Christian Pentzold

The digital public sphere is characterized by seemingly paradoxical tensions between centers and peripheries: While some actors leverage the affordances of digital platforms to garner attention and gain prominence in public discourse, others prefer to seek out a role of relative obscurity, or even attempt to evade observation. These tensions challenge established public sphere theories that assume a uniform orientation and attraction towards a center. In this article, we argue that in the digital public sphere, four distinct modes of recognition emerge: attention, resonance, allegiance, and engagement. These modes induce persistent yet contingent center-periphery distinctions among actors, issues, and even entire arenas. Since modes of recognition can carry positive or negative valence, they can prompt a purposive orientation towards peripheries rather than centers. We discuss how digital platforms afford, manifest and manipulate modes or recognition, and how actors leverage positions of relative centrality or peripherality within and across digital arenas.

This essay aims to study how subjectivity, autonomy, agency, and empowerment become defined and reconfigured in novel human-machine encounters and, more broadly, in societies which in large parts are kept going and sustained by complex digital infrastructures. With a view to communication, automation converts the production of content, the distribution of information and messages, the curation of media use, and the governance of our networked lives into machine operations. All of these areas are increasingly shaped by algorithmically-driven processes and automated agents. They help to automate the selection and filtering of news feeds and search engines, they attribute relevance and popularity, perform content moderation and fact-checking. Automated agents like social bots participate in organizational communication such as customer service and, as a potential force of manipulation, also seem to intervene in election campaigns. The most recent iteration of technologies and products labeled as AI are driven by ambitions to delegate physical motoric functions, cognitive processes, decisions, and evaluations to increasingly autonomous and capable technology. At the same time, we need to acknowledge that automation is not a one-way transfer from humans to machines. Rather, we also witness environments where people come to act in an automatic fashion, where human contributions feed into processes of automation and help to improve technological systems and optimization processes that we have become used to call “machine learning”.

There has been much enthusiasm around the use of digitally networked information and communications technologies to foster political participation. Given their potential to engage citizens in rural development via online tools and processes, there are particularly high expectations that these technologies will mitigate some disadvantages of nonurban places. Yet, even if these hopes are reasonable, there is still little knowledge about the enduring establishment of digital political participation for rural development. In response, our study centers on six exemplary regional case studies in Germany concerning the obstacles to and catalysts of digital political participation. The public administrators; members of associations, businesses, and nonprofits; and citizens we interviewed pointed to the importance of administrative infrastructures, tailored offers, and resourceful citizens. What these factors could, however, not achieve was a culture of participation that may inspire attitudes and lived practices. This has implications for understanding and facilitating digital political participation for rural development. By locating the incentives and barriers to civic engagement within a culture of participation, our work underscores the need for holistic, long-term endeavors to develop and encourage politically involved citizenship.

In digital culture, visualizations are a prevalent and ubiquitous form of communication. A veteran journalistic tool, and an increasingly popular one in digital politics, visualizations offer informative value, attract readership, and increase engagement. Visualizations’ multimodality allows them to convey rhetoric through informative, narrative and visual strategies. Arguably, the complex and pliable communicative range of visualizations makes them particularly suited for future-oriented discourse. Indeed, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, visualizations like the waves of upcoming infections were used to inform the public about possible future realities and relay information about potential next steps and their implications. Despite the rise of visualization-focused scholarly work in the past decade, several analytical lacunas remain, due to visualizations’ multimodal nature and their rich array of actors, contexts and usages in the digital world. Specifically, no scholarly approach examines forward-looking visualizations comprehensively, addressing the ways in which their rhetorical layers coalesce to broker knowledge in multimodal predictive discourse. To fill this gap, our paper proposes a holistic framework for their analysis, addressing knowledge-brokering functions, predictive components, and rhetorical strategies. Thus, we ask, ‘How are predictive visualizations rhetorically constructed to mediate the future?’ and answer through conceptualization complemented by qualitative analysis of predictive pandemic visualizations from journalistic and social media. We combine perspectives from data-journalism studies, projection studies, and visualization scholarship and amalgamate existing tools into an integrative analytical framework that encapsulates each visualization’s rhetorical strategies, its knowledge-brokering functions, predictive structure, and their interrelations. We further refine the tool with empirically-founded specifications and use our empirical applications to offer a new understanding of rhetorical complexity in predictive visualizations. Our analytical framework will serve upcoming studies to examine and define styles of predictive visualization rhetoric across different national contexts, media, and platforms, narrowing scholarly gaps relating to future-oriented visual communication. Read the full OA article here.

