Public listening, online and offline – what the public sphere needs?
February 27th, 2009

Another student from my digital journalism class, Anthony Weeks, has written a provocative post about the role of “public listening” in general, and in the online public sphere:

While I have said that public listening is less an act and more a credo, there are several examples of public listening in action that are worthy of consideration. The examples demonstrate that listening can be an end, as well as a means. Moreover, the very act of listening, in a public way, is an active, engaged, and motivated process, not just a passive default because of the lack of something useful to say. The listening allows “everyperson” to be the author, and the listeners become the channel or medium through which the “everyperson’s” content is broadcast.

Public Listening Project

Begun in 2002, in the buildup to the war in Iraq, two friends—Dan Iacovella and Trey van Nostrand—developed the revolutionary idea that citizens needed a forum in which to express their thoughts and beliefs, without judgment or condemnation. As a team, they ventured out to the commuter train station, each clad in a t-shirt bearing a provocative question. One wore a t-shirt that read “What’s your opinion?”, and the other wore a t-shirt with the question of the day (like “Should we have gone to war in Iraq?”). Citizens of all political parties, beliefs, and opinions were welcome to come up to Dan and Trey to express their views. What did Dan and Trey do, in response? They listened.

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