Mediated Contestation in Comparative Perspective

Research question/goal: 

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.

In the first phase of the project, the extent, structure, content and style of mediated contestation over issues related to religion/secularism are analyzed in six democracies (USA, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, and Lebanon) and three media types (daily newspapers, news websites, and political blogs) in a standardized content analysis. 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 second phase of the project, this investigation is supplemented by an automated content analysis of more recent user-generated forms of mediated contestation. We compare online comments on mainstream news media’s websites and Facebook pages, on the Facebook pages of partisan actors and alternative media, as well as on Twitter. The project thus acknowledges the fact that journalists, political actors and citizens are equally involved in mediated contestation today. In addition to the macro-social explanatory factors examined in the first phase of the project, two alternative media attributes move into the foreground in the second project phase: First, different degrees of context collapse are investigated, i.e. the degree to which a discussion platform mixes public and private contexts. Second, discussion platforms are differentiated according to their primary debate function for users, that is, whether discussions evolve pluralistically around contentious issues (issue-driven discussion), or whether they bring together like-minded people (preference-driven discussion). The second phase of the project thus focuses on how context collapse and the primary debate function of discussion platforms shape the extent, structure, content and style of mediated contestation.

Current stage: 

The empirical work of the first project phase is largely completed; methodological and substantive research publications are currently being finalized. Simultaneously, the second phase of the project has started successfully: The collection of social network data from the countries relevant for this stage of research (USA, Australia, Germany and Switzerland) has been concluded. Based on this data, first context-sensitive measurement tools have been developed for an automated analysis of the style of user-generated mediated contestation. The results have been submitted for presentation at national and international conferences. The investigation of the content and structure of user-generated debates is ongoing.

Fact sheet

Funding: 
DFG
Duration: 
2012 to 2021
Status: 
ongoing
Data Sources: 
Quantitative media content data (own data gathering)
Geographic Space: 
USA, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, Lebanon

Publications