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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In public relations and communication science, publics are groups of individual people, and the public (a.k.a. the general public) is the totality of such groupings.[1][2] This is a different concept to the sociological concept of the Öffentlichkeit or public sphere.[1] The concept of a public has also been defined in political science, psychology, marketing, and advertising. In public relations and communication science, it is one of the more ambiguous concepts in the field.[3] Although it has definitions in the theory of the field that have been formulated from the early 20th century onwards, it has suffered in more recent years from being blurred, as a result of conflation of the idea of a public with the notions of audience, market segment, community, constituency, and stakeholder.[4]

The name "public" originates with the Latin publicus (also poplicus), from populus, to the English word 'populace', and in general denotes some mass population ("the people") in association with some matter of common interest. So in political science and history, a public is a population of individuals in association with civic affairs, or affairs of office or state. In social psychology, marketing, and public relations, a public has a more situational definition.[5] John Dewey defined (Dewey 1927) public as a group of people who, in facing a similar problem, recognize it and organize themselves to address it. Dewey's definition of a public is thus situational: people organized about a situation. Built upon this situational definition of a public is the situational theory of publics by James E. Grunig (Grunig 1983), which talks of nonpublics (who have no problem), latent publics (who have a problem), aware publics (who recognize that they have a problem), and active publics (who do something about their problem).[6][7]

In public relations and communication theory, a public is distinct from a stakeholder or a market. A public is a subset of the set of stakeholders for an organization, that comprises those people concerned with a specific issue. Whilst a market has an exchange relationship with an organization, and is usually a passive entity that is created by the organization, a public does not necessarily have an exchange relationship, and is both self-creating and self-organizing.[8] Publics are targeted by public relations efforts. In this, target publics are those publics whose involvement is necessary for achieving organization goals; intervening publics are opinion formers and mediators, who pass information to the target publics; and influentials are publics that the target publics turn to for consultation, whose value judgements are influential upon how a target public will judge any public relations material.[6] The public is often targeted especially in regard to political agendas as their vote is necessary in order to further the progression of the cause. As seen in Massachusetts between 2003 and 2004, it was necessary to "win a critical mass of states and a critical mass of public support" in order to get same-sex marriage passed in the commonwealth.[9]

Public relations theory perspectives on publics are situational, per Dewey and Grunig; mass, where a public is simply viewed as a population of individuals; agenda-building, where a public is viewed as a condition of political involvement that is not transitory; and "homo narrans", where a public is (in the words of Gabriel M. Vasquez, assistant professor in the School of Communication at the University of Houston) a collection of "individuals that develop a group consciousness around a problematic situation and act to solve the problematic situation" (Vasquez 1993, pp. 209).[5][4] Public schools are often under controversy for their "agenda-building," especially in debates over whether to teach a religious or secular curriculum.[10] The promotion of an agenda is commonplace whenever one is in a public environment, but schools have exceptional power in that regard. In the public school system, it is the responsibility of those within the system to determine what agenda is being promoted.

One non-situational concept of a public is that of Kirk Hallahan, professor at Colorado State University, who defines a public as "a group of people who relate to an organization, who demonstrate varying degrees of activity—passivity, and who might (or might not) interact with others concerning their relationship with the organization".[4]

Samuel Mateus's 2011 paper "Public as Social Experience"[undue weight? ] considered to view the concept by an alternative point of view: the public "is neither a simple audience constituted by media consumers nor just a rational-critical agency of a Public Sphere". He argued "the concept should also be seen in the light of a publicness principle, beyond a critic and manipulative publicity (...). In accordance, the public may be regarded as the result of the social activities made by individuals sharing symbolic representations and common emotions in publicness. Seen with lower-case, the concept is a set of subjectivities who look publicly for a feeling of belonging. So, in this perspective, the public is still a fundamental notion to social life although in a different manner in comparison to 18th century Public Sphere's Public. He means above all the social textures and configurations where successive layers of social experience are built up."[11]

The general public also sets social norms which causes people to express themselves in socially acceptable manners. Although this is present within every community, this is often especially applicable within the transgender community as they feel the need to "perform" to a certain set of expectations to be seen as their true gender.[12]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Science in service to the public good | Siddhartha Roy
  • ✪ Science for Kids - The Doctors On The Street | Public Experiments | Operation Ouch
  • ✪ PG Podcast - Episode 25 - Rose Hendricks on public science communication


