• As defined by the Graduate Program in Communication Studies at Northwestern
    "Public Culture" delineates a fundamental feature of modern civil society: the network of media and social practices organized around political participation. Three basic assumptions guide scholarly study of public culture: First, publics emerge through the interplay of a wide range of arts, media, and other modes of performance. Second, public identity involves specific habits of audience response and social interaction that have contingent relationships to other forms of power. Third, public agency operates through both political institutions and other communicative practices that are more vernacular, nomadic, or transitory. Because they are at once distinctively modern, inherently pluralistic, and inevitably contested, public cultures have become vital political forms in an increasingly interconnected world."
  • As the academic journal Public Culture puts it:
    "...the places and occasions where cultural, social, and political differences emerge as public phenomena, manifested in everything from highly particular and localized events in popular or folk culture to global advertising, consumption, and information networks."
  • From Marguerite S. Shaffer's Preface for Public Culture Diversity, Democracy, and Community in the United States:
    "public culture" refers to the process of negotiating shared meaning among a diverse group of individuals. As [John] Dewey explains, publics emerge when "the consequences of conversation extend beyond the two directly concerned," expanding out to "affect the welfare of many others." 
My practice occupies the grey area in this map.

My practice occupies the grey area in this map.

  • Robert Hariman puts it this way:
    "The concept of public culture refers most broadly to the dynamic negotiation of beliefs, values, and attitudes regarding collective association through media and other social practices that are defined by norms of open access and voluntary response."
  • Miami University offers this:
    "...the practices and activities of civic engagement, the construction of shared identity and public memory, and the interpretation, presentation, and preservation of cultural resources."
  • There are multiple takes by the Office for Public Culture:
    "The term public culture comprises all that takes place in public space and in public life: involving the ways in which lives are structured and enacted. It asserts a differentiation of that which is "public" and that which is "private", both in terms of economic structures and in terms of issues of access and privacy. In current society it specifically addresses issues around the privatization of public institutions and functions."

    "What are the forms public culture takes?
    The Domains of Public Culture represent an analytic framework and guide to cultural production developed by the Office for Public Culture. The Domains of Public Culture serve as an interrogation of life and culture, often revealing subtle nuances, such as the encroachment of private into the public and issues of accessibility. 

    The Domains of Public Culture include:

    public Imaginaries
    The shared (re)production of thoughts, ideas, feelings, emotions, representations and values.

    public Events
    The shared (re)production of ceremony, celebration, assembly, and ritual.

    public Practices
    The shared (re)production of habits, language, customs, protocols, and laws.

    public Things
    The shared (re)production of tools, instruments, artifacts, objects, and images.

    public Spaces
    The shared (re)production of places, environments, locations and situations.

  • Teddy Cruz says:
    "This includes Public Culture as the engine to generate new collaborations with bottom up neighborhood and community based social agencies, as well as top down political and economic institutions and structures. (To produce critical research into the complex range of forces that ‘make’ the public at different scales, across the city and the territory, and the policies and economies that shape them).

    An instrument to recruit practitioners and researchers that operate outside some of the main sectors of specialization of art and its normative institutions, in order to produce new connections and relationships inside and outside established academic categories.( New categories and spaces of intervention that problematize the relationship between fixed distinctions between ‘social life,’ ‘the public ’ and ‘artistic products.’"


This image was collaboratively produced by Emmanuel Pratt, Jia Lok Pratt, and Andrew LeClair. More info can be found here.