University of Technology Sydney

57221 Open Government and the New Public Sphere

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2022 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Communication: Strategic Communication
Credit points: 8 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


In this subject students critically examine the public sphere in contemporary democracies and emerging democratic societies. They explore recent policy shifts towards 'open government' and the impact of digital technologies in ostensibly providing more open access to information and facilitating the affordance of voice and participation by citizens in community action groups and new social movements. Students discuss the application to government communication of recent research in relation to trust, openness, participation, voice and listening. They gain understanding of methods that may ensure inclusive, effective and ethical government communication and their potential to create a more equitable society.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

a. Understand the fundamentals, key concepts and theories in the field
b. Synthesise academic literature and original research
c. Critically reflect on current government communication practices in digital space
d. Apply contemporary technologies and creative strategies in open government communication design
e. Evaluate the effectiveness of government communication in contemporary society
f. Develop strategic initiatives and proposals to achieve open government

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject engages with the following Course Intended Learning Outcomes (CILOs), which are tailored to the Graduate Attributes set for all graduates of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences:

  • Apply an advanced body of practice-oriented knowledge and skills to develop, implement and evaluate innovative solutions to real-world communication challenges with a high level of personal autonomy, leadership and accountability (1.1)
  • Graduates are able to continually develop the multi-media skills that are required to remain current in professional practice (1.2)
  • Plan, execute and utilise a substantial body of research for professional practice (2.1)
  • Critically and creatively rethink and reflect on public relations, advertising and organisational change models and practices for the 21st century beyond dominant models and approaches and seek innovative approaches (2.2)
  • Locate, gather, organise and synthesise information across diverse platforms to guide their mastery of contemporary communication issues and challenges (2.3)
  • Graduates are able to exercise strong leadership in the development of communication strategies that address challenges and implement solutions on issues of exclusion, equity, cultural difference and social justice (5.1)
  • Graduates have high-level knowledge and skills to engage with diverse audiences through both written and oral communication strategies, across a range of media formats, with consideration of others' needs and views (6.1)

Teaching and learning strategies

This subject incorporates a range of teaching and learning strategies, including lectures, workshops, guest speeches, short presentations, videos, simulations, discussion of readings, case studies and student group work. Students are expected to attend regular tutorials, online self-studies, peer- learning, and actively collaborate in group work designed to encourage multiple perspective-taking. Students learn through original research, critical analysis, group discussion and debate. New technologies, open data sources, award-winning campaign entries, government report archives, and video-conferencing will be deployed to optimise the collaborative learning outcomes. Students will also receive formative feedback throughout the studies of the subject.

Content (topics)

Students learn key concepts and theoretical fundamentals, including public sphere (1.0 and 2.0 versions), open government, voice, listening, participation, engagement, dialogue, deliberation, openness, and different types of democracy. Through case studies and critical evaluation, students will learn the best and worst open government communication practices from UK, USA, Belgium, Sweden, Singapore, Australia etc. Through interactive workshops and collaborative learning, students will learn to employ key strategies, principles, and digital platforms in designing an open government Initiative. Based on a critical reflection and evaluation of the efficacy of government communication, students will also learn how to develop a strategic and viable proposal to improve government performance in digital space and the new public sphere.


Assessment task 1: Critical Essay


a, b, c and e

Weight: 35%

1600 words, excluding references

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Clear understanding of key concepts 20 a 2.1
Integration of literature 25 b 2.3
Critical evaluation of the theories in relation to practical examples 25 c, e 2.2
Logic reasoning and coherence of structure 20 b 2.3
Clarity of writing and accuracy of references 10 a, b, c 6.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 2: Group Development Work and Presentation


a, c, d and f

Weight: 25%

15 minute group presentation

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Depth of understanding of key theories and principles in open government communication design 25 a 1.1
Incorporation of multi-media skills in presentations 15 d 1.2
Creativity and persuasiveness of developing an open government initiative 15 c 2.2
Interaction and engagement with audience in presentations 15 d 6.1
Practical suggestions made to inform future Open Government communication practices 30 d, f 5.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 3: Individual Proposal for an Open Government Initiative


a, b, c, d and f

Weight: 40%

2000 words, excluding references

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Critical situational analysis of the current issues and gaps in existing government communication practices 20 c 2.2
Application of an advanced body of knowledge in proposal writing 20 a 1.1
Appropriate recommendations for a variety of interpersonal communication, multi-media, or digital technologies in open government design 25 d, f 1.2
Creative and practical solutions proposed to improve or strengthen the future practices 25 f 5.1
Clarity of writing and accuracy of references 10 b 6.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Required texts

There are no required texts for this subject. Recommended readings will be available online via UTS Library.


Buber, M. 2002, ‘Dialogue’, trans. R. Smith, in Between Man and Man, Routledge, London, pp. 1-45. (Original work published 1947)

Gadamer H. 1989, Truth and Method, 2nd edn, trans. J. Weinsheimer & D. Marshall, Crossroad, New York (also in Craig & Muller (eds) 2007).

Habermas, J. 1992, The structural transformation of public sphere: An inquiry into a category of Bourgeois society, Polity: Cambridge.

Habermas, J. 2006, ‘Political communication in media society: Does democracy still enjoy an epistemic dimension? The impact of normative theory on empirical research', Communication Theory, vol.16, no. 4, pp. 411-426

Kent, M. & Taylor, M. 2002, ‘Toward a dialogic theory of public relations’, Public Relations Review 28, pp. 21-37.

Macnamara, J. 2018, ‘Toward a Theory and Practice of Organizational Listening, International Journal of Listening, 32:1, 1-23

Macnamara, J. 2017, ‘Creating a ‘democracy for everyone’: Strategies for increasing listening and engagement by government’, The London School of Economics and Political Science and University of Technology Sydney, London and Sydney.

Macnamara, J. 2016, 'Organizational listening: Addressing a major gap in public relations theory and practice', Journal of Public Relations Research, DOI: 10.1080/1062726X.2016.1228064