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Democracy, Participation and the Public Sphere

Research Groups 12 - 15

This research topic investigates how participation processes in contemporary democracies change fundamentally under the influence of digital technologies and what influence digitalisation has on public opinion formation and discourses.

This research area deals with the question of how participation processes in contemporary democracies change fundamentally and in the long term under the influence of digital technologies and how this development affects public opinion formation and discourses.

The problems and consequences of digitalisation for political life in Germany are manifold and consistent. They concern, for example, the role of social media and its use in election campaigns, the information behavior of tech-savvy and/or apolitical target groups, the dynamics of political scandals, patterns of political mobilization through clicktivism, the role of digital networks in political protest and outrage dynamics, the consequences of propaganda and extremism on the Internet, and the distribution and use of political content on the internet in connection with depoliticization, radicalization and mobilization processes.

Via digital platforms, blogs and social networks, political actors and citizens alike become targets of criticism, hate commentaries, lies, and manipulation, and at the same time they cannot do without online media, internet presences and social media when it comes to gaining information, observing the public sphere, and participating in public discourse.

Research Groups

Democracy and Digitalisation

Democracy and Digitalisation

Developing a better understanding of the interplay between digitalisation and democratic self-governance is the aim of this research group. We examine how liberal societies form and make use of digital technologies, as well as how democracies are shaped by digitalisation. The research focuses on three areas of interest: Political participation, the digital transformation of the democratic public sphere and the reconfiguration of rule in the digital constellation (law and domination).

To the Research Group
Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship

The research group investigates how people today see and shape their role in democracy. We pay special attention to how this relationship is shaped by online communication on an individual level. In this context, changing or newly emerging attitudes and expectations regarding political engagement in democracy - so-called emergent citizen norms - are identified on the basis of quantitative and qualitative methods and their consequences for individual political participation are analysed.

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News, Campaigns and the Rationality of Public Discourse

News, Campaigns and the Rationality of Public Discourse

This research group theoretically and empirically investigates the contents and processes of political communication in digital publics with respect to the spread of extremist views, rumours, and lies. The hybridity of media systems, the constellation of actors, and the dynamics of the discourses promote fleeting and fragmented thematic public spheres. An important question is which conditions and context factors influence the mechanisms and dynamics of “postfactual” news and defamation campaigns.

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Digitalisation and the Transnational Public Sphere

Digitalisation and the Transnational Public Sphere

The research group investigates 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 focus 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 takes a comparative perspective on right-wing communication and applies computational social science methods including data scraping, topic modelling, and network analysis.

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