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Convergence from the User's Perspective – the Concept of Communication Modes

Convergence from the User's Perspective – the Concept of Communication Modes

The simple question “What do people do with the media?” becomes a problem in times of technical convergence. What does “watching television” mean today? Or being in front of a television. Or the reception of moving images? Or both – among other things?

In the face of the anticipated difficulty researchers (as well as media providers) will confront in differentiating the tendencies of general media use from the use of the respective individual media, given an environment where circumstances in the media are further converging technically, the concept of the communication mode is being put forward. This merits particular attention because it will become increasingly difficult to recognise from the fact that a particular technical gadget is being used just what its users are actually doing. As they use gadgets, which – to put it simply – can “do it all”, only the users themselves know, in the last analysis, what they are doing in concrete terms, that is, in what communication mode they are operating at any time.

The thesis here is that the boundaries between technical media services are indeed blurring, while the boundaries between various communication modes and their psychic, social and cultural significance are being preserved. Integrating old and new media does not mean a levelling of demarcations between the specific uses and everyday routines connected to the various media services and leading to some unspecific activity in general communication. On the contrary: empirical findings – in particular those that are deliberately seeking out patterns of individual media-use that cross the boundaries between the various media – point to the development of a very specific division of functions between the various media services.

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Project Description

This in-house project marks the continuation of previous work on the future of television use. The thesis states that although the lines between technical media services have blurred, the same cannot be said about communication modes and their mental, social and cultural meanings. The integration of old and new media does not necessarily mean that specific usage patterns and daily routines connected to certain types of media come together to form an unspecific and general communicative activity. On the contrary: Existing empirical reports, especially those focusing on cross-medial patterns of individual media use, suggest a highly specific distribution of tasks between different media services.

As part of a dissertaion project, communication modes connected to the use of the Internet were identified. This concept proved especially fruitful when it came to analysing particularities of linear and non-linear television as well as different types of moving image use.    

„Modi der Multiscreen-Nutzung: Eine explorative Untersuchung von Praktiken der Kombination verschiedener Bildschirme [Modes of Multiscreen Use: An Explorative Analysis on the Practice of Combining Various Screens]“, lecture by A. Siebenaler and U. Hasebrink at the workshop: “Media Reception and Co-Orientation - Practices of Second Screen Usage“ of the DFG priority programme "Mediatised Worlds" on June 13, 2015 in Friedrichshafen.

Project Information


Duration: 2003-2016

Research programme:
RP1 - Transformation of Public Communication

Third party

Cooperation Partner

Contact person

Prof. em. Dr. Uwe Hasebrink

Prof. em. Dr. Uwe Hasebrink

Leibniz-Institut für Medienforschung │ Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI)
Rothenbaumchaussee 36
20148 Hamburg

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