On a Potential Paradox of a Public Service Internet

  • Elisabeth Korn University of Television and Film Munich
  • Jens Schröter Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Keywords: digital capitalism, late capitalism, deliberative democracy, audience democracy, mass media, alternative Internet, Public Service Internet, technology, Habermas


Digital capitalism undermines deliberative democracy. This is the diagnosis arrived at by The Public Service Media and Public Service Internet Manifesto (2021), edited by Christian Fuchs and Klaus Unterberger, and Jürgen Habermas’ A New Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere and Deliberative Politics (2023). They condemn the commercial Internet as a deformation of the public sphere and conclude that it needs to be fundamentally restructured. Interestingly, both texts propose to restructure it after the template of broadcasting media. We seek to challenge this approach from a media-political perspective, arguing that it revives an elapsed version of democracy by rekindling the mass media paradigm to which it was bound. Both texts are implicitly based on the assumption that a technology that emerged in capitalism can be used for different, even contradictory, purposes. But what if the media structure of digital communication, irrespective of who owns or controls it, denies its democratic instrumentalisation?

Author Biographies

Elisabeth Korn, University of Television and Film Munich

Elisabeth Korn is a research assistant for Media Studies at the University of Television and Film Munich. After a BA and MA in English Philology and Film Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin and the Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris III as well as an MA in Critical Theory at King’s College London, she is now a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Bonn. Her research focusses on the intersection of labour and image theories after the 1960s.

Jens Schröter, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

Jens Schröter is Chair for Media Studies at the University of Bonn since 2015. Since 4/2018 director (together with Anja Stöffler, Mainz) of the DFG-research project “Van Gogh TV. Critical Edition, Multimedia-documentation and analysis of their Estate” (3 years). Since 10/2018 speaker of the research project (VW foundation; together with Prof. Dr. Gabriele Gramelsberger; Dr. Stefan Meretz; Dr. Hanno Pahl and Dr. Manuel Scholz-Wäckerle) “Society after Money – A Simulation” (4 years). Director (together with Prof. Dr. Anna Echterhölter; PD Dr. Sudmann and Prof. Dr. Alexander Waibel) of the VW-Main Grant “How is Artificial Intelligence Changing Science?” (Start: 1.8.2022, 4 Years); April/May 2014: “John von Neumann”-fellowship at the University of Szeged, Hungary. September 2014: Guest Professor, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China. Winter 2014/15: Senior-fellowship at the research group “Media Cultures of Computer Simulation”. Summer 2017: Senior-fellowship IFK Vienna, Austria. Winter 2018: Senior-fellowship IKKM Weimar. Winter 2021/22: Fellowship, Center of Advanced Internet Studies. Recent publications: Medien und Ökonomie, Wiesbaden: Springer 2019; (together with Christoph Ernst): Media Futures. Theory and Aesthetics, Basingstoke: Palgrave 2021. Visit www.medienkulturwissenschaft-bonn.de / www.theorie-der-medien.de / www.fanhsiu-kadesch.de.

Critical Persp. on Dig. Cap. 4: Democracy, Public Sphere and Digital Capitalism