The re-figuration of public communication in times of deep mediatization: Pioneer journalism, audience relationships and public connection

A project cluster consisting of three research projects.


A major consequence of deep mediatization – the increasing entanglement of the social world with digital media and their infrastructures – is the fundamental transformation of public communication. Clear negative manifestations of this transformation can be seen in phenomena such as clickbait journalism, ‘fake news’, or silos of media use. But these changes can manifest themselves in positive ways as well, including new forms of investigative data journalism, an increase in user participation in journalism, or opportunities for users to enrich their media repertoires with more diverse sources. While being ambivalent in their character, these examples demonstrate the extent to which public communication is currently being re-figured. This three-project package’s objective is to investigate the re-figuration of public communication at its present stage.

To this end, the package comprises three particularly relevant perspectives on the re-figuration of public communication: first, pioneer journalism, a field that encompasses a range of new journalistic forms such as data-driven or algorithmic journalism that are beginning to emerge beyond established media organizations and in so doing manage to unsettle journalism’s organizational foundations; second, the changing relationship between journalists and their audiences, a relationship that is being dramatically reshaped through processes of deep mediatization, influencing in new ways how journalists’ work and what they produce; and third, individuals’ public connections, connections that are increasingly based on highly complex media repertoires.

Across the three projects, the package has a unifying analytical frame that makes it
possible to relate and to compare each project’s empirical research results with one another: here, re-figuration refers to the transformation of communicative figurations, that is, of actor constellations, media-related practices, and the frames of relevance present within certain social domains.
The overall research question of the project package is: What are the consequences of deep mediatization for the re-figuration of public communication? Our combination of journalism, audience, and mediatization research offers a multifaceted perspective that will make possible a joint investigation that is built around two ‘units’: journalism and media users, both of which are constitutive for public communication as they fluctuate dynamically.
As their empirical field of inquiry, this package’s projects investigate the above matters in a German context. There are two reasons for this: first, a focus on just one research context allows for the multi-level, in-depth analysis required to answer the main, broader research question. Second, the German media system includes public service and private broadcasting, private print and online news organizations, transnational social media as well as a new generation of startups and accelerators. The whole spectrum of professional media that exists in other European countries, therefore,
can be found in Germany allowing us to analyze the entire set of relevant dynamics.

All three projects are funded by the DFG and have a duration of three years, from summer 2019 to 2022.

Principle inverstigators