Issue Spatiality: A Conceptual Framework for the Role of Space in Public Discourses

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Issue Spatiality: A Conceptual Framework for the Role of Space in Public Discourses


  • Daniela Stoltenberg Institute for Media and Communication Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany


Full Text   PDF (free download)
Views: 538 | Downloads: 273


Abstract:  Public spheres research has traditionally sidestepped questions of space by focusing on a priori delineated political territories, most prominently national public spheres. While this approach has always lacked nuance, it has become acutely insufficient nowadays, as digital communication technologies easily enable a host of heterogeneous actors to draw public attention to spaces and places at any scale, and communicatively connect places anywhere in the world. This conceptual article argues that communication scholars need to reconsider the spaces embedded in the content of public discourses. Drawing on the notion of issue publics, it understands the public definition of issues as inextricably linked to the places that are communicatively associated with them, causing issue spaces to emerge. The issue space is constructed through place-naming whenever public actors reference places in the context of issues. The article develops issue spatiality as an analytical framework to understand the role of place and space in public discourse. It discusses how issue spatiality enables a better understanding of the increasingly complex scales of public communication, and outlines several dimensions of issue spatiality. Drawing on communication infrastructure literature, it proposes socio-spatial inequalities of communicative resources as important predictors of issue spatiality, along with the habits of professional communicators, and local problem properties. Gazetteers and mapping techniques are introduced as methodological interventions required for the empirical use of issue spatiality.

Keywords:  communication geography; issue space; issue spatiality; place-naming; public discourse; public sphere

Published:   23 July 2021


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v9i3.3958


© Daniela Stoltenberg. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.