects their spiritual seriousness. Although I usually skip it, I’m glad the invocation is there in each episode.

I’d like to call your attention to the part that begins at 24:57:

In this part, Christina offers a guided meditation. The  medium of the podcast — uninterrupted audio, no visual stimuli — allows for a very direct encounter with the message. This amplifies the impact of the meditation.


Turning to Habermas, I want to reply directly to this two-part question:

Has the digital age created new public spaces? How would these spaces translate into Habermas’ work?

The first part of the question is deceptively simple: if you were to survey individuals across the world, the popular answer would be “yes.”  However I think it is more productive for our class to offer a rationale for saying “no.”

The open Internet (I know the digital age encompasses more “spaces” than “the Internet,” including private forums, closed networks and messaging apps, but this is the most relevant example) constitutes a communicative space, obviously. To say that this space is “new” implies some meaningful quality or character change. So much journalistic and scholarly interest has been given to the “newness” of the digitally networked public sphere/s for its/their openness and universality — cases of activist movements, including but not limited to Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, have in particular elicited quite a lot of media attention, indicating that there may be a form of dialogue and public opinion that could only come into being via the Internet.

But there is no new ideology borne of the digital age. Despite the publications of countless works of cyber politics that speak to a categorical newness and sovereign ungovernability  (here I am thinking of the 1996 Declaration of the Sovereignty of Cyberspace and all the manifestos anthologized in this wonderful collection) — which includes the development of digital-specific ethos (like the varying expressions of hacker / programmer ethos), digital networks have never evolved independently of the deeply biased and politically interested forces from which they arose. Arguably the very concept of global networks cannot be untethered from the ideology of war and defense, a philosophy that relies deeply on the appearance of its own inevitability. The Internet is a child of DARPA: it was a military initiative. Web 2.0, the Internet of social media and connected apps (such as the Google suite), has a focus on “openness,” “sharing,” individual self-expression and globalism. I believe this to be an expression of a neoliberal imperative to express the best world as one supported by consumerism, individuality and a sort of “entrepreneurship of the self” that identifies individuals with their ability to be recognized/popularized for their uniqueness.

Immanent to this reply is this issue: does “meaningful quality or character change” mean “new ideology?” — which is where I will intervene with Habermas. He writes on p.141: “the bourgeois public sphere evolved in the tension-charged field between state and society. But it did so in such a way that it remained part of the private realm. The fundamental separation of those two spheres, upon which it rested, initially referred merely to the disengagement of elements of social reproduction and political power, which in the forms of domination typical of the High Middle Ages were welded together. With the growth of a market economy arose the sphere of the ‘social’…” — he goes on in this chapter (chapter V) to describe the political evolution and shifts of the public sphere, indicating that it has never been decoupled from greater political forces, ideology that constructs individuals and their groupings (such as the family unit). In essence the “public sphere” is always not only contingent on but entirely constructed by overruling contemporary societal ideology; perhaps its appearance as an element so distinct from ideology as such only exists to the extent that it can conceal that fact. The discourse on advertising we see on p. 193 — “the sender of the message [the message that ‘manages’ public opinion] hides his business intention in the role of someone interested in the public welfare.” In this case, it is a “public opinion manager” concealing the fact that he is privately interested in his communication, his contribution to the public sphere. Likewise can one who appears to be contributing to private industry also contain/conceal a political agenda. Moreover, the “public spheres” of Web 2.0 rely on the commodification of private data (arguably a form of labor extortion) — so how “public” can they be, really?

The “new public sphere” discourse strikes me as dangerous because it erases so much from the evolution of digital networks in the interest of upholding the novelty of the technology image, a novelty that is constructed to achieve ends that are actually as old as the market itself. Habermas shows us that while public spheres transform, they do so for reasons that are only not-obvious because it is in their interest to appear “new,” given to new theorizations. While this is a fun intellectual distraction if we pretend to have historical amnesia, at its core, every major issue and interesting feature of digital public sphere can be explained with ideas from historical, political and philosophical discourse that well predate the “digital age.”

A few other thoughts: the immateriality of digital networks does not deterritorialize it:  for all intents and purposes the digital network is still a “place” or a series of places, just as Habermas’s salons and coffee shops are “places.”

