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Research profile

The research programme builds on research that aims to enhance, expand and challenge existing media and communication theories, studies and methods. The research programme has two starting points. First, the research programme is based on a specific conceptualisation of media. The conceptualisation of media views media as platforms for meaning producing and experiences, intended and unintended behaviours, actions and interactions and such media are used for different purposes in specific discursive fields. Furthermore, the conceptualisation of media views the media as powerful agents and infrastructures of society. This fundamental media conceptualisation entails an integration of theory and research methodology from various fields such as the humanities, computer science and the social sciences. Second, the conceptualisation of communication present in the research programme views communication as a constituent of society and as an activity building and transforming society. Using different forms of expression and media, this activity has a decisive influence on the formation of identities, opinions, values and ideologies as well as qualities, perceptions and institutions important to the constitution and development of society.

Based on these two conceptualisations, the research programme accommodates research in different communicative and discursive universes influencing culture and society. Furthermore, the research programme has an integrating perspective given that the theoretical and methodological interests involve the entire communication circuit. As a consequence, the object of research in the programme is not only media devices, platforms and content and their historical and current transformations, but equally important the societal actors (e.g. users, media institutions, platforms and politicians) in many forms and with different power relationships that brings such platform interaction and content to life and create meaning and purpose to the creation and circulation.

Research areas and challenges

The research programme expands and challenges existing research interests in a number of different pivotal areas that varies from researcher to researcher and shifts over time. At the moment the research program has seven strategic areas:

Media, Communication, and Society: As media are increasingly digital, mobile and intertwined in our everyday lives, the context in which such mediated communication takes place is equally growing in complexity. The mapping and analysis of media, their complex usage and media flows, media embodiment and integration of hitherto separated life spheres and networks are a challenge to the field of media and communication research. The same is the case with the fundamental challenges posed by digital and global media landscapes to central democratic issues of equality, social cohesion, diversity and cultural policy. The research within this cluster will examine these challenges with the aim to both understand them in time and as transformations over time. Some of the defining key words for research in this theme include: Mediality; Mediatization; Transnational Media Flows; Equality, Diversity & Migration; User Flows; Non-verbal and Affective Communication; Rhetorics; Social Cohesion & Fragmentation; Democracy & Participation; Changing Power Dynamics & Structures.

Media Industries, Platforms and Providers: The increasing globally intertwined network of media/platform owners, providers and producers challenge the ways of understanding and conceptualizing media and media dynamics. This changes the logics and economy of media production that is especially made visible in discussions on moderation and classification of content but also in the way that we conceptualize and analyze media practices, associated public (good) values, and maintaining journalistic authority and legitimacy. The research to be done under this thematic cluster will focus on both transformational challenges of established media companies and configurations of new networks and agents that challenge our ontological and epistemological approach to media industry, production and practices and (re-)construction of regulation and policy. Some of the defining key words for research under this theme include: Legacy Media & Content Producers; Online Platforms; Moderation and Curation of Content; Media Circuits: Processes, Flows & Agents; Changing Journalism & Media Practice; Changing Media Economy; Cultural Policy.

Critical Digital Methodology: This thematic area addresses the fact that more and more media content as well as meta-data about media users’ uses of media are digital, thus affording a general “Digital Bildung” in both, research and education. Research under this cluster will focus on both, the advancing of researchers’ personal methodological skills in terms of data management, computational methods, statistics and the understanding of digital media retrieval and archives/archiving, and on developing new methods for identifying, collecting, archiving, engaging with, analyzing, inferring and critically assessing the reliability, replicability, validity and generalizability of media, interaction and communication data in digital formats. Pursuing individual research questions, it will 1.) address what is reasonable and valid to claim about ‘culture’ and usage, based on its (digital) representation, and 2.) identify, negotiate, and emphasize the ethical and legal implications of data privacy, processing, access, ownership, and protection. Keywords are: Digital “Bildung”, Critical Epistemology & Critical Methodology; Computational Social Science; Critical Quantitative and Qualitative Big Data Research; Access to Privately Owned and IP protected Data including Personal Feeds and Digital Media Archives.

