The Digital Public Sphere: An Alternative and Counterhegemonic Space? The Case of Spain

Víctor Sampedro, Mayra Martínez Avidad


A historical view of social mobilizations coordinated by digital technologies shows the emergence of an alternative digital public sphere (DPS) in Spain, which has subsequently proven to be counterhegemonic. During the past decade, the DPS promoted alternative discourses to those of the official public sphere. The Indignados mobilizations in 2011 (15-M) has been the product of a long-term process of building a DPS that proved to be influential at three levels: (1) reframing the public debate, (2) expressing a nonofficial public opinion consensus, and (3) changing the electoral map. The Spanish DPS had been a key resource for subaltern publics since the 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid, Spain, when citizens, using their mobile phones and the Net, claimed that the bombings were a consequence of the country’s involvement in the Iraq War. That early digitally organized mobilization meant the collapse of the political-communication system. Later, the 15-M in 2011 expressed a widespread new public opinion consensus. Gradually, the DPS allowed the bipartisan system to break into a multiparty system and to contest previous political hegemony.


digital public sphere, alternative public sphere, counter-hegemonic cyber-democracy, citizen participation, digital networks

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