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Digital transformation of local public spheres. Defining models and empirical indicators.


Freie Universität Berlin

Principal Investigator:

vhw e.V.

Contact Person:
Prof. Dr. Ulrike Klinger

This research project studies public spheres at the local level and investigates how the quality of local public spheres can be empirically measured. The contextual conditions of local public spheres are currently affected by massive transformation processes: social change (strong societal differentiation processes) as well as media change, which is only inadequately described with digitalization. The mass media system has developed into a general media and communication system incorporating various forms and modes of information and communication: the mass media system (press, radio, television), which is dominated and strongly influenced by professional actors and elites, has given way to a media and communication system that can be used by individuals for individual, group and mass communication. This fundamentally changes the conditions for (local) publics.

In the light of the above, the development and preservation of social cohesion claims attention and must be further examined. It needs to be clarified how local authorities have to shape political communication in order to perform their respective duties. On the basis of a modular public sphere model, several case studies will test whether and how the quality of local public spheres can be empirically measured and thus made comparable.

The project is led by Prof. Dr. Ulrike Klinger (FU Berlin) and Prof. Dr. Otfried Jarren (University of Zurich).

Central questions:

- What impact do social change and media transformation processes have on local publics?

- How can the quality of local public sphere be made empirically observable, measurable and comparable?

Relevant publications: