According to Papacharissi, the Internet possesses characteristics, such as an infrastructure that supports unlimited and unregulated discourse among users regardless of geographical and political boundaries, which would indicate that it reflects the attributes of a public sphere. However, in Habermas’ perspective, this may not be possible if the public sphere is in the presence of commercialization and media conglomerates that compromise and taint the public discourse by their intentions behind advertising and public relations. Furthermore, these media conglomerates and private entities on the Internet do not emanate the public sphere in relation to access to information, reciprocity of communication, and commercialization of the online space. Paracharissi argued that greater access to information does not necessarily result in greater participation, political engagement, or trust and creates an illusion that activity is involvement. Though this finding may have been the general consensus on a global scale, the concept of greater access for greater participation worked for President Obama during his presidential campaign that used social networking sites and several new media platforms to garner followers (Talbot, 2008). Furthermore, Paracharissi discussed that reciprocity does not occur on the Internet because the two-way communication on shared interests do not assure trust among users. Although this may be true to some extent, the notion of democracy entitles people to disagree with another and strive to reach more reasonable and efficient solutions. In regards to commercialization, the author proclaimed that “the internet has gradually transitioned into an online multi-shopping mall and less of a deliberative space, which influences the orientation of digital political discussion”. The desire for profit by media powerhouses explains the existence of commercialization within the Internet and the numerous collaborations over the last 30 years (Hesmondalgh, 2007). The media conglomerates may bring about the platforms and technologies that construct a public space though not necessarily a public sphere.
It is determined that the Internet does not replicate the public sphere model when considering access to information, reciprocity of communication, and commercialization of the online space. However, the Internet has created trends of civic narcissism, selective usage, and a hybrid of commercial and private spaces. Civic narcissism, in which blogs and vlogs are considered to be a form of, engages in introspection and self-absorption through the reflection of one’s ideas and opinions. Although blogs can span from personal diaries to more mainstream ones, the effect of their publications can lead to more awareness on a particular topic. Because these blogs and vlogs possess the potential to voice opinions and be heard by many, the concept of “produsage” is transpiring media consumers to become media producers (Bruns, 2008). The Internet allows its users to share their opinions, and seek information and entertainment, and media conglomerates to put forth those services with their financial objectives. Paracharissi stated that the selectivity of media and content does not adhere to the Habermasian notion of a public sphere promoting democracy because of the inability to interest certain groups, such as a young American generation aloof toward politics. This inability could potentially be solved by allowing a more two-directional channel for feedback and mutual communication. Furthermore, perhaps the basis of selectivity of certain media platforms over technologies is a sign of democracy in choosing what is relevant to oneself. The concepts of target marketing and the segmentation of consumers embrace customization and personalization rather than mass production (Turow, 2005), which can be liberating and democratic for consumers. Lastly, the hybrid of commercial and private spaces has emerged through media conglomerates’ recognition of the changing market and audience structure and their demands for receiving and producing content. According to Papacharissi, media scholars view consider the transition of public spaces to commercial spaces as a compromise to democracy as media conglomerates continue to collaborate with each other. However, a hybrid of commercial and public spaces may cater to audience demand and create a more efficient structure of sharing content. These hybrids include Hulu with providing videos of past content or YouTube with political satires. The hybrid may not reflect a public sphere but it does reflect the public’s desire for discussion and sharing.