Habermas’s inclusion of Kant’s remarks on public opinion (p. 120 & 121) seem particularly pertinent to public historians. I wonder what the public historians in our class make of this rather damning perspective: “to be independent of public opinion is the first formal condition of achieving anything great or rational whether in life or in science” (p. 121).






Week 3 Blog Post

Thursday Bill Rankin, the author of After the Map, will join us via skype.  Bill is a historian of science and cartography, and a cartographer extraordinaire in his own right.  He has a site for his book, available here.  His research work and mapping are available here.  As an interesting coincidence, Bill has been mapping slavery in the North, while a future guest, Rob Nelson, has been mapping slavery in the South.

For your blog post, part 1: What is your most compelling experience with maps (outside of your work as a historian)? What is your engagement with mapping as a historian? What have you found the most compelling use of maps in a work of history?  Part 2 will be supplied by discussion leaders for the week by Monday.  Post your response by Tuesday, 11:59pm.


All have been assigned their basic topic for the podcast project.  The next step is beginning the research that will allow you to write the script and find the informants to interview.*  You should begin that now.

Several books that may be useful: V.O. Key’s Southern Politics in State and Nation, Ronald Heinemann’s Harry Bird of Virginia, Ronald Eller’s Uneven Ground: Appalachia Since 1945.  In addition, there are a few pieces in our Canvas site.

You should develop a bibliography of some historical work, some poli sci work, and potentially some journalistic work, and discuss it with me prior to February 9th.

* In many cases, interviews require approval by the Institutional Review Board.  In this case, I have checked with the IRB and, because this is a more journalistic enterprise in a class, rather than a research-oriented oral history, it does not require IRB approval.



Baby Girl vs. Adoptive Couple

Searching for a podcast – I came across “Stuff you Missed in History Class” on – and found a podcast “Was there a real Sweeney Todd?” Long story short (as it could have been) – two women in a “car talk” style banter spent 34 minutes to say there is no conclusive evidence. In all – maybe five minutes of interesting information, but otherwise a great deal of repetitiveness – and three commercials. So what I thought would be a great pod cast – turned out to be disappointing.

I’ve been a fan of Radio Lab and in my search for a better podcast discovered a spin off: Radio Lab presents: More Perfect which examines how Supreme Court decisions can shape lives.

If you’ve listened to Radio Lab, you know they are highly produced, very well edited podcasts, and this spin off produced by WNYC lived up to my expectations.

The story was a compelling one – A middleclass couple from South Carolina can’t have children of their own and arrange to adopt a child from a woman who is pregnant, but already has two children and decides to give the child up for adoption. Then two years after the adoptive couple has the child, the birth father who had never met the child – and had signed the adoption papers sues for custody – and wins.

Oh, you may sigh (as I did) how terrible. However, in Paul Harvey-style (who I would claim is the grandfather of podcast), we need to hear the “rest of the story”.

Over the next 40 minutes, Jad Abumrad weaves this tangled web story with a finely orchestrated chorus of 10 “witnesses” as well as some news clips.

At the beginning of this story, I am rooting for the adoptive parents (Matt and Melanie) who raised this child (Veronica) for two years until the custody is granted to the birth father (Dustin) based on the Indian Child Welfare Act. Dustin is a registered member of the Cherokee tribe in Oklahoma.

Next we hear from a man who advocated for the Indian Child Welfare Act, when in the 1960s he began to connect the dots that children were being taken from Indian families all over the nation – 25-30 percent of all Indian children were in foster families off the reservation. As he investigated he found it was a widespread problem – with every tribe telling stories of how children were taken away from the reservations. The podcast included a few short clips from members of different tribes sharing stories of how children were taken from their homes.

The podcast provided an emotional rollercoaster with the pain of the adoptive parents, to the story of the father who claimed he was hoodwinked – and we hear Veronica in his care, happy and vivacious – so now I am pulling for him.

Then the Supreme Court decides for the Adoptive parents, and the father finally caves – calling a press conference and making a tearful statement that he realizes he needs to “accept things beyond my control” it is “time to let her [Veronica] live life she deserves.” He pauses to choke back tears before giving a message to his daughter. “Never ever doubt how much I love you – how much I fought for you. My home will always be your home, you will always be welcome in it.” I miss you more than words can express. I will always love you until the day I die.

