Personal tools


About CPSR's Public Sphere Project

A Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility Initiative

What is the Public Sphere?

The "Public Sphere" is a term created by German philosopher Jürgen Habermas. The "public sphere" is the sum total of information and communication "spaces" that people use when they exchange views and formulate opinions. It is upon and with these "spaces" that a democratic society is created and maintained. Without a thriving "public sphere" the people's ability to manage public affairs equitably and effectively is impossible. Although new digital networked technologies are only part of this picture, they obviously represent a major source of opportunities -- as well as challenges -- for those interested in the public sphere.

What is the Public Sphere Project?

The Public Sphere Project (PSP) is a new ongoing CPSR initiative to help promote more effective and equitable public spheres all over the world. Doug Schuler, a longtime CPSR activist and Seattle Community Network co-founder, is the Program Director. The PSP is an outgrowth of the "Shaping the Network Society" symposium convened in Seattle in May, 2000. The Public Sphere Project is intended to provide a broad framework for a variety of interrelated activities and goals including event organizing.


  • To advance our understanding of opportunities and challenges of "public spheres" for democracy, education, education, social justice, economic development, and environmentalism.
  • To develop and act on strategies for creating and strengthening equitable and effective public spheres.


  • Legitimizing and calling attention to these concerns.
  • Building and supporting networks of activists, researchers, and citizens.
  • Convening forums (both face-to-face and virtual) for sharing information, concerns, and ideas.
  • Developing and disseminating useful, high-quality information for citizens, activists, students, policy-makers, and researchers.
  • Evaluating and consulting with a variety of existing projects, systems, applications, and organizations all over the world.
  • Developing and evaluating relevant new interfaces, applications, systems, and organizations.
  • Helping to provide forums for underheard voices and issues.
  • Helping to build collaborative and deliberative systems.
  • Promoting interaction between the powerless and the powerful -- and people in between.
  • Engaging and encouraging individuals, NGOs, governments, and businesses to further progress in this area.


  • Engaged in planning, communicating, fundraising
  • Web web site now available at
  • Work has started on a variety of electronic resources (census, bibliography, and dispatches)
  • PSP proposals are being currently reviewed by foundations

Projects & Events Under Consideration

  • Census -- Online collaborative - resources and/or Seattle Statement next version
  • Patterns project workshop utilizing online and face-to-face meetings
  • Civil Society, Cyberspace, and Education workshop
  • Establish relationships with 3 - 12 projects around the world (see below)
  • Define "next generation community networks" and other technical projects
  • Sponsoring or co-sponsoring events at other events (Buenos Aires, Kyoto, Montreal, e.g.)

Relationship with CPSR

PSP is intended to be strongly complementary with CPSR's mission. The PSP will work closely with CPSR's working groups, especially the community networks working group but, also with education and international. Doug will work with CPSR activists and the board to ensure that maximum cooperation takes place. The Public Sphere Project also is charge of organizing the bi-annual "Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing" (DIAC) symposium. DIAC-02 was convened May 16-19, 2002 in Seattle.

Growth Plan

The Public Sphere Project has been designed for growth. This could include interns or other volunteers. Additional people could help with outreach and media. Additional people could focus on specific areas: e.g. the web site, or working with partners.

Electronic Presence

Electronic presence is a strong component of this project. The PSP will maintain several web-based collaborative resources (Public Sphere Census Project and collaborative bibliography) and events and, hopefully, news "dispatches" from correspondents. We will try to publish most of our information on the web. We will strive to make the site very usable, useful, and timely.

Project Partners

In addition to advocacy, the Public Sphere Project will actively participate with a variety of public sphere projects all over the world. We are currently arranging a partnership in Africa and one in Russia. We would also like a community radio project as well. We will need to think about the nature of the relationships between PSP and these partners.


The Public Sphere Project is planning to work with 20 - 50 correspondents who will create 3-5 news "dispatches" per year. The correspondents will represent different geographical areas, technology foci, and philosophical orientations. The articles will be "keyworded" so that it will be possible to retrieve, say, just articles related to specific regions or types of projects.


Archived CPSR Information
Created before October 2004

Sign up for CPSR announcements emails


International Chapters -

> Canada
> Japan
> Peru
> Spain

USA Chapters -

> Chicago, IL
> Pittsburgh, PA
> San Francisco Bay Area
> Seattle, WA
Why did you join CPSR?

I have been a member for about 14 years, but it seems to me that, given the current state of our nation (and the world), CPSR is needed more than ever to help protect and strengthen democracy and human rights.