By John Keane

We are living in a progressive age of communicative abundance within which many media strategies - from satellite tv for pc broadcasting to shrewdpermanent glasses and digital books - spawn nice fascination combined with pleasure. within the box of politics, hopeful speak of electronic democracy, cybercitizens and e-government has been flourishing. This booklet admits the numerous exciting ways in which communicative abundance is essentially changing the contours of our lives and of our politics, usually for the higher. however it asks even if too little recognition has been paid to the troubling counter-trends, the decadent media advancements that inspire public silence and concentrations of limitless strength, so weakening the spirit and substance of democracy. Exploring examples of shrewdpermanent executive surveillance, marketplace censorship, spin strategies and back-channel public kin, John Keane seeks to appreciate and clarify those developments, and the way most sensible to house them. Tackling a few difficult yet monstrous and fateful questions, Keane argues that 'media decadence' is deeply destructive for public existence.

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Thanks to the communications revolution of our time, the private-public distinction is regarded instead as a precious, but ambivalent, inheritance from former times. The sphere of 'the private' is seen as a fragile 'temporary resting place'52 that usefully serves as a refuge from interference by others, but that can function just as well as a refuge for scoundrels. Put differ­ ently, communicative abundance exposes deep ambiguities within the private-public distinction. It encourages individuals and groups within civil society to think more flexibly and contextually about the public and the private.

Democratisation of information Let us begin with the most obvious political effect of communicative abundance: the democratisation of information. Thanks to cheap and easy methods of digital reproduction, we live in times of new informa­ tion banks and what has been called information spreading, a sudden marked widening of access to published materials previously unavail­ able to publics, or formerly available only to restricted circles of users. The democratisation process involves the dismantling of information privileges formerly available only on a restricted basis to elites.

True to their name, they saw nothing sacrosanct about pri­ vacy. Publicity must be given to the private lives of the rich and powerful wherever and whenever 'the public interest' was at stake, they thought. To this end, they used new investigative techniques, such as the inter­ view; under hails of protest (they were often condemned as busybodies and meddlers) they took advantage of the widening circulation of news­ papers, magazines and books made possible by advertising, and by cheaper, mass methods of production and distribution, to write long 'prime minister in my spare time', as well as complaining that he needed to reduce the flow of women in the face of a 'terrible week' ahead in which he would be seeing leaders such as Pope Benedict, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and Gordon Brown, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi defended himself in a letter published in the Milan-based newspaper Il Foglio, whose editor served as minister in one of his former governments: 'I did nothing for which I must be ashamed .

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