Habermas communicative rationality and how discourse ethics and a vibrant public sphere could break the stranglehold on rationality by elites

On how public sphere could impact policy issues

Xaquín S. Pérez-Sindín López

Te belief that meaning and reason were social in nature-i.e., required mutual cooperation and collaboration in its contruction-led early pragmatists to belive that an important part of the route to progressive social change lie in democratic deliberative approaches to addressing pressing social problems. These ideas are best illustrated by Dewey´s lifelong commitment to extensive citzen participation in politics as opposed to technocratic decision-making and his emphasis on public education as a means of achieving a more democratic society (Dewey 1927). These pragmatist insights on knowledge, language, and community, inspired Habermas (1987) to develop his ideas of communicative rationality and the public sphere. From pragmatist insights, Habermas saw the possibility that a discourse ethics and a vibrant public sphere could break the stranglehold on rationality by elites, a major concern of the critical theorists with which he was conversant. He argued that embedded in the logical relations of the pragmatist conception…

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Thoughts about how urban design impact our lifes

Just read this article and found so interesting ideas on how urban design impact society and what can be done to avoid increasing inequality. Here I just noted some additional thoughts. I am also thinking of how does it work in a wider scale, for instance, how regional infraestructures reinforce certain inequalities. The same with regard to environmental restoration projects.

Bearing how people socially construct space in the urban planning process:

“There is a need to redesign the designers, and to give them the tools and competencies to work within social constructs and spatial contexts that they are meant to serve. Designers spend much of their academic and professional training to build the spatial, technical, communication, and critical-thinking skills that are needed to do the difficult work of transforming spaces and places. They use their skills, often with good intentions and ‘best practices,’ toward results that may not align with what is needed or wanted in a given context.

Public space is something more than a good design, it is also about having social meaning

“Public spaces alone will not create the vitality and empathy we seek in and from our cities. Universally designing for everyone can create homogenized, soulless places that have all people in mind but have meaning or use for no one.”

Not only interdisciplinarity is needed in urban design but also public and socially diverse participation

“Projects in the public realm need to be informed not only from more disciplines but from more kinds of people. Artists, misfits, outsiders, elders, immigrants, people of color, and women have been leading community development efforts in unconventional ways, partly because they have not been invited to the table and also because their varied lived experiences offers something more or counter to the standard advanced for our civic commons, parks, plazas, and other urban public assets.

“The space between who is considered an expert and who is typically on the margins of conversations about public space needs to be collapsed. If that happens I think cities will feel, function, and be designed with multiple points of view, engendering spaces that promote social mixing and most importantly social equity.


Places to reinforce social capital, to make people come together to have open conversations

“For example, there are so many more private pools than there are public pools. There’s also the inability for us to maintain branch libraries, which are really community centers for a lot of neighborhoods. We need places that people come together to have open conversation about current issues. Immigrant communities are interesting to look at because this welcome-unwelcome feeling is very inherent to their experience in their city. It has nothing to do with design, necessarily, but design can reinforce that invitation.”

Does mass media shape public opinion and dominant discourse regarding policy issues? Do press and public opinion converge over time?


“We sampled and analyzed media portrayals of the Dead Sea Water Canal from the Israel national Ha´aretz newspaper along the two time periods. We then undertook synchronic (comparative simultaneous depictions) and diachronic (historically-sensitive sequences of representations) analyses to examine these portrayals within as well as accross these periods. Ha´aretz is the oldest daily newspaper in Israel and the main stage for intelectual and policy debates in Israel (Viser, 2003). Its articles are commonly used when aiming at “elite” or “quality” press (Nossek, 2004) and therefore it serves our purpose to reflect the dominant discourse regarding policy issues. Moreover, the media outlet was selected in part due to the availability of news archives across the full period of study: from the 1970s to the present. It has been well documented and importantly cautioned elsewhere that the approach of analyzing newspaper articles carries several weakness and biases (e.g. Boykoff, 2011). Specific to this study, Ha´aretz newspaper is considered a liberal newspaper that may represent an agenda different from those of other national newspapers (e.g. Carvalho, 2007)

Fischhendler, I., Cohen-Blankshtain, G., Shuali, Y., & Boykoff, M. (2013). Communicating mega-projects in the face of uncertainties: Israeli mass media treatment of the Dead Sea Water Canal. Public Understanding of Science, 0963662513512440.

Public opinion can in fact not be measured by surveys alone, but media analysis contributes as some sort of proxy of what actors, who for example read newspaper, deem to be “the public opinion” and that “the mass media circulates images and arguments widely and thereby inform public perceptions” (Bauer, 2005a, p. 10). Combining media analysis, focus group, and surveys, Bauer (2005b, p. 63) found a “strong convergence of press and opinion over time”.

Even if media attention does not translate directly into opinion changes (Matthes and Schemer, 2012), it is still foreseeable that media articles impact (1) the importance attributed to the particular issue (agenda setting) of the public debate and (2) how the issue is dealt with, the discourses that develop around the relevant technology, and an issue that is either emphasized or minimized (framing process). While the first factor focuses on the quantity of available information, how often an issue is covered by media articles, and how the attention cycle of a certain issue develops, the second is interested in the substantive content of these articles, the broader storylines, the narratives, and the issues´sociocultural resonance that makes them attractive to journalists and readers (Scheufele and Tewskbury, 2007). Framing means to focus on an issue, select certain aspects of it and make them more salient, and finally, help, influence, or persuade the readers to understand what is at stake (Entman, 1993; Gamson and Modigiliani, 1989; Scheufele, 1999). This “twist” that journalist give the story makes it interesting. Druckman and Bolsen (2011, p. 673) using an experimental approrach can illustrate that in essence, “facts add little to frames when it comes to influencing individuals” opinions about new technologies”. It is not primarily whether the article is positive or negative; it is rather the broader context to which the issue is related (Matthes and Schemer, 2012; Nisbet, 2009). By focusing on certain aspects, other facets are of course muted or excluded.

