Mediated Contestation in Comparative Perspective
Mediated contestation is an important arena for the articulation of identities and interests as well as a crucial context for democratic governance and problem solving. This project aims at identifying the relevant macro-social and media-related preconditions of mediated contestation as well as systematically assessing them from different normative perspectives.
The extent, structure, content and style of mediated contestation over issues related to religion/secularism are analysed in six democracies (USA, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, and Lebanon) and three media types (daily newspapers, news websites, and political blogs). The project tests hypotheses regarding the influence of two macro-social conditions and two important media attributes. The two macro conditions are (1) the structure of the political system (majoritarian vs. consensus democracies) and (2) the existence or non-existence of a deep cultural division (contested vs. uncontested secularism). The media attributes studied are (3) the degree of users’ opportunities to respond to media content (low for daily newspapers vs. high for news websites and political blogs) and (4) the level of opinion orientation (low for daily newspapers and news websites vs. high for political blogs). In the first part of the project representative and comparable samples of media material will be analysed using standardized content analysis as well as automated topic modeling. Data analysis will rely on multi-level regression models. A follow-up study will later be proposed for continued funding, in which a series of comparative case studies will be conducted following the logic of Lieberman’s nested analysis. These case studies will be based on extended media samples (including social media) and shed light on the causal mechanisms that underlie the formation and characteristics of mediated contestation. In a final step these empirical patterns are subjected to a multiperspectival normative assessment that uses standards derived from liberal, republican, deliberative, and agonistic theories of democracy.
Funding for the first phase of this project was granted by the German Research Foundation (DFG) in October 2014. Before the start of the project in February 2015 the multinational sample of media outlets to be studied is currently being validated by an international panel of renowned country experts. In addition, the collection of media content, envisaged to start in 2015, and the start of the project are being prepared through work meetings with cooperation partners and personnel planning.