Prof. Dr. Barbara Pfetsch

Principal Investigator

Prof. Dr. Barbara Pfetsch is Professor of Media and Communication Science at the FU Berlin and head of the Division of Communication Theory and Media Effects Research. Her research and publications focus on international comparative studies of political communications and media, on the contents and structures of online issue networks and debates on the internet, on digital communication spaces and on the transformation of the public sphere due to digital communications. Barbara Pfetsch holds a doctorate in political science from the University of Mannheim and a habilitation from the FU Berlin.
She was previously a senior researcher at the WZB and in 2001 accepted a professorship at the University of Hohenheim. Fellowships and research grants took her to Hebrew University Jerusalem (Israel), the Center for Advanced Studies (CASBS) at Stanford University, the Shorenstein Center and the Minda de Gunzburg Center at Harvard University, and Georgetown University in Washington D.C. (all in the USA).




+49 30 838 57530




Freie Universität Berlin (FU), Fachbereich Politik- und Sozialwissenschaften
  • Positions

    Principal Investigator (PI):

    Research Group 14: News, Campaigns and the Rationality of Public Discourse

    Research Group 15: Digitalisation and the Transnational Public Sphere

  • © David Ausserhofer
  • Committees and functions
    • Professorin der Freien Universität Berlin, Fachbereich Politik- und Sozialwissenschaften
    • Professorin an der Fakultät der Berlin Graduate School of Transnational Studies
    • Sprecherin des Graduiertenkollegs „Dissonante Öffentlichkeiten“ (DFG 2431/1) (beantragt und begutachtet)
    • Mitglied des Social Science One – Europe Committee – Vertreterin für Deutschland
    • Principal Investigator am Einstein Center Digital Future
    • Mitglied der DFG-Expertenkommission zur Evaluierung der FIDs
    • Mitglied im Advisory Board des Projekts „Social Media Data Archiving“
    • Projektleiterin des Projektes B5 „Translokale Netzwerke“ DFG-SFB 1265 „Re-Figuration von Räumen“, Technische Universität Berlin
    • Mitglied des wissenschaftlichen Beirates des Hans-Bredow-Instituts für Kommunikationsforschung, Hamburg
  • Fields of research
    • Medien- und Online-Öffentlichkeit
    • Politische Kommunikationsprozesse und -kulturen im internationalen Vergleich
    • Digitale Themennetzwerke
    • Agenda-Setting
    • Europäische Öffentlichkeit
    • Methoden der quantitativen Medienforschung


Political agenda-building under the conditions of a hybrid media system – a comparison across countries and issues (DFG)

The impact of online communication on the political public sphere – comparing agenda-building processes across countries and issue fields, Projekt im Rahmen der Forschungsgruppe Politische Kommunikation in der Online-Welt (DFG)



Knüpfer, C. B., Pfetsch, B., & Heft, A. (2020). Demokratischer Wandel, dissonante Öffentlichkeit und die Herausforderungen vernetzter Kommunikationsumgebungen. In M. Oswald & I. Borucki (Eds.), Demokratietheorie und Demokratie im Lichte des digitalen Wandels. Wiesbaden: Springer.

Pfetsch, B., Heft, A., & Knüpfer, C. B. (2019). Transnationale Öffentlichkeiten in der Digitalen Gesellschaft: Konzepte und Forschungsperspektiven. In J. Hofmann, N. Kersting, C. Ritzi, & W. J. Schünemann (Eds.), Politik in der Digitalen Gesellschaft. Zentrale Problemfelder und Forschungsperspektiven (pp. 83–101). Bielefeld: transcript Verlag.

Maier, D., Waldherr, A., Miltner, P., Wiedemann, G., Niekler, A., Keinert, A., Pfetsch, B., Heyer, G., Reber, U., Häussler, T., Schimd-Petri, H. & Adam, S. (2018). Applying LDA topic modeling in communication research: Toward a valid and reliable methodology. Communication Methods and Measures, 1–26.

Mayerhöffer, E., & Pfetsch, B. (2018). Media Elites. In H. Best & J. Higley (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Political Elites (pp. 417–437). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Pfetsch, B. (2018). Dissonant and Disconnected Public Spheres as Challenge for Political Communication Research. Javnost - The Public, 25(1–2), 59–65. also published in S. Splichal (Eds.), The Lique-faction of Publicness Communication, Democracy and the Public Sphere in the Internet Age.

Pfetsch, B., Löblich, M., & Eilders, C. (2018). Dissonante Öffentlichkeiten als Perspektive kommunikationswissenschaftlicher Theoriebildung. Publizistik, 63, 477–495.

Schmid-Petri, H., Adam, S., Reber, U., Häussler, T., Maier, D., Miltner, S., Pfetsch, B., & Waldherr, A. (2018). Homophily and prestige: An assessment of their relative strength to explain link formation in the online climate change debate. Social Networks, 55, 47–54.

Bennett, W. L., & Pfetsch, B. (2017). Rethinking Political Communication in a Time of Disrupted Public Spheres. Journal of Communication.

Maier, D., Waldherr, A., Miltner, P., Jähnichen, P., & Pfetsch, B. (2018). Exploring Issues in a Networked Public Sphere. Social Science Computer Review, 36(1), 3–20.

Pfetsch, B., Maier, D., Miltner, P., & Waldherr, A. (2016). Challenger Networks of Food Policy on the Internet. A Comparative Study of Structures and Coalitions in Germany, the UK, the US, and Switzerland. International Journal of E-Politics, 7(1), 16–36.

Pfetsch, B., Miltner, P., & Maier, D. (2016). Old and New Dynamics of Agenda Building in a Hybrid Media System. In G. Vowe & P. Henn (Eds.), Political Communication in the Online World: Theoretical Approaches and Research Designs (pp. 45–58). New York, NY / Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Pfetsch, B., & Heft, A. (2015). Theorizing Communication Flows within a European Public Sphere. In T. Risse (Ed.), European Public Spheres. Politics is Back (pp. 29–52). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pfetsch, B., Adam, S., & Bennett, W. L. (2013). The Critical Linkage between Online and Offline Media: An Approach to Researching the Conditions of Issue Spill-Over. Javnost - The Public, 20(3), 9–22.

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