Publics are, argued Latour, not a singular pregiven entity (‘The Public’) that we can assume to simply exist, ready to be consulted when, and if needed, but an entity whose visibility is variable and intermittent: blinking into view only when, and if, the lighthouse beam of a controversy falls on them, or to use a different metaphor, when finding themselves entangled within one. And we should be careful, continued Latour, to assume that these publics are necessarily the same as those who are spoken for, whether by governments, companies, activists and NGOs. Because publics ‘blink on’, only when a particular controversy escapes the ability of these very spokespersons to adequately resolve them. Part of our job as researchers becomes to remain attentive to the ‘coarse signs’ that signal towards the existence of, or transformations in these controversies.
What consequences might this apparently abstract debate have for the objects we study?
I came across this question while following a google alert on Latour, where a blog posting by Joe Deville provoked some thinking on my part. Performed identity is an area i have been attending to recently. Seems a youth culture is one of these blinking entanglements.
In looking at young people's use of mobile technologies for counselling, it becomes easy to say that x is part of youth culture... and that use of x is part of a young person's identity... is it a bit like saying the landline is a part of a middle aged culture and shapes the identity of middle aged people?
We are shaped in association.
And its also going to be messier than that, as not all young people, middle aged people all do the same things...and they/we dont do it all the time.
ps. I am wanting to read a transcript or listen to an audiofile of Bruno Latours address on The changing dynamics of public controversies, if you know of a link, please leave it here...thanks in anticipation :D