What is the public? What is a public? These are some interesting questions asked this week, and they’ve got me thinking.
Who knew that there was a difference between the public and a public? I sure didn’t, but here we are.
As Warner (2002) explains, the public refers to people—people in general.
When you think of the public, you may think of the people you see around wherever you go, strangers, or the people watching you when you don’t even notice. There is no focus on one specific person or type of person. Rather, it is simply a general population.
A public, on the other hand, refers to a specific audience or group of individuals who are aware of each other’s presence in a public space. This public extends as far as the physical space goes or as far as the event that they share holds them.
Think of this as the crowd you see at a concert. The singer on stage has a specific public, and that specific public is their fans in the audience during their concert. The entire audience can easily be identified by their assembly in the venue and extends as far as the venue will hold (but we know that there could be fans beyond the hold of the venue).
One word, multiple meanings for various contexts. It is crucial to understand these two meanings of the single noun as two separate things. If we don’t separate the two and interchange their use, we may leave people very confused.
The public is people in general—nobody specific. A public is a specific audience—one that is self-organized and who’s members share a common connection.
Keeping my audience in mind
When it comes to my own audience, I don’t imagine anyone too specific. If anything, I picture my readers to be my peers or other individuals who find themselves up at two-in-the-morning on most nights.
Though, if I take my actual content into consideration, I imagine my audience being students like me who are just trying to navigate school, their productivity and work habits, and other things alike.
Having this in mind now, I can see myself eventually catering most my content towards the later audience. As a student, it feels most like me. However, this doesn’t mean that I can’t stray from the usual and talk about other things that come to my mind at 2 AM. We’ll have to see what the future holds, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear what you readers want to see from Two A.M. Thoughts.
Warner, M. (2002). Publics and Counterpublics. Public Culture, 14(1), 49-90. https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-14-1-49