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DFG-funded Project: Journalism Challenged: Understanding Performative Publics through Media Practice

Project Duration: Three Years (started in May 2020)

Based on a practice- and gender-theoretical framework, the project investigates the emergence of performative publics around the #metoo debate in Germany (Case Study I) as well as gender-politically relevant discourse formations in the context of the Corona crisis (Case Study II).

Journalism has partly lost its exclusive function in society to set the agenda and accord relevance to issues of common concern. New kinds of actors, whether they are activists or private individuals, have emerged who are using quotidian digital media platforms to promote controversial issues and stir public debate in certain directions. These actors voice their views and concerns independently of journalism and actively promote the formation of new networks of like-minded actors. The resulting publics clearly show changing constellations of gendered structures of public articulation that mirror larger shifts in the complexity of publics and their conflictual, antagonistic and controversial character. The core interest of the project lies in investigating challenges to journalistic legitimacy and authority originating in and being structured by networked and digital communication between different actor groups, especially professional journalists, civic activists and individuals. These actors are regarded as equally involved in the specific emergence of what we call ‘performative publics’ (see Lünenborg & Raetzsch, 2018).

This mutual making of performative publics is addressed theoretically with the analytical concept of media practice and is traced empirically with a mixed-methods design. Instead of a dichotomous distinction between private and public, the project aims to address gradual distinctions of personal vs. public poles of articulation (‘layers of publicness’). Such a gradual distinction is especially needed to focus on the alternation of speaker and audience positions in contested public discourses around gender and migration, but also between individual and institutionalised actors. Taken together, the theoretical concept of media practice shall be empirically developed and validated and establish a new methodology for similar research in German Media and Communication Studies on the margins and at the intersections of journalism with society.

Methodologically, the project aims to establish praxeological communication research in German communication science by combining quantitative and qualitative methods. Used are (semi-)automated network and content analyses as well as interviews and ethnography.

The project is funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) for three years and includes a cooperation with Axel Bruns (Queensland University Brisbane, Australia). It is led by Margreth Lünenborg (Freie Universität Berlin), in collaboration with Christoph Raetzsch (Aarhus University, Denmark).

Recent Publications

Christoph Raetzsch, Margreth Lünenborg (2020). “Anchoring Practices for Public Connection: Media Practice and Its Challenges for Journalism Studies.” International Journal of Communication (14): 2868–2886.

Margreth Lünenborg, Christoph Raetzsch (2018). “From Public Sphere to Performative Publics: Developing Media Practice as an Analytic Model”. In Media Practices, Social Movements, and Performativity: Transdisciplinary Approaches, Susanne Foellmer, Margreth Lünenborg, Christoph Raetzsch (eds.), 13-35. Abingdon: Routledge.

Margreth Lünenborg (2019). “Affective Publics”. In Affective Societies. Key Concepts. Jan Slaby, Christian von Scheve (eds.), 319-329. Abingdon: Routledge.

Christoph Raetzsch (2017). “Journalism Studies Beyond Journalism: A Critical and Appreciative Dialogue with Michael Schudson.” Journalism Studies 18(10): 1277-1292. DOI: 10.1080/1461670X.2017.1338151.

Christoph Raetzsch, Henrik Bødker (2016). “Journalism and the Circulation of Communicative Objects“. Special Issue on ‘Digital Circulation.’ Balbi, G., Delfanti, A., Magaudda, P. (eds.). Tecnoscienza. Italian Journal of Science & Technology Studies 7(1): 129-148.

If you are interested in the project or in collaborating, please contact Margreth Lünenborg (margreth.luenenborg@fu-berlin.de).