Translator: Leslie Gauthier Reviewer: Camille Martínez Fresh out of college, I went to work for a consulting firm. During orientation, the leaders dished out advice. Amongst them was one pithy counsel I will never forget. He told us, "Be easy to manage." Considering how naïve I really was at the time, I took his advice to heart. I told myself, "Yes, I will be the ultimate team player. I will do everything I'm told. I will be easy to manage." It wasn't until I arrived in graduate school and witnessed firsthand the criminal actions of scientists and engineers in the water crisis in Flint, Michigan that I realized how dangerous and yet surprisingly common this line of thinking really is. Make no mistake: the Flint water crisis is one of the most egregious environmental injustices of our time. For over 18 months, 100,000 residents, including thousands of young children, were exposed to contaminated drinking water with high levels of lead. Lead is a potent neurotoxin which causes cognitive and developmental disabilities and is especially harmful to growing fetuses and young children. We've known about its dangers since the Roman Empire. Amongst a whole host of health issues, 12 people died by contracting Legionnaires' disease. Flint's water infrastructure -- the complex network of underground pipes -- has been severely damaged. And while the water quality is slowly improving and the pipes are being replaced now, more than two years later, the water is still not safe to drink. So, people are still in shock. They ask themselves, "How could this have happened?" The short answer is: the crisis began when an emergency manager, appointed by Michigan's governor, decided to switch their water source to a local river to save money. But it continued for so long because scientists and engineers at government agencies in the state of Michigan and in the federal government did not follow federal regulations for treating the water right. What was more, they actively cheated on the law and orchestrated cover-ups. They ridiculed residents asking for help, while publicly insisting that the brown, smelly water coming out of the tap was safe to drink. The system at the local, state and federal levels completely failed to protect our most vulnerable, and an entire population was left to fend for itself. Now, amidst this injustice, Flint residents were rallying together. Amongst them were some amazing women of Flint -- mothers concerned about their kids -- who came together forming many grassroots coalitions, and these groups started protesting and demanding change. The group also reached out to outside scientists for help, and a few responded. Amongst them was a guy named Miguel Del Toral, a water expert at the US EPA -- the Environmental Protection Agency -- who actually wrote this scientific memo and sent it to the state of Michigan and the federal government to bring their attention to this problem. He was characterized a "rogue employee," and silenced. In collaboration with Flint residents, our research team here at Tech, of students and scientists led by professor Marc Edwards, conducted citywide testing to prove that Flint's water was indeed contaminated, even toxic in some homes. We substantiated what Flint had been screaming for months, and put it on the Internet for the world to see. Now, when I was getting involved, when I said yes to this, I had no idea what I was getting into. But every second of this journey has been totally worth it. This was science in service to the public. This is what I came to graduate school for, and this is how I would rather spend my life. And so this coalition -- this unlikely coalition of citizens, pastors, journalists and scientists -- came together to uncover the truth using science, advocacy and activism. A local pediatrician figured out that the instances of childhood lead poisoning had indeed doubled in Flint during the crisis. And the state of Michigan was forced to acknowledge the problem and take steps to correct it. This group and many others got Flint's kids protected. A few months later, President Obama came in and declared a federal emergency, and now Flint is getting more than 600 million dollars in healthcare, nutrition, education and overhauling their water infrastructure. However, the arrogance and the callous disregard for public health shown by scientists and engineers at these government agencies is beyond belief. These unhealthy cultures that are festering in these groups, where the focus is on meeting regulations and checking boxes as opposed to protecting public health, is just appalling. Just consider this email that an EPA employee wrote, where she goes, "I'm not so sure Flint is a community we want to go out on a limb for." The dehumanization of an entire population could not be more obvious. Now, contrast that to the first canon of engineering, which, in my opinion, should be the first law of humanity: "To hold paramount the health, safety and welfare of the public," above all else. This is the Hippocratic Oath we've rarely acknowledged, let alone embraced. And so when scientists and engineers, very much like medical doctors, screw up, people can get hurt -- even die. If our professionals and even students fail to get that, society pays a huge price. Buried deep in history lies a character I deeply admire -- an engineer named Peter Palchinsky. He lived in the time of the Soviet Union. And Palchinsky repeatedly got in trouble for his radical honesty and willingness to point out major flaws in the Soviets' mindless pursuit of rapid industrialization. Everyone was expected to follow orders coming from the top. Anyone asking questions or offering feedback was unwelcome. The Soviets had created the