From Publics to Communities: Researching the Path of Shared Issues Through ICT
In recent years, citizens’ movements such as the Arab Spring or Euromaidan protests have clearly shown that, whenever affected – whether negatively or positively – by the state and government decisions, citizens act to deal with the shared issues. Groups of people who organize themselves to address (mainly political) issues were defined as a ‘public’ by the philosopher John Dewey. He believed it is necessary to improve communication to create a ‘Great Community’ as a cohesive group of a public. Although information and communication technologies (ICT) lead to ambivalent effects on pursuing this goal and often distract the mass of people from discussing these issues, we argue that nowadays ICT can improve communication and has the potential to foster the detection of issues and therefore promote the (trans-)formation of a public into an issue-based community. As our foundation we took a literature study covering the formation of publics and their potential to evolve into communities, as well as their interplay with technology. This formed the basis for the development of our operational model that ‘follows the issues’ for capturing the (trans-)formation of a public. Based on our model, we outline different perspectives on detecting shared issues as early indicators for publics based on ICT and derive implications for researching this process from a practical perspective.