Internet, Place, and Public Sphere in Diaspora Communities


Parham looks at the ways in which the Internet shapes the public spheres created by diaspora communities in general, and the Haitian diaspora in particular. She contends that most accounts have tended to generate either a positive response—that the Internet will provide ideal conditions for the flourishing of the diasporic public sphere—or a less optimistic response, concerned that the Internet will encourage a superficial engagement with important issues that require a more grounded response. Although each position tends to rely on some implicit assumptions about how spatial dispersion affects public-sphere activities, it is rare that writers explicitly analyze how varied combinations of on- and offline interaction shape this activity. Parham offers a close reading of existing literature as well as case studies from the Haitian diaspora to name three different types of Internet-mediated publics—representational, network, and vertical publics—that vary in the degree to which their activity occurs online or offline. She concludes that while representational publics largely reproduce pre-Internet forms of communication, network and vertical publics significantly expand the range of interaction and organizational forms that allow ethnic and national communities to flourish in diaspora. These new kinds of publics raise novel challenges and potentials that need to be integrated into existing public-sphere theory.