Keywords: Primarie; Twitter; Digital Methods; Public Sphere; Public.
So far the democratic function of social media has been framed through two opposite paradigms: a cyber-utopian one and a cyber-dystopian one. The former conceives of the Internet as a new Haberamsian public sphere, that is an open space in which people can freely discuss and deliberate about political issues. The latter deems the Internet as a fragmented and individualized space, which, by definition, destroys any possibility of collective deliberation and discussion. However few scholars have systematically examined the empirical relation between politics and social media. Through a quantitative-qualitative analysis, grounded on the digital methods paradigms and based on a dataset of 181085 tweets collected during the Primarie of Centro Sinistra 2012, we would like to show how Twitter can be conceived of as a "civic device" that permits a specific political discourse and new forms of political association to be materialized - both entities that would remain unseen otherwise. In the end we suggest that it is possible to construct a new theory of the digital public sphere starting from the Tardian notion of "public".