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After the Silence

I spent yesterday in my office, behind a closed door, listening to music through noise-cancelling headphones. Reading Habermas, on the disintegration of the public sphere. Unable to admit anything else about the day.

It’s hard to get going again, today. There are classes to be taught (one on Habermas, of course), conferences to be held, meetings to attend. But the difficulty in re-emergence has made me start wondering whether the disintegration of the public sphere that Habermas so lamented has less (or less than he thought) to do with the media’s co-opting of public discourse, and its transformation of all of us into passive consumers of same, than with our flight from the media’s excesses into varying modes of silence.

I don’t want to fall into a species of empty net-boosterism, a new blogosphere version of the same old kinds of “the internet is the new agora!” metaphorizing that so populated the early nineties. Nonetheless, there’s a reason that such metaphors — particularly the internet as virtual café — took hold; there’s a power in the sense that we can both retreat from the mainstream media’s noise into a space of silence and nonetheless find the signals of like-minded thinkers with whom we can commune.

All this by way of saying, to those of you who did find the words to post yesterday: Thank you. You helped me tremendously.


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