Creative Unit Konferenz "Communicative Figurations"

Internationale Konferenz 7.-9. Dezember 2016, Haus der Wissenschaft Bremen

In a joint effort, the Creative Research Unit "Communicative Figurations" invites together with its cooperation partners SOCIUM at the University of Bremen and the Hans-Bredow-Institute for Media Research in Hamburg to an international conference on transforming communications in times of deep mediatization. In 12 panels, communication and media scholars from all over Europe and North America will discuss current research results and perspectives on communicative figurations in various social domains.

Programme brochure

Video Panel "The Mediated Construction of Reality"

For today’s life-worlds, media communication is essential: work, leisure, socialization, the public sphere, public engagement, etc. are articulated by different types of mediated communication. Even from a historical point of view it is impossible for us to imagine the multiple and contradictory processes of modernization without media. Today, various domains of the social world are so closely related to (digital) media that they could not exist in their present form beyond media. In this sense, we live in times of “deep mediatization”.

A particular challenge of researching this stage of mediatization is the present complexity of the media environment: It is not one single medium that is the driving force of change. With the spreading of various technical communication media – television, radio, mobile phone, internet platforms etc. – we are confronted with a “media manifold” which stimulates various processes of re-mediation and transmediation. And as media are more and more software-based and related to the internet, their use becomes entangled with processes of datafication. How can we investigate then transforming communications in times of deep mediatization? How do the figurations of living together change with the media environment?

The conference takes these fundamental questions seriously and moves the transformation of communications and figurations through the “media manifold” into the foreground. The focuses of the conference are the transformation of journalism, religion, education, communities, politics, and public discourse. Beyond this, the conference puts an emphasis on the (digital) methods used to investigate related processes of transformation. It is the concluding event of the Creative Research Unit “Communicative Figurations”, being funded within the framework  of the Initiative of Excellence.

The Book of Abstracts can be downloaded here (v8).

Richard Rogers, Digital Methods Initiative

Keynote 1: "Otherwise Engaged: From vanity metrics to critical analytics"

by Richard Rogers, Digital Methods Initiative, Department Chair, Professor of New Media & Digital Culture, University of Amsterdam

In the age of social media the dominant mode of engagement is distraction. Whilst appearing oxymoronic, distracted modes of engagement have invited the coining of such terms as ‘flickering man’, ‘continuous partial attention’ and ‘ambient awareness.’ One’s engagement in social media (however distracted) is also routinely measured. Klout scores and similar are often called ‘vanity metrics’ because they measure success or ’success theater’ in social media. The notion of vanity metrics implies at least three projects: a critique of metrics concerning both the object of measurement as well as their capacity to measure unobtrusively or only to encourage performance. The second is a corrective interface project, for users are continually distracted by number badges calling to be clicked; there is a movement afoot (initiated by John Seely Brown) for so-called ‘encalming technology’. The talk, however, focuses on the third project, i.e., how one may rework the metrics. In all, I make four moves. In an application of digital methods, which seeks to repurpose online devices and their methods for social research, I propose to repurpose Klout scores and other (media monitoring) engagement measures for social research. Building upon ‘alt metrics’ for science, an alternative metrics project, I propose another one, albeit for social issue spaces rather than for science. In order to do so, I call for a change in the networks under study by social researchers, that is, a shift from the social network (with its vanity metrics) to the issue network. The change of networks (so to speak) enables concentrating on the opportunities for an alternative metrics for the social (together with social issue engagement), which I call critical analytics. Critical analytics would seek to measure the ‘otherwise engaged,’ or other modes of engagement (than vanity) such as dominant voice, concern, commitment, positioning and alignment, thereby furnishing digital methods with a conceptual and applied research agenda concerning online metrics.

Gina Neff, Oxford Internet Institute

Keynote 2: "The Social Lives of Personal Data: Communicative Figurations in the Rise of Self-Tracking"

by Gina Neff, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Today smartphones and wearable devices help people to self-track: hours slept, steps taken, calories consumed, medications administered. Over one hundred million wearable sensors were shipped globally last year to help people gather data about their lives. This keynote examines the social lives of personal data and how reconsidering this data as a media product helps scholars theorize a significant social change.  Data about the self is social in how it is recorded, analyzed, and reflected upon.  Communities form around digital self-tracking data, advocates argue how the data should and could be used to, and industries create new ways to buy, sell, and share this data. Yet, scholarly literature and practical knowledge alike focus on the personal aspects of self-tracking data, at the risk of limiting the possible interventions and protections of the data and the people from whose bodies and lived experienced the data were produced. To understand the social lives of data, I look at the practices of serious self-tracking enthusiasts, the design of commercial self-tracking technology, and how self-tracking is being used to fill serious gaps in the healthcare system. Can mediatization approaches help explain self-tracking practices, and in turn can these practices extend communication theory? Today no one can lead an entirely untracked life. But can this data be used in a way that empowers and educates the people who generate it? The answer depends on the social design of self-tracking data.

