The Babel of Europe? An Essay on Networks and Communicative Spaces
This paper evaluates the putative development of a European public space, discussing to what extent a single communicative arena has been attained with regards to constitutional principle, governance and political outlook, with aspects of language and culture as potential barriers.
The fracture in the European Union during the Iraq war of 2003 threw into relief the fragile nature of the integration process, certainly so far as foreign and defence questions are concerned, and exposed once again the complexity of the EU as a communicative space. Although cultural-linguistic diversity remains an overwhelming fact, the rise of English as a lingua franca is taking place against this backdrop of diversity and to some extent cuts across it. The uneven growth of English-speaking competence challenges views of communicative space in which the public domain and the nation are seen as co-extensive. We are therefore forced to consider how states collaborate to constitute supra-national arenas and how this process in turn affects the constitution of publics. Much current theory has fixed upon the idea of a network as a means (and metaphor) for conceiving the changing relations between politics and social communication. From this point of view, constitution building has taken on a transnational communicative role. But does the emergent Euro-networking polity extend widely? And how robust is it? The institutionalisation of the EU has sustained the development of a variety of publics and networks that range across a spectrum from strong to weak. However, the European media space is predominantly oriented towards national publics. And although transnational spaces have emerged in the fields of research, administration and various EU projects, these still remain profoundly conditioned by national interests.