Emotions in the Public Sphere: Networked Solidarity, Technology and Social Ties

  • Emiliana De BlasioEmail author
  • Donatella Selva


The theoretical framework that lies behind the concept of emotional public sphere has been built in dialectic: indeed, the accent on the role of emotions in public discourse, politics and media was born with a polemic intent. Studying the emotional public sphere requires to recollect ideas on social ties, community and solidarity that seem dispersed by the hegemony of individualism and the rise of the network society. Loose ties and flexible practices of belonging run hand by hand with fragmentation and radicalisation of publics. In such a context, the attention has been shifted from community bonds to intimate relationships as key feature to define personal identity. Hence, emotions acquire a main role in the process of integration and disintegration of social ties, with important consequences on social trust and cohesion. This chapter will provide a literature review on the role of emotions in four models of the public sphere (liberal, participatory, deliberative and constructionist), showing how the literature focusing on the interplay among emotions, public sphere and popular culture is well-rooted. It will then explore the role of social media in the public sphere, highlighting the most recent accounts. From the one side, a large amount of studies emphasises the role of emotions in personal relations via social media; from the other side, when the interest on emotions shifts from personal to public interactions on social media, issues of fragmentation, polarisation, and populism emerge, providing a pessimist picture on the emotionalisation of the public sphere. On the contrary, the chapter fills a gap in the literature on the emotional public sphere by addressing the relationship between social media and solidarity. In order to reach this goal, an original theoretical framework is provided as a contribution to investigate the emerging field of networked solidarity. Theoretical accounts are illustrated through the analysis of cases of emotional clicktivism, affective publics, solidarity movements and networked solidarity, examining the role of algorithms and technology in shaping the expression of solidarity in the network society.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Luiss UniversityRomeItaly

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