The Public Sphere: Town Hall to Twitter

Subject HIST30063 (2012)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2012.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 3 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2012.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 1.5 hour lecture x 12 and 1 hr tutorial x 11
Total Time Commitment:

8.5 hours per week: total time commitment 102 hours





Recommended Background Knowledge:


Non Allowed Subjects:


Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Dr Sean Scalmer

Subject Overview:

Much of our life is lived in public: from the meetings in town halls we attend, to the newspapers we read, to the stories we share through electronic means. But how, precisely, has public communication changed? And what have been the consequences of these changes for political and social life? This subject traces the history of public life and the public sphere in the West since the Renaissance. We will look at the history of public meeting, of print and print-enabled communities, of radio and television broadcasting, and of the internet age. In each period, we are interested in the forms of public life that are possible, disputes about what kinds of behaviour are and are not appropriate in public, how the division of public from private is understood, and what ideals are held up of the best kind of public life. The course will provide a means of placing recent changes in the media and politics in a longer historical perspective, and also of considering the possibilities of the future.


Students who complete this subject should:

  • have a better understanding of the history of the public sphere in the west over five centuries
  • be able to undertake guided research on a topic in the history of the public sphere
  • have an enhanced critical understanding of the longer history of debates about ideal and non-ideal forms of public life

Research Essay (2,500 words, due mid semester) (55%). Reflective Essay (1,500 words, due at end of semester) (35%). Tutorial Participation and Presentation (10%).

Hurdle requirement: students must attend a minimum of 75% of tutorials in order to pass this subject. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day; after five days, no late assessment will be accepted. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader will be available

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Students who successfully complete this subject should:

  • develop research skills through use of the library and other information sources
  • be able to demonstrate critical thinking and analysis through recommended reading, essay writing and tutorial discussion, and by determining the strength of an argument
  • communicate knowledge intelligibly and economically through essay writing and tutorial discussion
  • develop time management and planning through managing and organising workloads for recommended reading, essay writing and assignment completion

Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: History
History Major

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