Gatekeeping within a Networked Public Sphere - Possibility for a Better Scenario?

By: Mafalda Sandrini  

The impact of the Net on the public sphere has been at the centre of the debate among scholars from different disciplines: some have emphasised the democratic potentials of new media to increase participation within the public debate of minority groups and others have articulated the possibilities of communicative capitalism and expanded polarization of debates due to the structure of the Internet itself. By taking a meso level perspective, this study aims at drawing the main implications for gatekeeping concept within a networked public sphere, by identifying those actors who are not bridging structural holes and, therefore, creating impediments for the flow of information. Structural holes represent an opportunity for the actors who bridge them, but also for the whole network as other nodes could access information through acquaintances of third parties. This way, democracy could be fostered by overcoming networked public sphere’s fragmentation, as a pluralism of positions would be present; it is important to note that structural holes (or bridging social capital) should be combined with network closure (bonding social capital) so that innovative collaborative practices among diverse groups might arise. In order to reach this goal, a communicative approach to social capital is suggested, so that not only actors could fill structural holes, by avoiding networked gatekeeping, but meaningful communicative procedures can be implemented. Theoretical implications will be advanced on the basis of the results of a network analysis of the information flow among refugee organizations and NGOs in Germany.

Networked Gatekeeping, Networked Public Sphere, Network Analysis, Social Capital
2019 Special Focus: The Future of Democracy in the Digital Age
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Mafalda Sandrini

Research Assistant, Graduate School, Macromedia University of Applied Sciences, Germany

Born and raised in Bologna, Italy, I came to Berlin to study my master in Media and Communication Management. After I started my PhD at the Freie Universität under the Organizational Communication Department with the thesis "New Forms of Gatekeeping within a Networked Public Sphere: a Network Analysis of the Information Flow among refugees, NGOs and the German government".