largest army of engineers the world had ever seen, and yet most of them were mere cogs in a gigantic machine heading for doom. Palchinsky, on the other hand, implored engineers to look at the economic, political and social consequences of their actions; in other words, be more public-focused. His fearless voice of reason was seen as a threat to the political establishment, and Joseph Stalin had him executed in 1929. Palchinsky's view on technocrats is very different from one that is still very popular, still very common -- that of a dispassionate researcher working in his ivory tower lab, or a nerdy engineer working in his cubicle. Brilliant, no doubt, yet somehow cut off from the world, shows little emotion -- kind of like Spock from "Star Trek," you know? This guy. (Laughter) Let's try and do the Spock salute. I don't think I'll succeed ... See, I can't be Spock. Thank goodness I can't be Spock. (Laughter) I was reminded of this distinction because a recent article came out in a very reputed scientific journal, which kind of characterized our Flint work as driven by "youthful idealism," and "Hollywood's dramatic sensibilities." It asks scientists to protect their research funding and institutions at all costs, no matter how just the cause. And if you think you have to get involved in something, even if it's an emergency, try finding an activist group or an NGO, and obtain the full support of the academic community -- whatever that means -- before you get involved. Not one mention of our moral and professional obligation of preventing harm to the public, or the fact that we have all this expertise, resources and, for some, even tenure to, you know, accomplish this task. I'm not saying every scientist should be an activist. There are real and sometimes very painful consequences of speaking up. But to denounce this idea, this possibility so completely so that you can protect research funding, simply screams of self-serving cowardice, and these are not the ideals we would want to pass to our students. And so you may think, "OK, all this sounds great, but you'll never completely change organizational cultures, or imbibe mindsets in students and professionals to look at their work as a public good -- science in service to the public." Maybe so. But could a big reason for that be that we are not training our students right? Because if you look closely, our education system today is focused more on creating what ex-Yale professor Bill Deresiewicz calls "excellent sheep" -- young people who are smart and ambitious, and yet somehow risk-averse, timid, directionless and, sometimes, full of themselves. Now, kids ... you know, we fell in love with science when we were kids, and yet we somehow spend most of our time during high school and college just jumping through hoops and doing things so that we can polish our résumé instead of sitting down and reflecting on what we want to do and who we want to be. And so, the markers of empathy in our college graduates have been dropping dramatically in the past two decades, while those of narcissism are on the rise. There is also a growing culture of disengagement between engineering students and the public. We are trained to build bridges and solve complex problems but not how to think or live or be a citizen of this world. My undergraduate years were explicit job preparation, and I cannot tell you how suffocating and painful it was at times. And so, some people think the solution to great engineers, to great scientists, is more technical training. Maybe so. But where are the discussions on ethical decision-making, or building character, or discerning right from wrong? Consider this project that I deeply love and admire. It's called, "Heroic Imagination Project." A brainchild of Dr. Phil Zimbardo, famous for the Stanford Prison Experiment, this program seeks to train school-going children around the world to look at themselves as heroes-in-waiting, or heroes-in-training. So, these young minds work over time to develop skills and virtues so that when the opportunity comes, no matter what that opportunity be, to stand up and do the right thing. In other words, anyone can be a hero. Think about that idea for a second. Why don't we teach science and engineering like that -- where heroism and public service are seen as key values, because indeed, it's often heroism that is not only the antidote to public indifference, but also to systemic evil like we saw in Flint. And so, dream with me what a 21st-century scientist slash engineer could look like: individuals who are driven to master the sciences so that they can serve society, and are also aware of the tremendous power their knowledge and decisions have; folks who are developing their moral courage at all times, and who realize that conflict and controversy are not necessarily bad things if our ultimate loyalty is to the public and the planet. These are the people who will stand up like we did in Flint -- not to be saviors or heroes in the media, but altruistic and fundamentally good actors that you and I can trust. Imagine fostering such a public-focused mindset in classes, on service trips and during activities during college or even high school, so that these young minds will hold onto those ideals when they actually enter the real world, whether that be consulting, academia, policy making -- or even becoming the president of a country. Some of mankind's greatest challenges lie ahead of us; contaminated drinking water is just one example. We could definitely use more -- nay, we desperately need more -- compassionate upstanders and public-focused scientists and engineers who will strive to the do right thing, and not be easy to manage. Thank you. (Applause)


