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Media Use and Social Cohesion

Media Use and Social Cohesion

The project, which is a Hamburg subproject of the Forschungsinstituts gesellschaftlicher Zusammenhalt (FGZ, Research Institute Social Cohesion), uses various empirical data to determine how subgroups of society relate to each other in terms of communication. Thus, it is possible to identify communication and media-related processes of social integration and fragmentation. Furthermore, we reflect on the findings from a media law perspective and examine them with regard to their consequences for (constitutional) media law and media policy.

The project is based on the assumption that the way people use different communication media and thereby relate to different publics, groups and individuals is a decisive factor in the construction of social cohesion. Considering the permeable borders between public and private communication, the idea of a person's social integration being reflected in his or her personal networks, on the one hand, and his or her participation in public communication through the reception of mass media, on the other hand, is outdated. If we want to understand the contribution of individual media users to the construction of social cohesion in today's media environment, we need a more differentiated analysis of the practices by which individuals relate to different public spheres. The analysis of individual "repertoires of public connection" can also serve as a conceptual bridge to the description of public spheres and the analysis of their cohesion.

Thus, the project will focus particularly on (media-related) practices and the interwoven networks of relationships as decisive factors that create social cohesion. It aims to contribute to a better understanding of social cohesion, both in terms of conceptual theory and empirical analysis.
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Project Description

Methods, Empirical Approach, Procedure

To answer the key question, the project combines several disciplinary perspectives and different methodological approaches in six work packages:
  • In two work packages we will re-analyse data sets from two international comparative quantitative surveys conducted elsewhere, focusing on the question of the implications of changing patterns of media use for social cohesion.
    • Based on the data on media use in Germany, the USA and China, among others, collected in 2018 as part of the project "The Peoples' Internet (PIN)", it is possible to investigate how much population groups differ in their communication behaviour, their sense of belonging, social participation and life satisfaction.
    • The "Reuters Institute Digital News Survey (RDNS)" is an annual comparative study of news usage in 38 countries, which has been conducted since 2012. The re-analysis of the data sets will shed light on patterns of news usage, trust in reporting, the role of social media and general participation behaviour. The data will be put into perspective both in a country comparison and in a longitudinal perspective. 
  • A third work package includes studies of emerging practices in dealing with digital platforms. The data collected in the (Social) Media Observatory will be examined with regard to individual practices of social media use and their implications for social cohesion. This will include network analyses to identify audience overlaps and automated content analyses of user reactions and comments.
  • In a fourth work package, we will use data from the centrally conducted quantitative and qualitative panel studies of the FGZ and focus on the role of media and communication. Which patterns of media use can be observed in which social milieus? And how are these related to different indicators of social cohesion?
  • In addition to and building on the empirical work, a fifth work package will reflect and classify the findings of communication science from a legal perspective. In particular, we will discuss the extent to which empirically observable changes in social cohesion can be taken into account by the legislature regulating the media and how far they can still be harmonised with the concepts set out by the Federal Constitutional Court, such as that of a deliberative media democracy.
  • A sixth work package focuses on the integration of the findings from previous steps and a summary analysis.

Project Information


Duration: 2020-2024

Research programme:
RP1 - Transformation of Public Communication

Third party

Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)

Cooperation Partner

Forschungsinstitutionen im Forschungsinstitut Gesellschaftlicher Zusammenhalt

Contact person

Dr. Sascha Hölig
Senior Researcher Media Use

Dr. Sascha Hölig

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

Tel. +49 (0)40 45 02 17 - 84
Fax +49 (0)40 45 02 17 - 77

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