Although YouTube explanatory videos are a successful video genre, there has been little research into the ways they form part of adolescents’ collective learning practices. To address this gap, the article examines the social relations and forms of collective interaction by which young people come to use explanatory content on YouTube. Our study of German pupils aged between 14 and 20 examines how and to what extent they engage with, view, recommend, and communicate about user-generated audiovisual instructions and explanations that cover school subjects and hobbies. The results show that the potentials of YouTube for collectively using learning- and education-related content often remain untapped, especially for school-related content. While YouTube videos occupy an important place as a source of information for hobbies, they have not prompted equal engagement with school subjects. Read the full article here.

In this article, we take issue with an idea of autonomous and efficient automation that is upheld through the paradoxical conjunction of a flawed vision of the technological fix and the under-acknowledged human work required to fill in the gaps between machines and users. Our argument is based on two case studies that sit at opposite tails of automation processes: the frontend of self-service checkouts and the backend of content moderation. This juxtaposition allows us to surface three themes on how the hype around automation is enabled by human intervention: the ad-hoc sociality in situated practices of automation, the capture of mundane expertise, and the inverted assistance of humans to machines. We argue that this human fix is not a temporary repair of malfunction, but a permanent and constitutive feature of automated systems. The full OA article can be read here.

The article attempts to clarify what today constitutes communicative remembering. To revisit this basic mnemonic concept, our theoretical contribution starts from available approaches in social memory studies that assume a binary distinction between cultural and communicative modes of memory making. In contrast, we use concepts that treat them not as structural, historically and culturally distinct registers but as a repertoire of retrospection that hinges on the evoked temporal horizon and media usage. To further interrogate this practical articulation of memories, we direct our attention to the habitual, communicatively realised engagement with the past. We finally turn to the ways communicative remembering is done in digitally networked environments, which provide us with a pertinent mnemonic arena where rigid dichotomies of communicative memory versus cultural memory are eroded. The article can be read here.

Memory is a communicative affair. It is inherently intertwined with communication, representing a complex interplay that has evolved throughout history. An expanding array of symbols and communication genres has played a pivotal role in influencing the ways in which we remember and forget the past. The significance of memory truly comes to the forefront when it is communicated: individuals establish connections with a collective past, revisit personal reminiscences, and resurrect bygone moments. Concurrently, the act of communication has the power not only to enhance and revive memories but also to impair, inhibit, or even prevent them. Communication serves as the primary mode through which the past is brought to life in the present, thereby rendering it meaningful and relevant for the future. Full text can be read here.

Whistleblowers have been instrumental in revealing the massive investments in state-sponsored and corporate digital surveillance and disinformation. Their personal accounts of what went on behind the scenes are usually presented in popular books marketed as offering insider stories. By interrogating the recapitulations of veteran data consultants, our article is interested in the way in which whistleblowers configure their role and place themselves in the context of their story in terms of agency and accountability. We examine and compare three recollections: Edward Snowden’s Permanent Record (2019), Christopher Wylie’s Mindf*ck (2019), and Brittany Kaiser’s Targeted (2019). Our analysis shows how these high-profile memoirs offer a look that is both intimate and distant. They at once promise to get close to and even behind what has escaped public scrutiny and in return try to dissociate themselves from their former trade. Their position of privileged precarity, which results from the casualization of digital labor, allows these data consultants to quickly become insiders whilst staying uncomfortable with many of the taken-for-granted ideological convictions and organizational orders. Rationalizing their involvement as disoriented diligence affords the whistleblowers the capacity to craft a story of enchantment, delusion, and subsequent awakening. Both their experiences and their position enable these disenthralled renegades to style themselves as honest moral arbiters in service of the public interest and brokers of exclusive knowledge. Full article can be read here.

The article extends the study of frames in verbal media discourse. We mobilize insights from linguistic semantics and research in the related fields of cognitive science in order to formulate a frame-semantic understanding of frames as adaptive networks of meaning. It allows us to see frames as flexible scaffoldings whose elements are controlled by contextual configurations. This extension is helpful, we argue, because analyses of public discourse have, to date, mainly operated with a model of frames as fixed ensembles. Understanding frames not as invariant clusters but as adaptive networks has implications for empirical studies, too. Consequently, we outline the applicability of our proposition in an analytical scenario. Find the article here.