To frame an issue, journalists rely on information they obtain from different sources in order to report news that is as realistic and objective as possible. They have a code of ethics that provides guidelines on how to deal with contradictory, uncertain, partial, or biased informaiton and how to balance the actors´ different views and often conflicting interests.

Framing is exactly how stakeholders or social movements can impact media coverage; trying to frame an issue ata an angle that meets their interests helps them promote their perspective and position (Andsager, 2000; Benford and Snow, 2000)…Of course, stakeholders have different levels of agency and power (Carrage and Roefs, 2004); some can organize media conferences, send out press releases, or invite the media to a publicly appealing event, while other issues are generally only addressed when a journalist has a specific request or question to be answered. 

Stauffacher, M., Muggli, N., Scolobig, A., & Moser, C. (2015). Framing deep geothermal energy in mass media: the case of Switzerland. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 98, 60-70.

Megaprojects and community conflicts in A Corunha, Galicia, Spain

This article, in Galician language, addresses the history of rural neiborghood in the bounds of the city of A Corunha and how it has suffered from different megaprojects that threaten its mere existence. The article refrences a arquitect project led by Ergosfera, a group of architets and how they claim a greater attention to heritage beyond the “academic” concept in order to incorporate those things that really makes the difference in a given city.

“O grupo de arquitectos e arquitectas Ergosfera levaron a cabo unha investigación –Cousa de Elviña– sobre as orixes, o presente e o futuro do conflito entre os habitantes de Elviña e os desenvolvementos urbanísticos da cidade, tomando como base estas dúas vivendas e a súa contorna (A Pereiroa). O proxecto foi realizado no marco do programa Expontáneas da Concellaría de Cultura da Coruña, e é tamén unha exposición que xa se puido ver a semana pasada na sede do Concello, que está actualmente no local da Concellaría de Rexeneración Urbana e Dereito á Vivenda (no barrio de Montealto), e que entre o 18 e o 22 de xullo estará na sede coruñesa do Ministerio de Fomento.

A intervención urbana formulada ten quizais uns obxectivos pouco relevantes na súa materialización formal, pero moi ambiciosos en canto á fenda que tenta abrir: a introdución de dúbidas no pensamento institucional sobre o valor e a lexitimidade destas cousas urbanas sen importancia aparente”, destacan dende o colectivo…En toda cidade hai moitísimos núcleos de orixe preindustrial, e todos teñen enriba a ameaza do urbanismo. Hai que comezar a entender que o patrimonio non é só aquilo que os académicos digan, senón que o patrimonio é todo aquilo que implica unha diferenza na cidade. Nós non valoramos estas casas como un recordo do que foi o mundo rural, antigo, senón que as destacamos como un valor de futuro. Ti imaxina dentro de 50 anos, nunha Alfonso Molina convertida en avenida, a diferenza que establecerían estas casas en relación cos edificios modernos que as rodean. Debemos cambiar o concepto de patrimonio, para non defender só as cousas polo que foron, senón tamén polo que son”, subliña”



“Social life” a research centre and innovation about communities

We believe that creating places that support local people, which are socially sustainable, matters as much as creating places that are economically and environmentally sustainable.

Our work is about understanding how peoples’ day-to-day experience of local places is shaped by the built environment – housing, public spaces, parks and local high streets – and how change, through regeneration, new development or small improvements to public spaces, affects the social fabric, opportunities and wellbeing of local areas.

We bring these insights to the process of planning, designing and managing places by working with communities, built environment professionals, public agencies and governments, in the UK and internationally.

Social Life is a social enterprise, created by the Young Foundation in 2012, to become a specialist centre of research and innovation about the social life of communities. Social Life builds on the ground-breaking work of two leading social thinkers: Michael Young, sociologist and social entrepreneur who established the Institute of Community Studiesin 1954 to bring social research to post-war urban planning; andProfessor Sir Peter Hall, one of the world’s most respected and widely-published thinkers about urban planning and former Senior Research Fellow at the Young Foundation.

Sir Peter Hall, the father of “industrial enterprise zone” concept

Sir Peter Geoffrey Hall, FBA (19 March 1932 – 30 July 2014) was an English town planner, urbanist and geographer. He was the Bartlett Professor of Planning and Regeneration at The Bartlett, University College London[1] and President of both the Town and Country Planning Association and the Regional Studies Association.[2]

He was internationally renowned for his studies and writings on the economic, demographic, cultural and management issues that face cities around the globe. Hall was for many years a planning and regeneration adviser to successive UK governments. He was Special Adviser on Strategic Planning to the British government (1991–94) and a member of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister’s Urban Task Force (1998–1999).[1] Hall is considered by many to be the father of the industrial enterprise zone concept, adopted by countries worldwide to develop industry in disadvantaged areas.