Professional communication in the context of crises

Short description

In recent years, there have been repeated tragic cases of child homicide or child abuse that have caused a stir throughout Germany. It is not uncommon for the media to accuse the responsible youth welfare offices of complicity. In order to support the employees of the youth welfare offices in their communicative handling of such high-profile crisis cases, Dr. Liane Rothenberger, Alice Srugies and Kathrin Schleicher conducted a research project at the Department of Media Studies under the direction of Dr. Andreas Schwarz from September 2013 to April 2015. The project "Professional Communication in the Context of Crises: Analysis and Improvement of Crisis Management by Youth Welfare Offices in Germany" was funded on the basis of a grant from the National Center for Early Help.

The research project comprises two scientific studies that provide a comprehensive picture of the communication of youth welfare offices in the context of crises. A content analysis of media coverage in newspapers and magazines as well as selected regional daily newspapers from 2009 to 2013 analyzes the public perception of youth welfare offices as well as the responsible actors in the municipalities and their handling of crises. In parallel, the research team conducted more than 30 guideline interviews in German youth welfare offices.

Based on these research results, the project team developed a strategic guideline to guide communicative crisis management in youth welfare offices. It will be made available to German youth welfare offices as a working aid in fall 2015.

Military Media Relations

Military "Media Relations". The Relations of the German and U.S. Armed Forces with the Media: Comparative Analysis of Military Communications Management since 1990 (Funding: DFG; Duration: since 2009)

Short description

This research project, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), consists of two subprojects that are integrated into a larger research network on the topic of "Military and Media in the 20th Century." Both subprojects focus on the analysis of the military side of the relationship between the military and the media. Accordingly, the objects of investigation are the Bundeswehr and the U.S. armed forces as well as the political leadership organizations directly responsible for the respective military organizations (BMVg, Pentagon) in their relations with the media.

Conceived as a comparative longitudinal analysis, the two subprojects will answer the question of how and for what reasons the Bundeswehr's media relations have changed in comparison to the U.S. armed forces from 1990 to the present. The focus will be on the tasks, performance and structures of military-media relations as well as on the relationship between military and security media relations. In order to systematically explore the field of media-related organizational communication of the military, which has been neglected in communication studies so far, a multi-method design consisting of document analyses and guided interviews will be used. With the help of the results, a contribution is made to the establishment of a theory of politics-military-media interrelations.

Public Diplomacy

The research project "Public Diplomacy" examines the structures, understanding and application of public diplomacy in Germany

Short description

Public diplomacy subsumes all communication activities of individual and corporate actors that shape political, economic, cultural and/or scientific relations with other countries and influence the perception of one's own country abroad While the concept has a longer history in the U.S., it has only recently been used in Germany to influence attitudes and actions of foreign governments and populations, to gain understanding of one's own country's culture, positions and policies, and to generate mutual understanding.

This research project, conducted by Claudia Auer, Sylvia Krichbaum, and Alice Srugies under the direction of Prof. Martin Löffelholz, analyzes public diplomacy on four levels: A theory-driven review systematizes previous findings in public diplomacy research and compares public diplomacy with related concepts. An international comparative analysis elaborates the similarities and differences between public diplomacy practice and research in different countries. A historical description examines the roots and developments of the concept in Germany as well as resulting recommendations for future public diplomacy practice.

An empirical analysis based on guideline interviews and a document analysis provides the first differentiated overview of the most important public diplomacy actors in Germany, their understanding of public diplomacy, their goals, target groups, instruments and methods, their resources and evaluation measures as well as existing networks.

The results of the research project were published in the book publication "Public Diplomacy" in 2012.

The transformation of current media communication

The Transformation of Current Media Communication. Theoretical and empirical delimitation of a media field in transition (Funding: DFG)

Short description

How can online journalism be described both theoretically and empirically? Does online journalism largely correspond to traditional journalism, or does it produce structures and patterns of action that distinguish it as innovative journalism and at the same time mark a coming transformation of journalism as a whole?

These central questions of current journalism research were answered with the help of a theoretical and empirical research program funded by the DFG. This involved, first, a review of the state of research in German-speaking and Anglo-American countries, second, the development of a differentiated theoretical model that can adequately capture phenomena of change, and third, a multi-method study that included observations and interviews in selected newsrooms.

Online journalism

Online Journalism: Transnational Comparisons between American and German Online Journalists (Funding: Alexander-von-Humboldt-Stiftung, TransCoop-Project; Duration: 2002-2005)

Short description

This cooperative project between the Institute of Media and Communication Studies at the Technical University of Ilmenau and the School of Journalism at Indiana University in Bloomington fulfilled two goals: For the first time in Germany, an empirically saturated, representative picture of the attitudes, activity profiles and specifics of journalistic activity of online journalists was drawn.

In addition, the close connection of the study to a representative survey of U.S. journalists in terms of timing and content made it possible to draw conclusions about cross-cultural developments in a central area of innovation in journalism. In Germany, around 450 CATI-supported telephone interviews were conducted with online journalists.

Alumni follow-up

Alumni Follow-up: Globalization, Religion, and the Media in the Islamic World: The Impact of Cultural Transformation and the Mobilization of the Masses (October 4-5 and October 8-9, 2002).

Short description

The specialized seminars "Globalization, Religion, and the Media in the Islamic World" were held in the Indonesian metropolises of Bandung and Yogyakarta from October 4 to 5 and from 8 to 9, 2002. The alumni seminars were organized by the FG Media Studies at the IfMK of the TU Ilmenau in cooperation with the Islamic University Bandung, the Catholic Atma Jaya University Yogyakarta and the Indonesian Association of German Alumni.

