Connected and automated driving is essential for a digital society. It is the key to safe, clean, efficient and comfortable mobility, both in private and passenger transport. Technological developments in the recent past have made enormous progress in drive, control, sensor and communication technologies; however, with regard to automated driving in local public transport, there are still numerous hurdles to overcome in research, development, communication and transfer.
The joint project KREATÖR, carried out by the Thuringian Innovation Center for Mobility (ThIMo), takes up this challenge by forming a close alliance with other R&D activities of the ThIMo and its environment; this includes, in particular, the project of the Ilm district on highly automated driving in local public transport with the aim of further developing public transport to increase its sustainability and user acceptance. KREATÖR not only provides the scientific support required for its successful implementation, but also underpins it with innovative R&D measures in the direction of future-oriented radio and vehicle technologies for safety-relevant mobility applications. The environment of a real laboratory, with communication science acceptance analyses and transfer measures, offers the best conditions for a user-centered approach and the creation of an innovation-open ecosystem with enormous connection potential.
The project is funded by the Free State of Thuringia and managed by the Thüringer Aufbaubank. It pursues three core objectives:
1. scientific monitoring of the pilot operation of automated campus buses
2. innovative technologies for highly automated and connected driving in the research fields of radio technologies and vehicle technologies
3. science communication and transfer
The tasks of the PRTK department include the sociological analysis of risk perception and public acceptance as well as the conception of public relations and strategic technology and science communication.
Project start: May 2021
Contact at the research group PRTK:Tatjana Faj
Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the research group for Public Relations and Communication of Technology, together with the research groups Computational Communication Science, Databases and Information Systems, and Media Science at the Technische Universität Ilmenau and the Institute for Risk Assessment in Berlin, is analyzing how traditional media in their online coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic and the crisis management or risk communication of governments or health institutions in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States have informed and thus encouraged the population to self-protective behavior.
Three key questions will be the focus of the subprojects from June 2021 to May 2024:
(1) What explanations and messages about Covid-19 have governments and health institutions communicated to the public in each country?
(2) How did media report on the pandemic and related risk messages from governments?
(3) How did the public perceive the pandemic and the risk messages?
Further information: https://www.tu-ilmenau.de/decipher
On March 12, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus a pandemic. Since then, the virus has changed nearly every aspect of social interaction. This includes studying at universities worldwide. Infectious disease control measures had to be enforced in a very short time, including distance learning. Technical systems were set up, forms of examination changed, and the work of lecturers also shifted to the digital world. This brought massive challenges for university communication. It has to take into account a wide variety of cultural contexts, as universities today have an international character. Crisis communication research still lacks intercultural study approaches, especially beyond Europe and the USA. Therefore, the aim of this project is to study COVID-19 communication at universities worldwide in order to present and compare risk communication approaches in relation to different cultural contexts and thus also to develop practice-relevant recommendations for the future.
The following research questions will be answered:
1) How were risk and crisis communication messages created and distributed to internal audiences at universities worldwide during the Corona pandemic?
2) What are the communication skills and competencies of university communicators in different countries?
3) What challenges did they face during COVID-19?
The IDEA model for crafting effective guiding crisis and risk communication (Sellnow, Lane, Sellnow & Littlefield, 2017) and Schwartz's (2006) Culutral Values theory served as the theoretical basis for answering these questions.
A total of 20 semi-structured qualitative guided interviews were conducted with university communication officers in 18 different countries. The cultural clusters of English-speaking, Latin American, Western European, Eastern European, African as well as South Asian countries were considered. The project is led by Dr. Andreas Schwarz, the data collection and parts of the analysis took place in the context of a seminar of the master program Media and Communication Studies.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the technologies that are believed to change social coexistence and the global economy in the long term. Even though the current state of development of AI is still far away from 'autonomously thinking' machines (also called 'strong AI'), some applications have already found their way into everyday life (e.g. autonomous driving, face or voice recognition).
In addition to positive voices on the opportunities and potential of AI technologies, there have also been critical words and warnings in public debates and media coverage - including from prominent figures such as Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX) or Stephen Hawking. As physicist and Future of Life Institute co-founder Max Tegmark noted in 2017, "Unfortunately, the much-needed call for sober research plans is being all but stifled by a discord of ill-informed views permeating the blogosphere." (S. 76).
The accusation is directed at journalists from a wide variety of media and requires a more precise empirical inventory, which will be realized in the context of this pilot study. For although it can be assumed that this public debate will have a substantial impact on the research, regulation and further development of AI, empirical communication research has so far hardly dealt with the media construction of AI technologies or the strategic (risk) communication of actors in business, science and politics.
This research gap is to be closed with the current research project "Framing of 'general' and 'narrow' Artificial Intelligence (AI)". The question to be answered is:
Which frames and risk descriptions dominate media coverage of artificial intelligence and its fields of application?
