Our project’s research will deepen understanding of how the epistemic, self-government and privacy principles should shape a liberal public sphere, of the contemporary relations between these principles (e.g. of what epistemic standards must be attained for proper self-government today), and of how they can be operationalised in the internet age to deliver political legitimacy. Our focus is on the UK context, with its specific combination of ‘old’ and ‘new’ media, its rapidly changing regulatory and cultural norms, and the inclusions, exclusions and accountability relations these encompass. The emerging shape of the new public sphere, with its multiple benefits and costs, makes it difficult for involved practitioners to see what values should guide new media regulatory and policy proposals, and to develop appropriate new professional roles. We will use our philosophical work to address these problems: we will develop norms that will guide new regulation, policy and roles in order to allow the new public sphere to deliver democratic legitimacy.
Practitioners who will benefit from our proposals include:
– media and journalism professionals
– policy-makers and regulators
– civil society actors including NGOs and activists
– legal professionals
We will create differentiated proposals for these groups by focusing on:
- developing guidelines for regulatory proposals (or proposals against regulation) for use by policy-makers, regulators and civil society activitists;
- developing critical understanding of old and new media roles, with their defining duties and ideals (e.g. ‘investigative journalist’, ‘content curator’) for new media/journalism professionals;
- developing guidelines on the values and norms entailed by our epistemic, self-government and privacy principles for politicians and legal professionals who can shape a national media policy framework.
In each case we will use our philosophical research to underpin a set of high-level norms that different specialist practitioners can develop in different directions. We will not offer detailed proposals for precise regulatory frameworks or new public or private bodies, but nor will our recommendations be too abstract to be operationalized.
We will involve all potential users in development of the proposals: through participation as equal partners with academic researchers in six research workshops, through a dedicated Project Launch and a Practitioner Event, and through full involvement of our expert advisory board. The result will be a networked group of interested practitioners who will both help generate the project’s outputs and benefit from and publicise them (see Pathways to Impact). We will use our network of participant practitioners to disseminate our proposals widely beyond the group, and in doing so we will make full use of our Project Partner, Doteveryone and their blog, of our advisory board and of the project website. We will produce professional brochures outlining our proposals. To engage time-poor politicians, we will involve them primarily at the conclusion, in Policy Paper Launches planned for the Houses of Parliament and the Scottish Parliament (arranged in consultation with our advisory board member, Baroness Onora O’Neill, and current Stirling visiting professor, Lord Jack McConnell).
Several policy initiatives have recently been launched in this area. However, they tend to focus on immediate legal and regulatory challenges, such as how to enforce the responsibilities of news publishers on digital intermediaries like Facebook. In our view, these challenges demand more profound philosophical reflection. By interrogating the epistemic and ethical concepts that underpin the policy framework, we aim to generate recommendations with greater legitimacy and lasting value. Complementing our targeted impact activities and policy papers, the project’s major academic outputs will be written in a non-technical, accessible style.