Registration for the conference is now open. Please register by December 4 via e-mail (commfigurations[at] with your name, status group and affiliation. You will receive a confirmation.

Conference programme

Wednesday, December 7th

20:00    Get Together (for presenters and chairs only)

Thursday, December 8th


Olbers Hall

Little Hall


Welcome Note

- Vice Rector for Research and Young Academics of the University of Bremen Andreas Breiter


Plenary 1: Researching Transforming Communications (chair: Göran Bolin, Södertörn U, Sweden)

- Andreas Hepp, U Bremen, Germany

- Uwe Hasebrink, Hans-Bredow-Institut, Germany



Keynote 1: Otherwise Engaged: From vanity metrics to critical analytics (chair: Andreas Breiter)

-  Richard Rogers, U Amsterdam, The Netherlands



Journalism and its audience - audiences and their journalisms (chair: Wiebke Loosen)

- Laura Ahva, U Tampere, Finland

- Irene Costera Meijer, U Amsterdam, The Netherlands

- Neil Thurman, LMU Munich, Germany

- Wiebke Loosen & Uwe Hasebrink, Hans-Bredow-Institut Hambug, Germany




14:00 – 16:00

Remembering to belong? – Family memory in times of deep mediatization (chair: Christine Lohmeier)

- Sara Polak, Leiden U, The Netherlands

- Karina Horsti, U Jyväskylä, Finland

- Göran Bolin, Södertörn U,  Sweden

- Christine Lohmeier & Rieke Böhling, U Bremen, Germany

Forces of persistence? Religious authority in times of deep mediatization (chair: Kerstin Radde-Antweiler)

- Pauline Cheong, Arizona State U, USA

- Andrea Rota, U Fribourg, Switzerland

- Tim Hutchings, Stockholm U, Sweden

- Kerstin Radde-Antweiler & Sina Gogolok &Hannah Grünenthal, U Bremen, Germany


Coffee and tea break


Datafying education (chair: Andreas Breiter)

- Kim Schildkamp, U Twente, The Netherlands

- Daniel Light, Center for Children and Technology, New York, USA

- Rebecca Eynon, Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford, United Kingdom

- Andreas Breiter & Juliane Jarke, U Bremen, Germany

Networked media collectivities (chair: Thomas Friemel)

- Thomas Friemel & Matthias Bixler, U Bremen, Germany

- Mathias Weber, U Mainz, Germany

- Volker Gehrau, U Münster, Germany

- Christian Steglich, Linköping U, Sweden


The mediated construction of reality (chair: Uwe Hasebrink)

- Andreas Hepp, U Bremen, Germany

- Hubert Knoblauch, TU Berlin, Germany

- Giselinde Kuipers, U of Amsterdam, The Netherlands



Dinner (for presenters and chairs only)

Friday, December 9th  


Olbers Hall

Little Hall


Keynote 2: The Social Lives of Personal Data:
Communicative Figurations in the Rise of Self-Tracking
(chair: Andreas Hepp)

- Gina Neff, U Oxford



Pioneer communities: Imagining media-related transformations (chair: Andreas Hepp)

- Tamara Witschge, U Groningen, The Netherlands

- Leah A. Lievrouw, U Los Angeles, USA

- Nicole Zillien, U Trier, Germany

- Andreas Hepp, U Bremen, Germany

Imagined communities and cross-media constructions of collectivities (chair: Hans-Ulrich Wagner)

- Andreas Fickers, U Luxemburg, Luxemburg

- Alec Badenoch, U Utrecht, The Netherlands 

- Marie Cronqvist, Lund U, Sweden

- Lisa Spanka, U Bremen, Germany




School’s out: Informal learning in mediatized collectives (chair: Karsten Wolf)

- Karsten Wolf, U Bremen, Germany

- Paul Eisewicht, TU Dortmund, Germany & Michaela Pfadenhauer, U Vienna, Austria

- Manuela Pietrass, U Bundeswehr Munich, Germany

- Sebastian Fiedler, U Hamburg, Germany

Meeting face-to-face: Communication and political decision-making (chair: Tanja Pritzlaff)

- Stéphanie Novak, ESPOL, France & Sandrine Baume, U Lausanne, Switzerland

- Philippe Urfalino, EHESS, Paris, France

- Tanja Pritzlaff, Frank Nullmeier, U Bremen, Germany


Coffee and tea break


Disturbances of the Middle Classes’ Conduct of Life and Their Coping (chair: Ute Volkmann)

- Peter Lunt, University of Leicester, United Kingdom

- Christine Linke, University of Rostock, Germany

- Uwe Schimank, Ute Volkmann & Michael Walter, U Bremen, Germany

Bridging moralization and deliberation research (chair: Stefanie Averbeck-Lietz)

- Caja Thimm, U Bonn Germany

- Peter Dahlgren, Lund U, Sweden

- Jostein Gripsrud, U Bergen, Norway

- Stefanie Averbeck-Lietz, Rebecca Venema & Christina Sanko, U Bremen, Germany


Dinner (for presenters and chairs only)