Media, Algorithms and Power: The succession of data scandals, security breaches, computational propaganda and related privacy issues have highlighted the imperative for academics, ordinary users and policy makers to understand the increasing value of digital data and how these are generated and flow. It has become clear that algorithms are both increasingly used to capture, process and recommend digital data and are emerging as indispensable ‘actors’ in the digital media landscape. The use of algorithms shapes an increasing – and at times, alarming – proportion of digital life and experiences. Research under this cluster will aim to address the key issues around knowledge and power emerging because of the value of digital data and the role of algorithms therein. Some of the defining key words for research under this theme include: Privacy; AI; Automation & Human Control; Predictions; Collective Behaviour; Misinformation & Disinformation; Algorithmic Personalization of Media; Advanced Computational and Big Data.

Journalism in a Network Age: Publics, Infrastructures and Boundaries: The significant digitalization of media landscapes has seriously affected the ways in which journalism is organized, funded, produced, distributed and consumed. These developments have sparked wide-ranging fundamental questions about journalism- its essence, boundaries and future. Taking into account the infrastructural functions and designs of digital media- especially social media as well as the broader infrastructure of the Internet, research within this cluster will seek to address the different structural conditions that shape the development of and practices of journalism in historical, contemporary and national and international perspectives. Some of the defining key words for research under this theme include: Global Journalism; Politics of Infrastructures; Boundaries of Journalism; Networks of Publics and their Articulations; Automated Journalism, Journalistic Authority and Legitimacy; Metajournalistic Discourse.

Online Audio-visual Cultures, Video Production and Video Essays: Dynamic changes within the digital media landscape have had a profound impact on audio-visual practices and forms of expression– and they in turn on it. Audio-visual forms of expression permeate communicative processes within increasingly varied social, cultural, organizational and institutional contexts – both at local, national, regional and transnational levels. New forms of production and communication are established in this process, traditional forms are modified, renegotiated and recast. Valuable insights can be gained from studying media from political, institutional/organizational, socio-cultural, technological, economic and aesthetic perspectives. There is a vibrant community within the department that studies production processes – but from an outsider’s perspective. It is imperative to develop the department’s research profile in relation to production of audio-visual texts themselves and the relevant contexts in which they are created, distributed and used. Keywords: Video-essays; Online Video Cultures; Video Production, Audio-visual Methodologies; Practice-based Theory and Theory-based Practice.

Strategic Communication: The increasing digitalization of contemporary media landscapes has significantly restructured the planning and implementation of strategic communication. The communicative architectures upon which strategic communication is based on are constantly evolving and it is becoming increasingly central to understand: 1.) how professions, corporate and non-corporate organizations and individuals navigate these changes in their attempts to shape their public perceptions and further their or related interests; 2.) how contemporary promotional cultures are organized, implemented and experienced and the socio-cultural and political implications of these and 3.) the particular roles and dynamics that media and technology (e.g social media; mobile/locative media; film and television; print and online media) play in promotional culture. Some of the defining key words for research under this theme include: Digitalization and Promotional Cultures: Logics, Manifestations and Implications; Brand Communication; Brand Journalism; Strategic Communication/Branding Campaigns; Social Media Marketing.

Profile and participants

The research programme has its point of departure in research areas at Aarhus University, that has been able to attract research funding, and that is characterized by collaboration with national as well as international research institutions as well as fruitful international networks within media and communication research. The programme conduct research in close collaboration with (e.g. case studies) and disseminate to (e.g. policy recommendations) media industries and digital platform companies, NGOs, ministries and EU policy bodies. All of the researchers involved have backgrounds in different disciplines, e.g. anthropology, political science, sociology, neuroscience, linguistics and literary studies, and journalism and media studies.