The Focus of Research at the Institute for Media and Communication Studies of Freie Universität Berlin

Communication processes in contemporary society and particularly in politics and modern publics are the primary interest of research at the Institute for Media and Communication Studies. On the one hand, this implies connections to research interests of the other institutes within the Department of Political and Social Sciences, especially to the Institute of Sociology and the Otto-Suhr-Institute of Political Science and also to the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology. On the other hand, research in communication studies corresponds closely with challenging issues of communication practice in the field of politics, in particular with regard to Berlin’s role as the German capital.

The nine divisions of the institute encompass the whole range of research in communication studies and draw on diverse theoretical and methodical approaches. Across all divisions three research interests defining the institute’s profile can be identified:

1.  Media Transformation

Contents and structures of the media are rapidly changing through processes of digitalization as well as through increasing pressure by market forces and competition. The research within the divisions covers the whole range of issues of media governance, the relevance of online media, the transformation of journalism through online communication, current phenomena in use and effects of online media as well as the interaction between individuals and organizations over the internet. This also includes the analysis and development of methodological innovations.

2. Communication in the Event of Uncertainty, Risks and Crises

Several projects at the institute deal with the discursive construction, processing by media and public perception of crises, conflicts and risks in society as well as their effects on the economy, politics, science and other social domains. This includes issues of intercultural and global communication in the context of war and conflict, communication in the event of crises as well as the social perception of risks, dangers and catastrophes induced by nature and man. A special focus is put on the treatment of insecurities in different social systems on the macro, meso and micro level.

3. Political Communication and Transformation of the Public

Several divisions of the institute address the transformation of the public sphere and its consequences for political actors as well as the emergence and change of public spheres in transforming societies: Projects deal with actors, structures and processes of political communication with a comparative perspective in an international context at the interface between media and politics in old and new democracies. They focus on issues such as populism, mediatization and social integration. Another research focus in the field of political communication is put on the relation between communication processes and migration. Issues such as the integrative potential of media, the presentation of migrants in the media and the use of majority and minority media are dealt with in these projects.

Gender and Communication as a Cross-Cutting Issue

Aspects of Gender and Communication in modern society play a leading role as a cross-cutting issue in numerous research projects initiated by the institute. These issues receive attention in the context of research on migration, the public sphere, media formats and audience studies.

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