There are many indications that we are living through a period of rapid social change, one in which society itself is changing. On the one hand we see declining participation in established institutions, on the other a growth of new social forms. The latter are taking shape as ‘new publics’, and one of our aims in ISF is to understand more about them.
Connected online as well as off, new publics build solidarity out of a plethora of deeply personal expressions of matters of shared concern – a cause, a cultural artefact, a love and sometimes a hate. Recent examples include fanfiction publics, Brexit publics, ‘Black Lives Matter’, new sexual publics, and ‘#Me Too’.
The study of new publics is in its infancy. They defy traditional categories of social analysis, because they can be classified neither as traditional ‘community’ nor as modern ‘individualism’, though they have some characteristics of both. By studying a wide range of new publics, and working with them, we hope to understand more about social futures and revise social theory.