Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Pina Lalli

  • Credits 4

  • SSD SPS/08

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language Italian

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Media, Public and Corporate Communication (cod. 5703)

  • Teaching resources on Virtuale

  • Course Timetable from Sep 20, 2021 to Dec 16, 2021


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Partnerships for the goals

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

Students will learn to analyze the public sphere in a sociological perspective, with a specific focus on the latest developments of the current debate surrounding the concept of public sphere and on the processes of construction of social knowledge of public issues in the context of the contemporary hybrid media landscape, including the role of algorithmic sources and the new global actors.

Course contents

The complete “integrated” course is called Public Sphere and Information: it is articulated into two different but interconnected modules (Theory of the Public Sphere and Practices and Techniques in News and Information Production). Therefore you will find the same programme for both modules and it is important to consider the requirements and the list of required readings as referring to a single course.

1. In Theory of the Public Sphere we will introduce:

1.1. The main aspects of the debate on the spaces where public opinion is formed, starting from the analysis famously elaborated by Jürgen Habermas.

1.2. The contemporary controversies regarding the agenda setting theory, the relationship between the public sphere and the media, particularly with the advent of the  “mediated online interaction”.

1.3. The social construction of public problems: which arenas, which actors, which mechanisms.

2. Practices and Techniques in News and Information Production will “test” the hypotheses illustrated in the first part of the course, aiming to highlight the empirical problems and the more or less resilient practices that journalistic professional routines employ to navigate the landscape of hybrid contemporary news media.

Among the issues covered by the module are:

2.1. The complex relationship between news, digital media and the public sphere.

2.2. The most recent developments in the debate around the construction of objectivity in journalistic language through a critical approach to what is commonly referred to as "fake news" and "post truth".

2.3. The main elements of the connection between news media, institutions and politics.

Experts and professionals from the field of journalism will be invited in class for a discussion with the students.




Habermas, J. (1974), The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article. New German Critique, n.3: 49-55.

2. Habermas, J. (2006), Political Communication in Media Society: Does Democracy Still Enjoy an Epistemic Dimension? The Impact of Normative Theory on Empirical ResearchCommunication Theory, 16: 411-426 [access EZProxy]

3. Hilgartner, S., & Bosk, C. L. (1988). The Rise and Fall of Social Problems: A Public Arenas Model. American Journal of Sociology, 94(1): 53–78. [access EZProxy]

4. McCombs, M. E., & Guo L. (2014), Agenda-setting influence of the Media in the Public Sphere, in R. S. Fortnerand P. M. Fackler (eds.), The Handbook of Media and Mass Communication Theory, Hoboken N.J., John Wiley & Sons: 251-268.

5. Scheufele, D.A. and Tewksbury, D. (2007), Framing, Agenda Setting, and Priming: The Evolution of Three Media Effects Models. Journal of Communication, 57: 9-20 [access EZProxy].


1. Groshek J. and Groshek M. G., Agenda Trending: Reciprocity and the Predictive Capacity of Social Networking Sites in Intermedia Agenda Setting across Topics over Time. Media and Communication, 1(1): 15-27.

2. Lalli, P. and Capelli, C. (2021), Young people as “glocal” citizens of the world. News media representations of youth in mainstream and digital native media [preprint reperibile nello spazio virtuale del corso].

3. Lalli, P., Gius, C., Zingone, M. (2020), La cronaca nera si tinge di rosa: il femminicidio da parte del partner, in P. Lalli (a cura di), L’amore non uccide. Femminicido e discorso pubblico: cronaca, tribunali, politiche, Bologna, Il Mulino: 71-122 [access Idem – Darwin books - published online in 2021]

4. Jasser, G. et al. (2021) Welcome to #GabFam’: Far-right virtual community on Gab’. New Media & Society.

5. Marres, N., (2018) Why We Can't Have Our Facts Back. Engaging Science, Technology, and Society, n. 4: 423-443.

6. Meraz, S. and Papacharissi, Z. (2013) Networked Gatekeeping and Networked Framing on #Egypt.The International Journal of Press/Politics, 18(2): 138–166.

Teaching methods

Lectures in class, webinars and workshops online and offline, always available also for online attendance.

The two parts of the course are integrated also in the lessons and the interactive workshops: a more detailed calendar will be available at the beginning of the course, and it will include the presence of invited experts and professionals.

The participation to the interactive workshops will be proposed and discussed during the first week, in order to establish an educational agreement with the students.


Assessment methods

The exam will be one and the same for the whole course.

Attending students:

1. Participation to at least 80% of classes; active involvement through group work following the indications that will be communicated during the course; group exercises based on a list of subjects that will be distributed during the course.

2. Intermediate reports on the exercises and final written exercise in class. 

The final grade will be the result of participation and intermediate reports  (30%) and the final written excercise (70%).

This option will be available to Erasmus and Overseas exchange students as well, who will be allowed to write their reports and exercises in a language of choice among Italian, French, English or Spanish.

Non attending students:

Written exam consisting of multiple-choice and open-response questions based on the readings listed in the syllabus, plus at least two essay questions.

Teaching tools

Online platform for the webinars, slides, videos. 

Office hours

See the website of Pina Lalli