Research Areas

The following research areas are emphasized at the Department of Communication in Münster:

  • Journalism studies

    Journalism studies considers theoretically and empirically the social task and function of journalism; it investigates actors (e.g., journalists); organizations (e.g., editorial departments); journalistic modes of working; journalistic products (e.g., media content); and the relation between journalism and sources (e.g., politicians) and journalism and the public. Past and present research projects at the Department of Communication concern the socio-demographic traits of journalists; how they understand their occupation; their understanding of the public; their perceived level of autonomy at work; and the influence of their cultural background, the editorial environment, and personal opinion on their reporting. We investigate how journalists select information; the sources on which this selection is based; how the information is shaped into news; the factors which play important roles in this process; how the media processes themes and events; and how these processes are coordinated.

    Studies at the Department of Communication focus not only on journalism in general but also on particular forms of journalism such as political, science, sport, and data journalism. We examine how journalism has changed with the ascent of the Internet (e.g., the increasing presence of blogs and forums), the meaning of online journalism, and the similarities and differences of journalism when compared internationally.

  • Mediatization/Medialization of society

    Mediatization—or depending on theoretical background medialization—refers to the penetration of various social domains with media communication. Although mediatization also existed in earlier historical eras—when newspaper, radio, or television became established in society—in the course of digitalization and the proliferation and acceleration of media communication, processes of mediatization/medialization have become increasingly dynamic and complicated. Analyses of mediatization/medialization might involve specific domains, such as politics and the economy or everyday life and social relationships, or they might be more general analyses of society and culture.

    The question concerning how society and individual parts of society are changing as a result of the transformation of media communication is the object of diverse theoretical and empirical research activities at the Department of Communication. We examine the implementation of new media—particularly the Internet—new communication practices, and the mediatization of the home, as well as the media’s effects on career selection and personnel recruitment. A further emphasis of the Department is the medialization of politics, science, and the economy, which is understood here as identifying the media’s criteria for generating and directing the audience’s attention in functionally specialized social systems—as well as identifying its effects on the functioning of social systems.

  • The social context of media use

    A research emphasis at the Department of Communication is the media’s audience. Applying different theoretical and methodological perspectives, we explore who turns to which media information, how this information is absorbed and integrated into everyday life, and the resulting individual and social consequences. The Department’s endeavor to also take into consideration the social and situational context is cutting-edge. By doing so, classical questions concerning the media’s audience are given new dimensions: Does social interaction occur before, during, or after media use, and which implications does it have? How are (new) media technology and media use connected in everyday life? Does (especially new) media encourage social inclusion (e.g., the integration of disabled persons)? Does it heighten the risk social exclusion (e.g., cyberbullying among students)? Examples of current research emphases at the Department of Communication include: theoretical and methodological implications of shared media use; mass media and interpersonal communication; media use in romantic relationships; media use of disabled persons; the development and use of social media outlets; household media use and the digital mediatization of the home; the effect of gender on Internet use; and the use of digital games.

  • Online communication and new media

    Digitalization, networking, and the increasing mobility of connected devices have changed media communication profoundly. Research on online communication and new media examines its ramifications on individuals and on society as a whole. At the Department of Communication, these processes are comprehended and investigated on different levels:

    • At the micro-level of individual and community media activity, the new use patterns of digital media and their effects on modes of communication and daily life are examined. Along similar lines, we consider what it means for persons to be not only passive recipients but also active producers of media content.
    • These changes also concern organizations and institutions. For example, whether online communication has changed the working conditions of journalists is researched, as well as the extent to which blogs or Twitter have become competitors or useful sources for journalism.
    • Finally, online communication brings about relevant changes at the societal level. New forms of online communication and online action, for instance, accelerate the already rapid expansion of globalization. Additionally, we consider whether revolutionary upheaval is made possible in the first place by means of new forms of communication, or at least accelerated.
  • Political communication and democratic transparency

    The research of political communication deals with the necessary conditions, content, and consequences of freely accessible communication in public affairs. It considers media-mediated and direct forms of communication. Its primary focus is on the communicative dimension of the production, implementation, and mediation of collectively binding decisions in democratic communities. It is especially interested in the public discourses and political opinion formation taking place in print and broadcasting media, and nowadays increasingly in the Internet as well. Ongoing research projects deal with, for instance, the roles of the media and public communication in new forms of democratic governance; the connection between political communication and trust in politics; the effects of visual communication on political behavior; the effects of online media on voting and election campaigns as well as on the public’s perception of significant themes and problems. A further research emphasis is the question whether a kind of discourse outside the public sphere is being produced in the form of alternative media, which distances itself explicitly from mainstream media.

  • Strategic communication

    Strategic communication examines how strategic actors represent their interests in the public sphere. Most importantly, the aims, processes, and contents of organizational communication are considered. At the Department of Communication in Münster, the focus of research is furthermore directed at the circulation, processing, and effects of information, as well as its influence in the social context. Besides management-related approaches and methods, we take into account how strategic communication affects stakeholders, the public sphere, and social development. The theoretical and empirical research of strategic communication at the Department of Communication is distinguished for its combination of persuasive communication and communication management.
    Current areas of emphasis regard the strategic communication of diverse types of organizations from different fields of social action: the dialogic online communication of companies; deception in strategic communication; the responsible and sustainable communication of companies; trust in and through strategic communication; strategic communication and model development for cities and regions; media, career education, and personnel recruitment; new forms of information acquisition among youths; and how political campaigns are perceived by the public.

  • Trust and communication

    Trust is an elementary component of social life. Individuals, organizations, and larger social spheres (e.g., economy, politics, science, sport, or media) are—especially in light of the increasing complexity of social interaction—dependent on trust, which is, as a rule, generated by communication. Special attention is given to how trust changes under the conditions of digitalization (e.g., the Internet). The development and maintenance of trust is examined in various contexts.

    • In the field of journalism studies, for example, we investigate how journalists build trust with their sources; which factors of journalism in general or media products in particular influence the trust of recipients; and how media contributes to the development of trust and mistrust in the social spheres of politics, science, and the economy. Journalism and media are viewed as both trust-givers and trust-takers.
    • In the field of strategic communication, we investigate, for example, how organizations attempt to use communication to obtain the trust of their stakeholders; the meaning of trust, for instance, for the organization’s reputation; how trust relationships between employees and the organization’s leaders are formed; and the role of trust in collaborations between organizations and public relations advisors and agencies.
  • Science communication

    The field of science communication analyzes public communication about scientific research as well as the knowledge outcome (technology). Understood instrumentally, science communication should rouse attention in a nonscientific public for science and technology, awaken the public’s interest in science, make science understandable, and enable opinion formation. It is therefore often assumed that science communication is advantageous, since public attention has a positive effect on public interest: more people are interested in understanding, and eventually supporting, scientific research. By contrast, critical approaches examine the internal dynamic of public discourse about science and research as well as the dysfunctional repercussion of transparency on scientific institutions and the obtainment of knowledge.

    Current research at the Department of Communication deals with the media representation and framing of science and technology and the role of media communication in science and research politics (keyword: medialization of science); we also look at the increasing media coverage of higher educational institutions and its effect on academic performance.