Christian Pentzold

Projects

Discourse - Digital. Theories, Methods, Case Studies (2016-2019)

In this network, a group of researchers coming from linguistics and communication studies work on a register of kindred projects. Together, they investigate into digital discourse and employ the range of newly developed tools in corpus linguistics and digital methods. For one, the project aims at systematizing the communicative forms found in current digital discourses and link them to cognate analytical tools. Building on that, the network promotes a set of empirical cases studies that examine the characteristic spectrum of semiotic features and interactive patterns.

The network is founded by a networking grant from the German Research Foundation.

ABIDA. Assessing Big Data (2015-2019)

The interdisciplinary project ABIDA (Assessing Big Data), funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, explores social opportunities and risks of the generation, linking and analysis of huge amounts of data and develops options for political action, research and development. ABIDA approaches the topic of Big Data from a fundamentally interdisciplinary perspective. Sociologists, philosophers, economists, legal and political scientists work hand in hand on this. The project aims to jointly gather existing knowledge about dealing with big data, generate new knowledge, deepen the knowledge, and make it accessible to the widest possible public. The scientists will examine the societal impacts associated with Big Data by using the methods of technology assessment oriented to dialogue and participation.

In this project, I'm a member of the political science working group that deals with Big Data as a subject and source of regulation.

Editorial Surveillance and Archival Knowledge in Online Collaboration (2016-2017)

Zooming in on the everyday practices of mutual observation, the strategies of Wikipedia authors to watch at and watch over each other through an archive of wiki-based activities are examined on the ground of a three-year ethnographic study among English- and German-language contributors. For one, the technologically enabled gaze on collaborative activities is examined as a form of editorial surveillance. Regarding the status of the knowledge circulated in such environment, the routines of monitoring are then studied for the exploitation of operational cognizance and nescience. Finally, accounting for the reciprocal information gathering by users about their peers invites to redraft, once again, concepts of panopticism commonly mobilized to describe modern societies of control and discipline.

The project is supported through the 8th German-Israeli Frontiers of Humanities (GISFOH) Symposium "Witnessing and Knowing: Challenging Re/Sources of Knowledge" to which I have been generously invited by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH) and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities (IASH). There, I work together with, among others, Amit Pinchevski and Keren Tenenboim-Weinblatt from Hebrew University Jerusalem as well as Elke Grittmann from Leuphana University. More about the programme can be found here

Assessing Multi-Disciplinary, Large-Scale Scientific Collaborations (2015-2017)

Science should, arguably, always be a collaborative endeavour. In principle, the peers of the “Republic of Science” constantly exchange their insights so to falsify results and foster scientific progress. Although the reality of scholarship gnaws at this idealistic vision because political, economic, and social contingencies hinder unrestricted collaboration, we nevertheless see a broad range of forms where researchers within and across institutions, disciplines, and countries work together. Given the cost and complexity of organizing such extensive enterprises, digitally networked information and communication technologies (ICTs) were welcomed as enabler for collaboratories or e-science. In our research, we investigate the German academic community. We study if and how projects became increasingly collaborative and examine to what extent and with what implications the media affordances of collaboration have changed over the last thirty years. Our research draws on archival data from the German Research Foundation (DFG) and expert interviews. It aims to extend our understanding of the use of ICTs for fostering the ways, knowledge and insights are generated, processed, and distributed in scientific collaboration.

In this project, I work together with Claudia Müller-Birn from the Freie Universität Berlin.

International Memory of Nazi War Crimes: Media Framing of the Demjanjuk Trials in Israeli, German, U.S., Dutch and Russian Media Discourse (2015-2017)

John 'Ivan' Demjanjuk (1920-2012), an American citizen since 1958, was a soldier of the Soviet Red Army, German prisoner of war during the Second World War, and an auxiliary police guard, a so-called Trawniki man, at the Nazi extermination camp Sobibór. He stood trials for Holocaust-related crimes, in Israel (1983 to 1993), in the U.S.A. (2001 to 2004), and in Germany (2009 to 2011), where he was finally convicted as an accessory to murder pending appeal, but died before serving his sentence. As the trials’ proceedings developed across different countries, particularly Israel, Germany and the U.S. with reverberations especially in the Netherlands and Russia, a corresponding discourse embedding the case in its wider cultural, historic and judicial context unfolded in the multi-lingual interplay of national and international mass and social media. The Demjanjuk case study is a prime example for an in-depth analysis of the rifts and relations of Holocaust remembrance on a global, transnational, and transcultural scale. The research aims to analyze the trials’ media coverage in a cross-country and cross-linguistic comparison of media frames and thus the discursive aspects of mediated memory cultures in general and war crimes’ memory in particular.

