Ellee Seymour sent me a link to a post at Smart Mobs: Habermas blows off question about the Internet and the Public Sphere. Although I support critical reflection on the relevance of an author’s work in respect of new areas, it feels churlish to make personal remarks against Habermas at the age of 77 for not engaging with the implications of new media in this way.
We need to take the opportunity ourselves to develop the ideas of others and undertake new thinking and critical examination. There are many such opportunities in the worlds of public relations – indeed, being able to add to existing knowledge is one of the advantages of being interested in a fairly new discipline.
Although it would be interesting to to gain insight from authors such as Habermas who are still active thinkers, it would be even better to go back in history and seek the views of those who challenged the world with their original ideas many decades or centuries past.
If you could travel back in time, like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures, and ask any earlier thinker for their views on modern public relations – who would you choose?
For me, the problem is that most of the “founding fathers” are of their time – video of Bernays in the Century of the Self reveals him not to be someone I would much like. However, I would be interested in meeting the Scottish documentary film maker, John Grierson, who studied mass media’s influence on public opinion in the early part of the 20th century.
His creation of film units for the Empire Marketing Board and the Post Office used the new medium to great effect. I like to think that such pioneers would expect us to be doing the same thing with the new communications means we have available. But, I fear they would be disappointed by the efforts of most modern communicators to produce work of the quality that was evidenced by Grierson.