Politics, Civil Society and Participation: Media and Communications in a Transforming Environment

Title chapter: Free speech at an intersection. Notes on the contemporary hybrid public sphere
Author: Risto Kunelius
Keywords: free speech, hybridity, public sphere, privacy, security, climate change, social imaginaries
Abstract: This essay starts from the assumption that the notion of hybridity has become an increasingly influential part of the way we think about our societies. The chapter then asks: What are the consequences and lessons of this ascending “social imaginary” for our debates about free speech? This question is reflected on by taking a concrete, contingent moment in Paris, in December 2015 as a starting point. It offers an example of an intersection where terrorism, security and civic action for global climate change management came together. The chapter suggests that, in addition to the current boom of analyses of institutional and technological hybridization, understanding the challenges to free speech (and free speech theory) calls for more attention to be paid to the political dimension of hybridization in the globalizing contexts of conflicts. Some pressing challenges to uses of free speech in the context of politically hybrid problems are then suggested. Drawing from the example, such challenges relate, for instance, to the intersection of multiculturalism and security, the validity of evidence and witnessing, and the tension between the ideals and the material conditions of privacy.
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