Social publics

Social publics are groups of people united by common ideas, ideology, or hobbies.

Networked publics are social publics which have been socially restructured by the networking of technologies. As such, they are simultaneously both (1) the space constructed through networked technologies and (2) the imagined collective which consequently emerges as a result of the intersection of human persons, shared technologies, and their practices.[13]


  1. ^ a b Heath 2005, pp. 707.
  2. ^ Rawlins & Bowen 2005, pp. 718.
  3. ^ Vasquez & Taylor 2001, pp. 139.
  4. ^ a b c Jahanzsoozi 2006, pp. 65.
  5. ^ a b Vasquez & Taylor 2001, pp. 140.
  6. ^ a b Rawlins & Bowen 2005, pp. 720–721.
  7. ^ Toth 2006, pp. 506–507.
  8. ^ Rawlins & Bowen 2005, pp. 721.
  9. ^ Denise Lavote (November 16, 2013). "A Decade After Massachusetts' Landmark Gay Marriage Ruling, The Gains Are Clear". Huff Post Politics. Archived from the original on 2013-11-19. Retrieved 2013-11-17.
  10. ^ Shorto, Russell (February 11, 2010). "How Christian Were the Founders?". The New York Times Magazine. Archived from the original on December 30, 2017. Retrieved May 6, 2018 – via
  11. ^ Mateus, Samuel (2011). "The Public as Social Experience". Comunicação e Sociedade. 19: 275–286.
  12. ^ "TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly" (PDF). Duke University Press. May 2014.
  13. ^ Varnelis, Kazys (October 31, 2008). "Networked Publics". MIT Press. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017.


  • Heath, Robert Lawrence, ed. (2005). "Public sphere (Öffentlichkeit)". Encyclopedia of public relations. 2. SAGE. ISBN 978-0-7619-2733-4.
  • Jahanzsoozi, Julia (2006). "Relationships, Transparency, and Evaluation: The Implications for Public Relations". In L'Etang, Jacquie; Pieczka, Magda (eds.). Public relations: critical debates and contemporary practice. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-8058-4618-8.
  • Rawlins, Brad L.; Bowen, Shannon A. (2005). "Publics". In Heath, Robert Lawrence (ed.). Encyclopedia of public relations. 2. SAGE. ISBN 978-0-7619-2733-4.
  • Toth, Elizabeth L. (2006). "Building Public Affairs Theory". In Botan, Carl H.; Hazleton, Vincent (eds.). Public relations theory II. LEA's communication series. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-8058-3384-3.
  • Vasquez, Gabriel M.; Taylor, Maureen (2001). "Research perspectives on "the Public"". In Heath, Robert Lawrence; Vasquez, Gabriel M. (eds.). Handbook of public relations. SAGE. ISBN 978-0-7619-1286-6.

Further reading

  • Dewey, John (1927). The public and Its Problems. Chicago: Swallow Press.
  • Grunig, James E. (1983). Communications behaviours and attitudes of environmental publics: Two studies. Journalism Monographs. 81. Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Publications.
  • Vasquez, Gabriel M. (1993). "A Homo Narrens Paradigm for Public Relations: Combining Bormann's Symbolic Convergence Theory and Grunig's Situational Theory of Publics". Journal of Public Relations Research. 5: 201–216.
  • Hannay, Alastair (2005) On the Public Routledge ISBN 0-415-32792-X
  • Kierkegaard, Søren (2002) A Literary Review; Alastair Hannay (trans.) London: Penguin ISBN 0-14-044801-2
  • Lippmann, Walter. The Phantom Public (Library of Conservative Thought), Transaction Publishers; Reprint edition, January 1, 1993, ISBN 1-56000-677-3.
  • Mayhew, Leon H. The New Public: Professional Communication and the Means of Social Influence, (Cambridge Cultural Social Studies), Cambridge University Press, September 28, 1997, ISBN 0-521-48493-6.
  • Sennett, Richard. The Fall of Public Man W. W. Norton & Company; Reissue edition, June 1992, ISBN 0-393-30879-0.

External links

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