The political scientist reflects on the historical role of public squares, the changes in our societies and the possibilities of Internet as a public sphere.
The political scientist Peter Wagner talked to Shared Spaces” on March 2015, after he gave a lecture on “Progress and Modernity” at the Centre for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB). Wagner places squares as the historically most relevant spaces for a public sphere to exist. He puts the example the squares of the Italian city-republics of the renaissance period, which have a layout that “is meant to encourage interaction between the human beings that use the square”.
Nevertheless, the Professor also reflects on how, due to societal change, such squares have today lost their capacity to be the nest of a true public sphere, and challenges us to find “other spaces in our society which can have a similar effect than these old historical spaces”. In that sense, Wagner finds that internet “is a very particular public space, which has problematic and positive features at the same time”. Whereas internet has obvious enabling capacities for communication and information exchange at long distances and high speed, it also falls short of being a sphere to host close encounters between individuals in a continuous, single interaction.
His favourite public space is the public library of Gràcia neighbourhood in Barcelona, where he is currently based. The library is a non-commercial share space where people find each other in the activities of “reading, writing, exchanging information, while they are creating this kind of public sphere among them.”