Collaborative project together with Shani Horowitz-Rozen and Shlomo Shpiro from Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel and with Vivien Sommer from Technische Universität Chemnitz.

The Discursive Construction of 'Big Data' (2013-2016)

In this project, we are reconstructing the public news discourse on 'big data'. Its background is the increased presence of big data in business, public service, higher education as well as in all other sorts of social arenas. 'Big data', it seems, has become a topic and a problem in media and academia. The project thus looks at how big data is framed in news reports as an effective though unfathomable socio-material fact presenting threats and chances to social well-being as well as to private and public security. The corpus we use in the qualitative multimodal discourse analysis comprises of the news coverage of the so-called 'Handygate', a recent German case where massive data on mobile phone connections was collected by state authorities during the 2011 commemorative events of the Dresden bombings as well as the NSA affair.

Collaborative project together with Claudia Fraas from Technische Universität Chemnitz and Alexander Ziem from Düsseldorf University.

Social Media – Social Memory. Remembering in Digitally Networked Times (2012-2015)

Together with Christine Lohmeier I have edited a special section of Media, Culture & Society on mediated memories (as issue 6(36)/2014). We believe that media and memory are often closely intertwined. From the very start of human culture, media have been employed to fix, share and store expressions and impressions of individual and collective experiences. Taking this continuing twin relation as its point of departure, this special issue seeks to showcase empirical research that studies the interplay of contemporary media, social change and acts and artifacts of memory.

Moreover, in line with this publication and networking project, I work together with Christine Lohmeier and Andrea Hajek in a book project with Palgrave Macmillan. The volume we edit will focus on the role, mediated social remembering plays in reviving communities and rebuilding life, both private and public. The book which will come out December 2015 will be published in the Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies Series and will thus join a list a great books including works by Barbie Zelizer, Keren Tenenboim-Weinblatt, Aleida Assmann and Andrew Hoskins.

For this project, I received special funding from the rector's office and administration of Technische Universität Chemnitz.

Crossworlds. Connecting Virtual and Real Social Worlds (2012-2016)

As a Post-Doc I'm involved into the Research Training Group Crossworlds. Connecting virtual and real social worlds. It addresses the increase in digitization and its resulting virtualization of processes, communication, environments, and finally of the human counterparts. Overall, its PhD students, Post-Docs and associated researchers study the new ways of interaction and communication offered by the connection of virtual and real social worlds in comparison with the experience of immediate real interaction and communication. The research program subdivides the connection between virtual and real social environments into the fields of: communication, emotions, sensomotorics, and learning. Research in these areas is performed within interdisciplinary research tandems consisting of computer scientists and social scientists on a doctoral, postdoctoral, and on the supervisory level. The qualification program is based on the objective of the Research Training Group, which is explicitly focused on joint technology-oriented and social-scientific-oriented media research. Seminars and workshops, some of them to be organized by the fellows, are focused on the research topics of the fellows. Furthermore, tutorials repare the fellows for the challenges of the national and international scientific community. The qualification program is completed by visits of designated guest scholars.

The Research Training Group is funded by a grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG award no: 1780).

Practices and Institutions for Online Cooperation (2009-2013)

My doctoral research asked how cooperation in online platforms comes into being. Looking at the practices and institutions of succesfull cooperation, the project analyzed the institutional work that goes into accomplishing ordered interaction and communication with regard to rules, code and shared normative meanings. In my three-year ethnographic case study I studied the German and English Wikipedia.

The project was generously funded by a personal dissertation grant from the German National Academic Foundation. Moreover, I received travel grants from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Fazit-Stiftung. In February 2014, my thesis was nominated for the dissertation award of the Commerzbank Foundation.

