Project Description

Prof. Dr. Barbara Pfetsch

Principal Investigator

Short Vita

I am Professor of Communication Theory and Media Effects Research at the Department of Media and Communication at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany and principal investigator at the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society. I am also involved in the Collaborative Research Centre “Re-Figuration of Spaces” (SFB 1265) at the TU Berlin.

My research focuses on changes of public spheres and political communication through the digitization and transnationalization. My projects include analyses of digital spaces issue networks, political discourse, (online) media debates and agenda building and the emergence of European and transnational public spheres.

What I find exciting about this research initiative

Social cohesion is not just an abstract category of society, but must be developed and confirmed in continuous processes of communication and discourse which bring people together and engage with each other. Investigating the dynamics of discourses that trigger or constrain social cohesion in civil society a multi- and transdisciplinary perspective is not only a fascinating intellectual challenge. It promises knowledge that help us understanding how cohesion is sustained and, more importantly, to intervene when we see discourses emerge that may threaten the integration of society.

What my discipline can contribute to this research initiative

Communication Research has been the social scientific discipline that focuses on the analysis of public communication and its linkages to politics and social life. Based on theories of the public sphere we have a framework within which we can relate the nature and the contents of public communication to the integration and social fabric of society. Moreover communication science can draw on a repertoire of methods of computational social science and text analysis (automatic text classification like topic modeling and narrative detection of word embeddings or network analysis) which we can use to research discourse of social cohesion.

Five key publications

  • Pfetsch, B., Maier, D. Stoltenberg, D. Waldherr A. Kligler-Vilenchik, N., De Vries-Kedem, M. (2021) Topographies of Local Public Spheres on Social Media: The Scope of Issues and Interactions. International Journal of Communication (in print)

  • Pfetsch, B. (2020). Democracy and Digital Dissonance: The Co-Occurrence of the Transformation of Political Culture and Communication Infrastructure. Central European Journal of Communication, 13(1), 96-110. doi: 10.19195/1899-5101.13.1(25).7

  • Bennett, L. W., & Pfetsch, B. (2018). Rethinking Political Communication in a Time of Disrupted Public Spheres. Journal of Communication, 68(2), 243-253. doi: 10.1093/joc/jqx017

  • Maier, D., Waldherr, A., Miltner, P., Jähnichen, P., & Pfetsch, B. (2017). Exploring Issues in a Networked Public Sphere: Combining Hyperlink Network Analysis and Topic Modeling. Social Science Computer Review, 36(1), 3-20. doi: 10.1177%2F0894439317690337

  • Pfetsch, B. (Ed.) (2014). Political Communication Cultures in Europe: Attitudes of Political Actors and Journalists in Nine Countries. Palgrave Macmillan.