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Digitalization and the Transnational Public Sphere

The research group investigated the impact of digital technologies and media in the formation of transnational and national online issue publics, communication infrastructures and processes of political mobilization. We focused on right-wing and populist-right communication ecologies which develop around critical issues such as migration, asylum, anti-feminism, xenophobia or anti-Islamism in various European countries and the US. The research group took a comparative perspective on right-wing communication and applied computational social science methods including data scraping, topic modelling, and network analysis.

This research group conducted research at the Weizenbaum Institute from 2017 to 2022. In the newly launched research program, research will henceforth be organised in 16 research groups. These will be flanked and supported by the new Weizenbaum Digital Science Center.

The role of digital technologies

The research group examined the role of digital technologies and network communication in right-wing and populist-right movements across Europe and the US. We focused on the formation of communication infrastructures, online issue publics and transnational linkages around critical issues such as migration, asylum, anti-feminism, xenophobia, and anti-Islamism in various European countries.

The influence of digital media

How do digital media influence the nature of issue careers, the dynamics of political mobilization, and the patterns of coalition building in right wing anti-democratic movements? To what degree do digital media foster transnational linkages between right wing networks and populist movements? In our studies we analyzed the characteristics of digital platforms, the interactions between traditional mass media and social media in hybrid media systems, as well as the dynamics of national and transnational dissemination processes and information flows.

Our Ph.D. candidates had a range of focuses: Susanne Reinhardt asked how stereotypes about gender and womanhood are represented in digital communication networks of the political right; Vadim Voskresenksii examined network structures and topic convergence of international right-wing actors migrating to Russian social media for communication and coalition building; former Ph.D. candidate and now associated researcher Matthias Hoffmann examined the networks of anti-asylum groups on Facebook in order to assess the significance of digital media for right wing movements in Germany.

We also worked together on a range of collaborative projects. You can find some of our recent publications:

Annett Heft, Eva Mayerhöffer, Susanne Reinhardt, and Curd Knüpfer (2020), “Beyond Breitbart: Comparing Right‐Wing Digital News Infrastructures in Six Western Democracies,” Policy & Internet, 12: 20-45.

Annett Heft, Curd Knüpfer, Susanne Reinhardt, & Eva Mayerhöffer (2021). “Toward a Transnational Information Ecology on the Right? Hyperlink Networking among Right-Wing Digital News Sites in Europe and the United States”. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 26(2), 484–504.

Curd Knüpfer, Matthias Hoffmann & Vadim Voskresenskii (2020) “Hijacking MeToo: transnational dynamics and networked frame contestation on the far right in the case of the ‘120 decibels' campaign”, Information, Communication & Society, DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2020.1822904


Prof. Dr. Barbara Pfetsch, Principal Investigator
Dr. Annett Heft, Research Group Lead

  • Dr. Stefan Baack
  • Vivien Benert, M.A.
  • Kilian Bühling, M.Sc.
  • Baoning Gong
  • Dr. Matthias Hoffmann
  • Dominik Hokamp
  • Dr. Curd Knüpfer
  • Miriam Milzner
  • Susanne Reinhardt
  • Annika Schütz
  • Carolin Stock
  • Dr. Michael Vaughan
  • Vadim Voskresenskii





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