Both seminars were attended by about 120 participants each. The speakers' contributions focused on the relationships between globalization, religion and the social role of the media.

Multimodal framing (dissertation project)

Xu, Yi (2023): Multimodal news frames: Comparison of Germany’s and China’s national images in news posts on social media between 2007 and 2019

Short description

Over the past two decades, visual communication has received increasing popularity. The rise of the visually-dominated social media resonates with the multimodal turn that describes the configuration of visual and textual resources in contemporary media environment. Focusing on the nascent trend of multimodal framing research, Yi Xu’s dissertation provides a systematic review of scientific literature on visual and multimodal framing published between 1979 and 2021. Furthermore, this dissertation outlines theoretical considerations underlining the multimodal framing as a multi-dimensional process, and suggests a five-step analytical strategy for quantitative content analysis.

Based on the suggested theoretical framework, this PhD takes national images as the theme and provides two empirical studies: (1) Multimodal news frames of Germany’s national images in social media posts in the USA and China between 2007 and 2019, and (2) Multimodal news frames of China’s national images on Twitter in the USA and Germany between 2007 and 2019. Studies show how textual, visual, and text-image relational elements construct a nation’s image in multimodal frames in social media news. International comparison reveals similarities and differences in multimodal frames that can be shaped by contextual factors such as journalistic cultures, political homophily, visual traditions, and platform affordances.

Decentering the Discours in Journalistic Competence in the Digital Age (dissertation project)

Estella, Pauline Gidget (2023): Decentering the Discours in Journalistic Competence in the Digital Age: Toward a Global Conceptual Framework

Short description


The news newsroom of a television station (dissertation project)

Rasem, Bernd (2020): The Newsroom of a Television Station. A qualitative analysis using the example of Norddeutscher Rundfunk.

Short description


Terrorism as communication (habilitation project)

Rothenberger, Liane (2020): Terrorism as communication - stocktaking, explanations, and challenges

Short description

Communication theories and terrorism - how can a connection be made? Terrorism is a dominant topic in today's world: it sometimes dominates public political discussions as well as private conversations. Communication studies can help to further penetrate the phenomenon of terrorism and provide important pieces of the puzzle to grasp it in its entirety. The development of media skills among some terrorist groups makes it imperative that the "social problem of terrorism" be approached with the help of a "communications science lens.

Theory of Public Diplomacy (dissertation project)

Auer, Claudia (2017): Theory of Public Diplomacy

Short description

The topic of public diplomacy has become more important in the last two decades. For example, the term public diplomacy increasingly appears in documents, speeches, and job titles of many governmental organizations and alliances of states. However, as naturally as the term public diplomacy is now used in professional practice, it remains unclear in research. The indeterminacy of the scholarly understanding of public diplomacy can be attributed in part to a lack of theoretical grounding: Despite a significant expansion of efforts, research on public diplomacy must be classified as largely atheoretical. Therefore, the aim of the dissertation is to combine findings from different social theories into a consistent theory of public diplomacy that can be connected to previous research. With the help of this theoretical foundation, professional practice in this field can also be improved.

Competition or complementarity? (dissertation project)

Srugies, Alice (2016): Competition or Complementarity? A Comparative Analysis of the Public Diplomacy of the EU and its Member States.

Short description

The concept of public diplomacy not only describes communication activities of nation states, but also includes subnational and transnational actors. A large discrepancy between the EU's actions and the international perception of these actions is apparent. Researchers attribute this lack of visibility of the EU to its complex structure, its constant changes, but also to the public diplomacy strategy of the EU member states.

Alice Srugies' dissertation project compares the public diplomacy approach of the EU and selected member states (France, Sweden). The study analyzes to what extent the goals, messages and instruments of the EU and its member states compete or complement each other. The dissertation project contributes to an empirically grounded theory of public diplomacy.

The study works with an interdisciplinary research guiding model and combines an analysis of strategy documents with expert interviews with public diplomacy practitioners.

Journalism in Indonesia (dissertation project)

Hanitzsch, Thomas (2004): Journalism in Indonesia: actors, structures, orientation horizons, journalism cultures.

Short description

In the multi-ethnic state of Indonesia, the fall of the Suharto dictatorship and democratic reforms have led to an unprecedented transformation of the media system. Journalists in the Southeast Asian island kingdom are among those social actors who have been able to benefit very quickly from the change in political circumstances. However, the most populous Islamic nation is also interesting for research in communication and media studies because it is undergoing a fundamental process of social and cultural transformation.

Based on interviews with 385 professional journalists, the work provides a comprehensive picture of actors, structures and professional orientation horizons in journalism. Thus, for the first time, scholars have comprehensive data on a journalism system throughout Southeast Asia. In addition, the work explores the role of cultural practices in the production of journalistic media statements. The available findings make clear that Indonesia's journalism differs little from that of other regions of the world and that its structures are relatively robust to cultural influences.

Translocal Media Cultures (habilitation project)

Hepp, Andreas (2004): Translocal media cultures: deterritorialization and the globalization of media communication

Short description

The aim of the habilitation project, completed in 2003, was to develop a new approach to the description of media cultures in times of globalization of media communication. Starting from a discussion of existing approaches to media culture research and their critique, a redefinition of the study of media cultures took place along the concepts of translocality and transculturality. The concept of "translocal media cultures" developed in this context was tested on different levels of articulation of media culture within the framework of the habilitation project.

Image copyrights © TU Ilmenau/Hajo Dietz