In May 2014 I won the dissertation award of the Sociology of Media Communication Section of the German Communication Association.

Methods for Sampling and Analyzing Online Discourses (2009-2012)

In this three-year project, a team led by Claudia Fraas developed methods to study convergent transmedia discourses. Combining frame analysis methods from linguistics and communication research with conversation analysis and multimodal analyses, we arrived at a set of tools to study textual and visual discursive patterns and practices on- and offline. As part of the project, we hosted an international and interdisciplinary conference on transmedia discourse analysis.

Supported by the German Research Foundation (award no: FR 1328/5-1). For more information, see here

Learner Communities of Practice (2009-2011)

A research group led by Thomas Köhler examined the routine use of social media by students through their academic life cycle. Following the idea that students form learner communities of practice with and through social media, we looked at how they acquire the necessary tacit and explicit knowledge to successfully handle applications for studying and learning. Empirically, the project relied on focus groups and project seminars to develop guidelines and use scenarios for social media in implicit learning processes.

Funds from the E-Learning Initiative, Saxon State Department for Science and Culture. For more information, see here

Workshops and Conferences

Power and Politics of Mundane Memories. Tracing, templating and transforming everyday life (2017)

Personal and collective memory-making are usually studied on large scales that bridge rather extensive temporal distances, at least in human time. What is overlooked are the kinds of ordinary phenomena mundane memories are made of. The routines of keeping and recurring records, taking notes and planning the proximate future as well as representations thereof and the tools used to accomplish such activities often seem neither especially consequential nor important. The concept of mundane memories provides a lens through which to examine the largely ignored modes of day-to-day remembering that knit together our activities, events, relations, materials and places of quotidian life along the chronological axis of past, present and future. In their continuity and contingency mundane memories are a recurring trivial issue and a pervasive exercise in which we find ourselves immersed. Often, they are mediated through material relations involving objects and more or less smart technologies. Rather than being of merely parochial interest then, mundane memories arrange and enable our daily occupations in all walks of life. As such, their practices too have become a topic of cultural representations and artistic reflection.

Addressing speakers from different sciences and humanities, from the arts and literature as well as from museums, curatorial institutions and public agencies, the workshop explores the practices and representations of mundane memories in artistic works, social organisations as well as in media forms and technologies from both historic and current perspectives.

The workshop is organized by an interdisciplinary team of junior members of the KCL faculty. It involves Mikka Lene Pers-Højholt, Department of Education & Professional Studies, Sanna Stegmaier, German Department, Sandra Borges Tavares, Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries , as well as Christian Pentzold, a 2015 Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries. It takes place at King’s College London 24 March 2017.

Mundane Memories. Practices and Representations of Remembering in Everyday Life (2015)

Upholding daily life is about keeping and recurring records, taking notes and planning the proximate future. Given this continuing dimension of civilisation and cohabitation, the workshop explores the interplay between the practices and representations of the day-to-day activities of remembering and the media forms and technologies people had or have at hand to accomplish the scaffolding of everyday life.

Since the beginnings of human culture, techniques and tools have been devised to schedule and manage the temporal relations that connect people, places, events and things. The workshop seeks to look at the daily routines of scheduling, keeping and recalling that arguably make up a core part of people’s quotidian occupations. It is also interested in representations of such practices as they can be found in artistic works, social organisations or in the affordances of media forms and technologies, both in historic and current perspective.

I organized the workshop in cooperation with Anna Reading from the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries, King's College London. It was held November 27 2015 at KCL's Somerset House East Wing.

Media Communication between Complexity and Simplification. Theory, Methods, Practice (2015)

Media and communicative practice are in constant change. That said, these ongoing transformations move between complexity and simplification and encompass the fields as well as the theories and methods of current communication research and media analysis. For example, information sources diversify in their form but unify in their content. Then, novel media-related activities multiply but work within a limited range of platforms and applications. Moreover, media organizations seek to provide unique services but merge into larger corporations. Regarding these manifold dynamics, communication research and media analysis face a dilemma. Accounting for the environments, circumstances, processes and outcomes of communicative interactions and media-centred actions in their complexity challenges received theories, methods and procedures. Consequently, in order to engage with the empirical variety and variability and to develop meaningful explanations often demands to limit the analytical focus and to reduce the relevant aspects.

