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public

Legal Definition of public

Related terms


Definition of public

Etymology

    From Anglo-Norman publik, public, Middle French public, publique et al., and their source, Latin pūblicus (“pertaining to the people”), alteration (probably after pubes (“adult men”)) of populicus, from populus (“people”).

Pronunciation

  • IPA: /ˈpʌblɪk/, SAMPA: /"pVblIk/
  • Audio (US) [?]
  • Hyphenation: pub‧lic

Adjective

public (comparative more public, superlative most public)

  1. Able to be seen or known by everyone; open to general view, happening without concealment. [from 14th c.]
  2. Pertaining to all the people as a whole (as opposed a private group); concerning the whole country, community etc. [from 15th c.]
  3. Officially representing the community; carried out or funded by the state on behalf of the community. [from 15th c.]
  4. Open to all members of a community; especially, provided by national or local authorities and supported by money from taxes. [from 15th c.]
  5. (of a company) Traded publicly via a stock market.

Noun

public (plural publics)

  1. The people in general, regardless of membership of any particular group.

    Members of the public may not proceed beyond this point.

Usage notes

  • Although generally considered uncountable, this noun does also have countable usage, as in the citation above.

Further reading

In public relations and communication science, publics are groups of individuals, and the public (a.k.a. the general public) is the totality of such groupings. This is a different concept to the sociological concept of the -ffentlichkeit or public sphere. The concept of a public has also been defined in political science, psychology, marketing, and advertising. In public relations and communication science, it is one of the more ambiguous concepts in the field. Although it has definitions in the theory of the field that have been formulated from the early 20th century onwards, it has suffered in more recent years from being blurred, as a result of conflation of the idea of a public with the notions of audience, market segment, community, constituency, and stakeholder.

The name "public" originates with the Latin "populus" or "poplicus", and in general denotes some mass population ("the people") in association with some matter of common interest. So in political science and history, a public is a population of individuals in association with civic affairs, or affairs of office or state. In social psychology, marketing, and public relations, a public has a more situational definition. John Dewey defined (Dewey 1927) a public as a group of people who, in facing a similar problem, recognize it and organize themselves to address it. Dewey's definition of a public is thus situational: people organized about a situation. Built upon this situational definition of a public is the situational theory of publics by James E. Grunig (Grunig 1983), which talks of nonpublics (who have no problem), latent publics (who have a problem), aware publics (who recognize that they have a problem), and active publics (who do something about their problem).

In public relations and communication theory, a public is distinct from a stakeholder or a market. A public is a subset of the set of stakeholders for an organization, that comprises those people concerned with a specific issue. Whilst a market has an exchange relationship with an organization, and is usually a passive entity that is created by the organization, a public does not necessarily have an exchange relationship, and is both self-creating and self-organizing. Publics are targeted by public relations efforts. In this, target publics are those publics whose involvement is necessary for achieving organization goals; intervening publics are opinion formers and mediators, who pass information to the target publics; and influentials are publics that the target publics turn to for consultation, whose value judgements are influential upon how a target public will judge any public relations material.

Public relations theory perspectives on publics are situational, per Dewey and Grunig; mass, where a public is simply viewed as a population of individuals; agenda-building, where a public is viewed as a condition of political involvement that is not transitory; and "homo narrans", where a public is (in the words of Gabriel M. Vasquez, assistant Professor in the School of Communication at the University of Houston) a collection of "individuals that develop a group consciousness around a problematic situation and act to solve the problematic situation" (Vasquez 1993, pp. 209)

One non-situational concept of a public is that of Kirk Hallahan, professor at Colorado State University, who defines a public as "a group of people who relate to an organization, who demonstrate varying degrees of activity-passivity, and who might (or might not) interact with others concerning their relationship with the organization".

References:

  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



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