This review surveys the literature on publics: political subjects that know themselves and act by means of mass-mediated communication. It examines classic accounts of how publics form through interlocking modes of social interaction, as well as the forms of social interaction that publics have been defined against. It also addresses recent work that has sought to account for contradictions within theories of the public sphere and to develop alternative understandings of public culture. Historical and ethnographic research on this topic reveals that some concept of publicity is foundational for a number of theories of self-determination, but that the subject of publicity is irrevocably enmeshed in the very technological, linguistic, and conceptual means of its own self-production. Research on publics is valuable because it has focused on this paradox of mediation at the center of modern political life.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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