With the help of a comparative content analysis, frames related to AI technologies in German and international media will be identified, quantified and described in terms of content. The focus is on the risk perception and assessment of concrete AI applications ('narrow' AI) as well as general artificial intelligence ('general' AI). The content analysis is based on the framing approach and is linked to established concepts of risk communication, risk perception and science communication research.
The pilot project is part of a new research focus that the Department of Public Relations and Technology Communication, headed by Dr. Andreas Schwarz, is currently developing more intensively and in interdisciplinary cooperation with AI experts. In the process, questions of AI communication will be linked in particular with aspects of risk and crisis communication.
Tegmark, M. (2017). Let's get ready! In J. Brockman (Ed.), What should we make of artificial intelligence? Today's leading scientists on intelligent machines (2nd ed., pp. 75-78). Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch.
The central problems of global society (e.g. climate, food, security, poverty) cannot be solved at the national level alone. Rather, since the middle of the 20th century, transnational organizations have increasingly been involved in this. In this context, they fulfill central tasks in international politics. Not only intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) such as UN organizations, the World Trade Organization, the European Union, ASEAN, but also international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) such as Greenpeace, Oxfam, Amnesty International are part of this international network. In the event of a crisis, these organizations are particularly and usually existentially affected. Despite the importance of these organizations in global civil society and politics, crisis communication or crisis resilience has so far been mainly
studied for corporations. For the field of INGOs and IGOs, however, there are almost no generalizable scientific findings so far that provide information about instruments, resources or structures of crisis communication of these actors. Furthermore, there is a lack of reliable findings on specific influencing factors that explain the crisis vulnerability or resilience of transnational nonprofit organizations in the context of national, international or intra-organizational crises.
The research project conducted by the research groups for Media Studies as well as Public Relations and Communication of Technology aims to fill this research gap as well as to make a substantial contribution to theory building to describe and explain crisis communication management or crisis resilience of the most influential transnational NGOs and IGOs.
Within the framework of an initial content analysis of media coverage of crisis incidents of INGOs and IGOs in an international context, the relevance of the topic from a media perspective will be determined. The content analysis is based on Entman's (1993) framing concept and on findings from crisis communication research. Three national daily newspapers (quality and tabloid media) from each of six countries (India, Great Britain, USA, Canada, Germany, Switzerland) will be analyzed.
Project start date: April 2018
Contact: Dr. Andreas Schwarz
Global crises with effects beyond geographical and functional borders are among the greatest challenges of the 21st century (OECD, 2011). The European Union is also repeatedly confronted with such crises. Examples of the last decades are the financial and economic crisis, the migration crisis and currently the Corona pandemic.
Such crises exceed the possibilities of national crisis management and in some cases require supranational political leadership that can maintain the ability to act and drive solution finding (Parker & Karlsson, 2014). However, cross-border crises in particular are characterized by a 'vacuum of authority' (Ansell, Boin & Hart, 2014). Political leadership then remains mostly informal and is complicated by the need to convince citizens from different political and geographical spaces with their own interests and identities (Van Esch, 2017). The thesis of the research project is therefore that cross-border political crisis leadership is also a matter of public perception. Thus, the project follows recent concepts dealing with public visibility as a leadership resource and focuses on a publicly perceivable construction of leadership (Glaab, 2010, among others).
Media play a crucial role as a primary source of political information. Their media construction of transnational leadership not only has far-reaching consequences for the perception and recognition of the same, but also the evaluation of the respective crisis management as well as the represented nation or institution (Balmas, 2018 & 2017; Aaldering & Vliegenthart, 2016).
The planned research project therefore explores the question of how European media construct cross-border political leadership in crises through the media and also legitimize it via references to personal or functional resources of potential actors. In doing so, the analysis focuses on publicly observable processes of attributing and justifying responsibility across geographical and political borders (Schwarz, 2014; Gerhards, Offerhaus & Roose 2007 & 2009; Roose, Sommer & Scholl, 2016). A quantitative content analysis is used to examine the coverage of two cross-border crises in four European countries. The comparative research design with a country as well as crisis comparison helps to capture the influence of different contextual factors on the media construction of cross-border political crisis leadership.
Ansell, C.; Boin, A. & Hart, Paul t' (2014). Political Leadership in Times of Crisis. In R. A. W. Rhodes & Paul t' Hart, The Oxford Handbook of Political Leadership, pp. 418 - 436. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Aaldering, L. & Vliegenthart, R. (2016). Political leaders and the media. Can we measure political leadership images in newspapers using computer-assisted content analysis? Qual Quant 50, pp. 1871 - 1905.
