Overhearing in the Public Sphere: An Introduction

To skip this introduction and go directly to read Daniel Dayan’s In-Depth Analysis, “Overhearing in the Public Sphere,” click here.

Daniel Dayan in today’s “In-Depth” post considers overhearing on a global scale. He investigates a simple formula: overhearing + global media = public crisis. He starts with a little anecdote, a personal experience at an academic conference in Sweden, and uses the anecdote to open an examination of major challenges of our times: differentiating, maintaining and then connecting public spheres, which resist the twin dangers of fragmentation from within, and global confusion. As usual, his is an elegant and provocative inquiry.

I find particularly illuminating his concise definition of the public sphere: “a conversation between a given nation- state and the corresponding civil society, with central media connecting centers and peripheries,” along with his expansive discussion of how such spheres operate. He analyzes how such spheres are de-stabilized, and how they are interrupted, how overhearing and intruding have become a normal in global public life promising a more universal public, but delivering moral spectacles. Reflecting on the case of Gerard Depardieu and his relationship with Vladimir Putin, and on the WikiLeaks dump, Dayan warns of the dangers of irrational spectacle in the world of normalized overhearing and intrusion, and he notes the illuminating transparency of things near and far lead to unintended tragic effects.

And note how Dayan’s opening story presents a concrete compact rendering of his global diagnosis. I will respond to this in my next post.

To read Daniel Dayan’s In-Depth Analysis, “Overhearing in the Public Sphere,” click here.