The networked public sphere

For those of us struggling to understand the consequences of opening up our local news websites to broad public participation, Ulises Ali Mejias has a helpful essay, Social Media and the Networked Public Sphere. He focuses on a key distinction between mass and public:

"Thus, the debate can be framed in terms of whether social media can engender democratic publics that embody an intelligence and capacity for action greater than the sum of its members, or whether it will merely continue to support the production of anti-democratic masses of disenfranchised and alienated consumers."

What are we trying to create? A mass audience, or a democratic public? Do characteristics of online and print media tend to lead in one direction or the other?