Focusing, thus, on the dual movements toward increasing and decreasing complexity, the conference assembled contributions from communication research and media analysis that discuss conceptual perspectives, present methodical approaches, explain empirical research or provide insights into practical issues in fields like media education, business, or media regulation.

The conference started with evening lectures interrogating concepts and methods for understanding and examining today’s complex societies in face of digital media and big data delivered by Professor Mike Savage from the London School of Economics and Isabelle Sonnenfeld, lead of Google’s News Lab in Germany. The event was hosted by the British Embassy in Berlin and a video can accessed from here.

The conference was organized by Christian Katzenbach and Christian Pentzold together with the chairs of the Computer-Mediated Communication Section (Christina Schumann and Monika Taddicken) and the Sociology of Media Communication Section (Jeffrey Wimmer, Marian Adolf and Sigrid Kannengießer) of the German Communication Association (DGPuK). It was hosted by the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet & Society, Berlin, and took place 5-7 November 2015.

Moving Memories. Remembering and Reviving Conflict, Protest and Social Unrest in Connected Times (2014)

The seminar explored the role memories play in conflicts that are increasingly communicated and conducted in and through connective and ubiquitous media. It assembled a rich array of both scholarship and practical advice on the ways memories come to play a role in times of struggle and rebellion, both in terms of re-enactment or remembrance of past conflicts and with regards to the production and circulation of memories of protest via digital technologies and new media. It first considered how the presence of conflict can come to bear upon memories of things past. Second, the seminar asked how memories of conflict and the re-enactments and revivals thereof are utilized by different actors in the present. Overall, the seminar was based on the idea that contemporary social movements, from religious and ethnic conflicts to the current social struggles in all parts of the globe, have been heavily involved, on the one hand, in reviving experiences, ideas and practices of past struggles and, on the other hand, in recording, archiving and disseminating documents of the unfolding contestations for future mobilization. Plots and notes of settled – won or lost – conflicts are, therefore, essential in motivating and moving present struggles and protests, as is the creation and dissemination of (counter-)memories via visual arts and social networks. In other words, frames of memories may become strategic resources in present and future mobilization.

The seminar which I organized together with Andrea Hajek (University of Glasgow), Christine Lohmeier (LMU) and Jordana Blejmar (University of Liverpool) was hosted by the School of Advanced Study, University of London at Senate House. It took place 27 November 2014. The seminar received funds from the School of Advanced Study's Institute of Modern Language and Research and the Institute of Latin American Studies as well as from Goldsmiths.

Reforming Formats. Producing and Protecting Program Formats in Convergent Media. An International Workshop (2013)

The workshop focused on three aspects: First, it looked at the evolving practices of manufacturing program formats for convergent media. Second, it shed light on the policies, regulations and agents involved in protecting formats. Third, it asked how these two developments can be studied by comparing different national and transnational media markets.

The workshop was held in December 2013 at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Berlin. It was hosted by Jeanette Hofmann, Christian Pentzold and Christian Katzenbach from the Internet Policy & Governance working group in cooperation with CREATe, the Research Councils UK Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy at the University of Glasgow.

Modes of Governance in Digitally Networked Environments: Interdisciplinary Workshop (2009)

Together with Malte Ziewitz, I organized an international and multidisciplinary workshop on modes of governance in digitally networked environments at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. Supported by a British Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) grant (EP/FO/3701/1), the workshop brought together junior researchers from different cultures and disciplines, including anthropology, computer science, legal studies, political science, sociology and science & technology studies to explore issues of governance in mediated worlds. A key concern of this project was to better understand how and to what extent different approaches to governance in digitally networked environments perform the worlds in which they have their place and what the implications are for the practice of governance and governance research.

For a report, see Malte Ziewitz & Christian Pentzold (2010): Modes of Governance in Digitally Networked Environments: A Workshop Report, Oxford Internet Institute Forum Discussion Paper No. 19. Full text here