Facebook pages as ’demo versions’ of issue publics

Andreas Birkbak

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In this paper, I examine the use of Facebook pages in a recent controversy that resulted in the non-actualization of the so-called ’payment ring’ to be built around Copenhagen to curb congestion. I argue that if we swap the distinction between public and private interest on which the institutions of representative democracy are founded with a distinction between direct and indirect consequences of action (Dewey 1927), Facebook can be understood as an experimental issue public-generating device. In the payment ring controversy, several Facebook pages became spaces of ’demonstration’ in three senses of the word (Barry 2001). First, Facebook pages became used as a device for opposing the government’s plans to actualize the payment ring object. For this purpose, classic features of protests were adopted, including slogans denouncing the decision-makers, the mobilization of peers, and the attempt to show ’political muscle’ through numbers. Second, these protests also focused on demonstrating harmful indirect consequences of a future payment ring by sharing news stories and other analyses that served to undermine the soundness of the payment ring. Third, these two kinds of demonstrations functioned as ’demoes’ in the sense of provisional and experimental versions of payment ring facts and payment ring publics. I suggest that Facebook’s features of real-time commenting and ’liking’, including the counting and visualization of these practices, underpins demonstrations in this third sense. To understand what is at stake in Facebook practices like these, then, it becomes useful to rethink publics as processes of on-going experimental inquiry into issues (Marres 2007).
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2014
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventNew Perspectives on the Problem of the Public - University of Westminster, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 15 May 201416 May 2014


ConferenceNew Perspectives on the Problem of the Public
LocationUniversity of Westminster
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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