The podcast story was filled with twists and turns, hills and dips, and like a rollercoaster ride – ended before I was ready for it to.

If you want to ride this rollercoaster – here’s the link:


Digital Expansion of the Public Sphere


While reading Habermas’s, I would find myself reading a passage and then scribbling in the margins – “email,” “facebook,” “you tube,” etc.

Like the “world of letters,” digital media, and in particular social media, is structurally transforming the public sphere. It has increased the breadth of the public sphere, and one could argue, has “virtually” all but erased the private sphere.


Habermas points to the advent of the literary societies that spanned public and private – opening discourse between nobles and proletarians. Today, social media sites could be considered the virtual counterpart to literary societies/coffee houses where “virtually” every person of every categorical demographic, beyond any territorial boundary can engage in discourse.


Arab Spring provides a case study of how social media can spark and fan the flame of revolution.

Let’s Talk Podcasts & Habermas

The Invisibilia logo

What do I listen to?  

My favorite podcast is Invisibilia, which operates under the NPR umbrella. Hosts Alix Spiegel, Lulu Miller, and Hanna Rosin turn science into stories by revealing social norms behind everyday interactions. The quote below is taken from the podcast’s website, and perfectly sums up the content and goals of Invisibilia.

Invisibilia (Latin for invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.

The episodes follow a narrative format. This includes conversations between the hosts, an overarching plot or theme, and clips of interviews that contribute to each story. The soundbites come from scientists, consultants, people on the street, or the people who act as characters in whatever social phenomenon you’re exploring. Invisibilia pulls you into the narrative like This American Life, but goes deeper into the human experience to explain the social phenomenon behind it. You’d think I’d pick a history podcast for my favorite, but I’ve learned so much more about people with this podcast. Plus I’m blown away by how much they make me like science. 

My favorite episode is “The Secret Emotional Life of Clothes.” The hosts start with Halloween and the power of costumes. Frannie, a young girl who’s scared of airplanes, talks about how she can move past her fear and get on a plane when she dresses up like Amelia Earhart.

The power of sunglasses

Frannie’s story sets the tone, as Miller and Rosin dive in to how sunglasses changed an introvert’s life, how a comedian found himself in women’s clothing, what the Simpsons have to do with science, and how the now stereotypical hoodie image presents challenges for African American families.

I couldn’t embed the actual episode, so here’s a link to the Invisibilia site. “The Secret Emotional Life of Clothes” should be the second episode down. If you want to listen to the first story about the power of sunglasses, go to 4:10. To hear about the comedian’s journey, go to 15:32. For some science and the Simpsons go to 31:30. For the social forces behind “the kid in the hoodie,” go to 37:12.

I enjoy this podcast more than others because it teaches me brand new ideas. These ideas then inform my understanding of how the human world works. I have a firmer grasp on social interaction, which on my own I struggle with. It exposes me to experiences I haven’t had but might, so then I can use that episode as preparation. I also listen to explanations of my own experiences which adds to my personal understanding of self. And, like with the hoodie story, I hear about the social phenomenon I can never experience but can empathize with. Plus all of the hosts are women which is neat. All in all, a very useful podcast.

What is the public sphere?

Like Emily, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to answer my own question but here we go. As far as the interaction or overlap between the Digital Age and Habermas’ theories on the public sphere, I certainly can see refeudalization occurring digitally. State and society certainly merge as the general public (which I would define as non-authorities, or anyone not involved in policy-making) interact with those who hold power through social media, online news sources, and digital spaces like government websites or pages.

The Internet also exemplifies the evolution from the literary public sphere to the political public sphere, as people use digital publications to facilitate political discussions–especially on social media sites.  The collision of the literary and political spheres should ideally build upon people’s understanding of the human world and how it functions. However, there is considerable damage stemming from this online collision that we can clearly see in this new era of “alternative facts.” This lends justification to Habermas’ critique of the modern public sphere as vulnerable to manipulation. I’m definitely interested to hear other thoughts in class.