Datafication of Public Opinion and the Public Sphere

Datafication of Public Opinion and the Public Sphere

How Extraction Replaced Expression of Opinion

By Slavko Splichal

The book, anchored in stimulating debates about the enlightenment ideas of publicness, analyses historical changes in the core phenomena of publicness: possibilities, conditions and obstacles to developing a public sphere in which publics create, articulate and express public opinion by means of reflexive publicity within an established democratic public culture.

PDF, 250 Pages


July 2022

£25.00, $40.00

EPUB, 250 Pages


July 2022

£25.00, $40.00

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
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  • Podcasts

About This Book

The book, anchored in stimulating debates on enlightenment ideas of the public that culminated and ended in the early 20th century, focuses on historical changes in the core phenomena of publicness: possibilities, conditions and obstacles to developing a public sphere in which publics create, articulate and express public opinion by means of reflexive publicity within an established democratic public culture. Specifically, it is focused on three central topics:

  • a general historical transformation from “opining” – essentially some people’s view of what “the public” thought – through the identification of “public opinion” in opinion polls, up to the contemporary establishment of “what people think/want” using computer-based analysis of the big data available from digital records, in which the enlightenment idea of public expression of opinion has been replaced by the technology of extracting opinions; 
  • the origins and consequences, and the similarities and differences of the rise and fall of two related concepts – public opinion and the public sphere – in historically particular periods, which have in common that they both lie in the boundary area between normative-theoretical and empirical orientation and suffer from unreliable definition and operationalization, which can only be resolved by a closer connection between the two concepts and areas.
  • a specific historical intervention created by the domestication of the German concept Öffenntlichkeit in English as “the public sphere,” heralding a new critical impetus in theory and research of publicness at a time when critical social thought sharply criticised and even abandoned the notion of public opinion due to its predominantly administrative use.

The book seeks to transcend the division into normative-critical theoretical conceptualisation and “constructive” empirical application in the social sciences to show how critical theory can be empirically applicable and empirical research normatively constructive, and to demonstrate the need for greater connectivity between them. 


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Author Information

Slavko Splichal is Professor of Communication and Public Opinion at the University of Ljubljana’s Faculty of Social Sciences, fellow of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts and member of Academia Europaea. He is founder and director of the European Institute for Communication and Culture and editor of its journal Javnost – The Public


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Table of Contents

Introduction; The Rise of Public Opinion as “The Voice of a People”; Radical Beginnings; Seeds of Doubt; Conceptual Challenges and Controversies in Sociology and Political Science; Quantification of Public Opinion and the Disempowerment of the Public; The Quantitative Revolution in Social Sciences; Polling: Operationalisation, Emanation or Negation of Public Opinion?; The “Curse of Translation”: The Invisible Becomes Visible; Re-Emergence of Publicness in “The Public Sphere”; Conceptual Controversies Over the Public Sphere; The Complexity of Publicness: Öffentlichkeit Vs. the Public Sphere; The Deliberative Turn in the Public Sphere and the Loss of the Public; Antagonists, Agonists, Mini-Publics and Publics as Actors in the Public Sphere; Datafication of the Public Sphere and Threats to Publicness; The Rise of Opinion Mining; Opinion Mining Vs. Polling; Digitisation and Algorithmisation of Communication; Critical Epistemic Value of Publicness and Public-Worthiness; The Importance of News and Socialisation of Journalism; From Newsworthiness to Public-Worthiness; Rearticulating the Critical Epistemic Value of Publicness: VARMIL; References; Index.


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