Balmas, M. (2018). Tell Me Who Is Your Leader, and I Will Tell You Who You Are: Foreign Leaders' Perceived Personality and Public Attitudes toward Their Countries and Citizenry. American Journal of Political Science, 62(2), pp. 499 - 514.
Balmas, M. (2017). Bad News: The Changing Coverage of National Leaders in Foreign Media of Western Democracies. Mass Communication and Society, 20(5), pp. 663 - 685.
Gerhards, J.; Offerhaus, A. & Roose, J. (2007). The public attribution of responsibility. On the development of a content analytic instrument. Cologne Journal of Sociology 59 (1), pp. 105 - 124.
Gerhards, J.; Offerhaus, A. & Roose, J. (2009). Who is in charge? The European Union, its nation states, and the mass media attribution of responsibility for success and failure. In F. Marcinkowski & B. Pfetsch, Politics in media democracy. Politische Vierteljahresschrift, pp. 529 - 558. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.
Glaab, M. (2010). Public leadership - theoretical approaches, findings and research perspectives. Austrian Journal of Political Science, 39 (3), pp. 321 - 335.
OECD (2011). Future Global Shocks. Improving risk governance. OECD Reviews of Risk Management Policies. URL: www.oecd.org/governance/risk/futureglobalshocks.htm (19.04.2018).
Parker, C. & Karlsson, C. (2014). Leadership and international cooperation. In R. A. W. Rhodes & Pault' Hart, The Oxford Handbook of Political Leadership, pp. 580 - 596. oxford: oxford university press.
Roose, J.; Sommer, M. & Scholl, F. (2016). Debt crisis and debt issue. Attribution of responsibility between Germany and Greece in the eurozone crisis. Social Movement Research Journal, 29 (1), pp. 39 - 50.
Black, A. (2014). The relevance of attributions of cause and responsibility in the context of news production and reception. Theoretical and methodological potentials of attribution theory. In W. Loosen & M. Dohle, Journalism and (its) audience, pp. 275 - 299. Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien.
Van Esch, F. A. W. J. (2017). The paradoxes of legitimate EU leadership. An analysis of the multi-level leadership of Angela Merkel and Alexis Tsipras during the euro crisis. Journal of European Integration, 39 (2), pp. 223 - 237.
Project start date: July 2019
Organizational crises and strategic crisis communication management are increasingly viewed from an audience-oriented perspective, according to which crises are understood as socially constructed and thus strongly dependent on the public's perception (Schwarz, 2014). However, different actors from different countries may perceive the same crisis differently due to their cultural background and associated value orientations.
To date, intercultural crisis communication research has been mainly based on case studies, without applying core theoretical approaches and rigid methodological designs (Claeys & Schwarz, 2016). Research in this area tends to focus on Western countries or aims to test existing Western assumptions in non-Western cultures without applying truly comparative research designs. Few studies apply an actual cross-cultural comparative methodology.
To overcome this ethnocentrism in crisis communication research and validate previous findings in cross-cultural contexts, Tatjana Faj plans to extend existing audience-oriented theories of crisis communication by answering the following research question:
RQ: What influence do cultural value orientations have on the perception and evaluation of corporate crises and crisis communication?
Specifically, the goal is to determine whether there are culturally based differences in stakeholders' perceptions of crisis type, their assessment of organizational responsibility for crises, their evaluation of a company's crisis response, and stakeholders' affective and cognitive reactions to crises. In this way, it is hoped to achieve a better understanding of the cultural variability of corporate perceptions during crises and contribute to theory building in strategic crisis communication research. The goal is to develop a theoretical model that describes and explains the impact of cultural value orientations on crisis perception and communication, thus addressing the complexity of crisis situations in a global environment.
In order to answer the research question and to further develop and test the theoretical model of cross-cultural stakeholder crisis response, a multi-method design will be implemented in this PhD project. The cross-cultural comparative study will include samples from different countries reflecting different configurations of cultural value orientations. The sequential exploratory research design consists of a qualitative part, namely guided interviews, and a quantitative part, consisting of quasi-experimental online surveys. Thus, the project represents a first step towards the development of an audience-oriented theory of crisis communication with cross-cultural validity.
Claeys, A.-S., & Schwarz, A. (2016). Domestic and International Audiences of Organizational Crisis Communication. State of the Art and Implications for Cross-Cultural Crisis Communication. In A. Schwarz, M. W. Seeger, & C. Auer (Eds.), The handbook of international crisis communication research (pp. 224-235). Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
Black, A. (2014). Crisis Communication in an Era of Hybridization and Globalization: Mapping the Field of Organizational Strategic Crisis Communication and Future Avenues of Research. Paper presented at the "Congreso Internacional de Estrategias de Comunicación en Situaciones de Riesgo y Crisis", Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera, Valencia, Spain (pp. 1-18).
Project start date: May 2018