Pioneer Communities

The quantified self and maker movement as collective actors of deep mediatization


Principal investigator: Prof. Dr. Andreas Hepp (ZeMKI, Universität Bremen)

Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)

Duration: 2018 - September 2023

The past decade has seen the rise of collectivities that act as hybrids of social movements and think tanks and strive to shape the intertwined change of media, culture and society: pioneer communities. Distinctive present examples are the Quantified-Self- and Maker- movement. While the Quantified-Self-movement is concerned with digital practices of self-measurement, the Maker movement focuses on collaborative development of digital manufacturing in open labs, like makerspaces. The aim of the project is to conduct a comparative investigation of how the changing media environment enables these two pioneer communities in Germany and the UK, and how at the same time the change of the media environment is advanced by them. Hereby, questions arise concerning the societal influence of their concepts of media-related collectivity, as well as the associated public discourse.

The Quantified-Self- and Maker-pioneer communities build complex transnational and transcultural networks that support the technology-based imagined concepts of collectivity. Their social influence is less composed by the unilateral enforcement of their societal visions, but rather shaped by the complexity of the dissemination of technology and its news coverage.

The project investigates these pioneer communities on three levels: First, it aims to reconstruct comparatively the communicative figurations of the two pioneer communities and their power-relations. Second, it will investigate their imagined concepts of media-related collectivity and societal transformation. In their very own perspective, the pioneer communities’ conceptions in this respect are blueprints of possible transformation. Third, it investigates the public discourse surrounding these pioneer communities and compares the findings with their own structures and conceptions. Methodologically, the analysis is based on a media ethnography of the pioneer communities (including sorting methods, as well as crawler and qualitative network analysis), a qualitative content analysis of their imagined concepts of collectivity and societal transformation, and a longitudinal qualitative content analysis of the print and online media coverage they receive. The research will be conducted mainly in Germany and the UK with a focus on Berlin and London as two main European hubs for pioneer communities. As a further context of this, the origins of the pioneer communities in the US San Francisco Bay Area and important events in Europe are investigated.

External collaborators

Prof. Dr. Nick Couldry, LSE

Prof. Dr. Sonia Livingstone, LSE

Dr. Mark Taylor,  University of Sheffield

Prof. Dr. Gina Neff, University of Oxford

Prof. Dr. Michaela Pfadenhauer, University of Vienna

Prof. Dr. Fred Turner, Stanford University

Selected publications

  • Couldry, N. / Hepp, A. (2017): The mediated construction of reality. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Gerhard, U., & Hepp, A. (2018). Appropriating digital traces of self-quantification: Contextualising ‘pragmatic’ and ‘enthusiast’ self-trackers. International Journal of Communication, 11, 683-700. https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/6581/2260
  • Hepp, Andreas (2021): Auf dem Weg zur digitalen Gesellschaft: Über die tiefgreifende Mediatisierung der sozialen Welt. Köln: Halem-Verlag.

  • Hepp, A. (2022): Jenseits der Disruption: Zum Lebenszyklus von Pioniergemeinschaften und ihrer Rolle beim Entstehen einer „digitalen Gesellschaft“. KZfSS Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, 2022, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11577-022-00835-6

  • Hepp, A., Wiebke, L., Kühn, H., Solbach, P. & Kramp, L. (2021): Die Figuration des Pionierjournalismus in Deutschland. In: M&K Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft 69(4), S. 551-577. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5771/1615-634X-2021-4-551

  • Hepp, Andreas (2020): Deep Mediatization. London: Routledge.
  • Hepp, Andreas (2020): Artificial companions, social bots and work bots: communicative robots as research objects of media and communication studies In: Media, Culture & Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443720916412
  • Hepp, Andreas (2020): The fragility of curating a pioneer community: Deep mediatization and the spread of the Quantified Self and Maker movements. In: International Journal of Cultural Studies. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367877920922867 
  • Hepp, A. (2018): What makes a Maker? Curating a pioneer community through franchising. In: Nordisk Tidsskrift for Informationsvidenskab og Kulturformidling, 7 (2). https://doi.org/10.7146/ntik.v7i2.111283
  • Hepp, A. (2016): Pioneer communities: Collective actors of deep mediatisation. In: Media, Culture & Society, 38 (6), S. 918-933. https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443716664484 
  • Hepp, A., Alpen, S. & Simon, P. (2021): Beyond empowerment, experimentation and reasoning: The public discourse around the Quantified Self movement. In: Communication 46(1), p. 27-51. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/commun-2019-0189
  • Hepp, A., Benz, S. & Simon, P. (2021): Zwischen Utopie und Dystopie: Wie der öffentliche Diskurs über die Maker und Quantified-Self-Bewegung die Pioniergemeinschaften zu Treibern tiefgreifender Mediatisierung macht. In: M&K Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft 69(2), p. 270-298. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5771/1615-634X-2021-2-211 
  • Hepp, A., & Schmitz, A. (2021). The limits of the maker ideology: local makerspaces, experimental practices, and COVID-19, Continuum, DOI: 10.1080/10304312.2021.2003755