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Asylum Politics, the Internet and the Public Sphere: UK Refugee Support Groups Online
Unformatted Document Text:  12 A Return to Theory: The Internet and (Asylum) Politics Through looking at the publics addressed by the refugee support websites, and the ways in which they are addressed, we have seen the medium’s contribution to efficiency in communication, publicity and, through these, to the construction of a ‘common world’. Bringing all the threads together, this section returns to the theory of the public sphere, and attempts to gauge the implications of the current findings for the Internet and politics relationship, as well as for the application of the public sphere theory onto the Internet. The following table provides a summary for the findings. We can see that there are three publics addressed, in a multitude of ways, thereby suggesting a range of Internet uses. TABLE 1: A Summary of Findings Publics General Public Specialist Public Refugee Public Mission statement/about us Legal info for lawyers/ advisers Legal information/advice to refugees (in various languages) Information/news on asylum/faqs/’facts and figures’/media myths Country reports/info on other groups/job offers to advisers/other support groups News of interest/relevance to asylum seekers Expressive/aesthetic aspect: poems, photos, diaries, stories etc. Educational material for schools Information on funds, housing etc to refugee community organisations Invitations to participate/donate money/get involved Academic studies to researchers/academics Offering for sale published material Political position taking for government/policymakers/other refugee groups Type / Form of Information Mass media/press releases Internet contribution/use Amplification of groups’ voice/ Simultaneous dissemination of various publicities/ Efficiency Efficiency/ Publicity: making public, publishing, advertising/ Creating a ‘common world’ Efficiency in terms of reach and diffusion/Creating a ‘common world’/’Gathering’ and empowering a marginalized group If we were to apply the criteria for the proper functioning of the public sphere and through it for a deliberative democratic politics, we can see that only one of the above combinations fits: the general public, but only when it is addressed through the ‘facts and figures’ type of information. Only here can one discern the existence of a critical public, prepared to change its position on the basis of the critical publicity offered to it. The other types of publicity appear to be of the representational type, or at least ‘managed’, in the sense of being contrived for the purposes of appealing to the public’s compassion (and not reason); they also have more apparent ‘show’ qualities in the form of exhibiting poems, pictures, stories and so on: in this case, the public is supposed to, or expected to, ‘consume’ the contents of this publicity – and not, at least in the first instance, critically apprehend them. Moreover, in addressing the public of specialists, and in giving practical advice to refugees, the communications encountered online do not appear to be of the communicative action type. First, they are clearly aimed towards success, or the achievement of certain goals. In addressing other refugee groups, such communications are of the instrumental type, in that they are associated with the ‘task

Authors: Siapera, Eugenia.
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12
A Return to Theory: The Internet and (Asylum) Politics
Through looking at the publics addressed by the refugee support websites, and the ways in
which they are addressed, we have seen the medium’s contribution to efficiency in communication,
publicity and, through these, to the construction of a ‘common world’. Bringing all the threads together,
this section returns to the theory of the public sphere, and attempts to gauge the implications of the
current findings for the Internet and politics relationship, as well as for the application of the public
sphere theory onto the Internet. The following table provides a summary for the findings. We can see
that there are three publics addressed, in a multitude of ways, thereby suggesting a range of Internet
uses.
TABLE 1: A Summary of Findings

Publics
General Public
Specialist Public
Refugee Public
Mission statement/about
us
Legal info for lawyers/ advisers
Legal information/advice
to refugees (in various
languages)
Information/news on
asylum/faqs/’facts and
figures’/media myths
Country reports/info on other groups/job
offers to advisers/other support groups
News of
interest/relevance to
asylum seekers
Expressive/aesthetic
aspect: poems, photos,
diaries, stories etc.
Educational material for schools
Information on funds,
housing etc to refugee
community
organisations
Invitations to
participate/donate
money/get involved
Academic studies to
researchers/academics
Offering for sale published material
Political position taking for
government/policymakers/other refugee
groups
Type / Form of
Information
Mass media/press releases
Internet
contribution/use
Amplification of groups’
voice/
Simultaneous
dissemination of
various publicities/
Efficiency
Efficiency/
Publicity: making public, publishing,
advertising/
Creating a ‘common world’
Efficiency in terms of
reach and
diffusion/Creating a
‘common
world’/’Gathering’ and
empowering a
marginalized group
If we were to apply the criteria for the proper functioning of the public sphere and through it for
a deliberative democratic politics, we can see that only one of the above combinations fits: the general
public, but only when it is addressed through the ‘facts and figures’ type of information. Only here can
one discern the existence of a critical public, prepared to change its position on the basis of the critical
publicity offered to it. The other types of publicity appear to be of the representational type, or at least
‘managed’, in the sense of being contrived for the purposes of appealing to the public’s compassion
(and not reason); they also have more apparent ‘show’ qualities in the form of exhibiting poems,
pictures, stories and so on: in this case, the public is supposed to, or expected to, ‘consume’ the
contents of this publicity – and not, at least in the first instance, critically apprehend them.
Moreover, in addressing the public of specialists, and in giving practical advice to refugees, the
communications encountered online do not appear to be of the communicative action type. First, they
are clearly aimed towards success, or the achievement of certain goals. In addressing other refugee
groups, such communications are of the instrumental type, in that they are associated with the ‘task


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