Living Labs galore. Involving citizens and other stakeholders in science endeavors and integrating them in the design of new technologies and scientific inquiry is a core aim of contemporary research and development. Living labs are prime places in the quest of science to be more inclusive and to open up to people from all walks of life, including politics, design, and culture. Promising to foster participation, collaboration and co-creation around science, living labs have been mushrooming across the academe, from STEM subjects to the humanities. In fact, they have become the token for an up-to-date science communication that is not satisfied with conveying expert information but seeks an exchange with people that are addressed as the participants of, not just the audience for research. That said, it is also in living labs where the tension between the normative axioms and the precarious implementation of participatory science become succinctly apparent. The full article can be read here.

The “smart village” flourishes—at least in policy papers that envision the revitalization of rural areas through the civic deployment of networked media and telecommunications. Yet while such aspirations are widespread, little is known about the views of those tasked with supervising and supporting digitally driven public participation for rural progress. To address the lack of insight into what these intermediary administrators conceive as catalysts and challenges for the realization of smart village conceptions, we surveyed representatives of regions in Germany who oversee rural development schemes, most notably within the European LEADER framework. For these key actors, digital participation does not mainly hinge on broadband access and IT availability. Instead, they emphasize the importance of human and administrative resources as well as multi-actor collaboration, which we discuss in terms of digital readiness, digital willingness, and digital activity. Building the smart village, we conclude, seems not so much a matter of technological infrastructure but of sociotechnical infrastructuring. Full text can be read here.

This article unpacks the short-lived but momentous buzz around big data. Although talk about big data was once widespread, little is known about the efforts animating its semantics. Tracing this sociotechnical imaginary, we revisit how business insiders and IT commentators fueled the ephemeral yet potent excitement around the term. Our genealogical examination rests on a selection of publications from 2013 to 2017. We employ methods from critical discourse analysis to interrogate how big data was written into being and hyped into a topic of concern. In this aspirational discourse, tech evangelists and writers extrapolated from contexts in which large troves of data were already being harnessed to suggest that inescapable transformations were imminent. They sought to concretize abstract and unfathomable quantities while simultaneously overwhelming their readers with a sense of vastness that exceeds all contexts and outruns the most exuberant expectations. The term may have lost this luster, but big data technologies and practices are an integral part of today’s technological infrastructures. Read the article here.

In this practice insight contribution, we reflect on our learnings from configuring and upholding a living lab as a third place in an urban and distinctively non-academic environment. Trying to make space for an empowering hospitality necessitated withholding our schemes and workshop plans so to facilitate grassroots endeavors on the side of the people dropping in and staying around though they might follow unexpected paths. This follows no blueprint but requires researchers and science communicators to be open to surprises, to be patient and persistent, and to be willing to swap positions and be the learners, not the instructors. While the physical and technical infrastructures were at one point installed, keeping the social infrastructuring of continuous presence running remains an open issue that requires us to rethink how to fund and support living labs and their mission in the long run. Here is the full text.

Looking back at the 2019 Sharpiegate affair, the article investigates the articulation of “pre-truth,” which became evident when a willful ambivalence toward factual evidence dovetailed with a juxtaposition of provisional, future-oriented truth claims. In general, the maneuver works by taking predictive statements from the past and characterizing them as accurate from the standpoint of the present even when superseded by subsequent evidence. The notion of “pre-truth” adds nuance to conceptions of post-truth by looking more closely at the intertwining of veracity and temporality. Drawing lessons from the Sharpiegate affair, we show how the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account was employed to distort meteorological forecasts and challenge journalism’s privilege to premediate events as they unfold. In turn, legacy media organizations struggled to ward off these attacks. We investigate the snowballing U.S. news story around the affair using tweets and articles and reconstruct the frames bolstering the attempted pushback. None of the frames we found were new. Rather, they reflect yet another moment of public consternation and its limitations in coming to terms with the versatile repertoire of populist truth-tampering. Full text can be read here.

In this article, we propose to treat agency as something which is accomplished in the entanglement of humans with technologies. This redirects our attention away from the question of what distinguishes humans from smart machines and towards querying how people and automated apparatuses join in processes of mutual sociomaterial engagement. To further our argument, we look at self-service kiosks, which are ubiquitous yet largely overlooked components of mediated environments. We reflect on a participant observation in groceries stores and interviews with customers familiar with self-checkout facilities. They make us aware that operating this equipment is not an individual affair but a joint activity by default, taking place in a temporally regimented setting prone to human errors and malfunction when people try to respond to the terminals’ protocol. This sort of imperfect automation has ambivalent ramifications which rely on the capabilities of users and the capacities of an interface and its underlying operations. Agency, we conclude, thus becomes a matter of viable performance in which humans may act machine-like while machines perform an expanding share of activities.

In this crosscurrent contribution, we approach the notion of welfare through the lens of the data welfare state. We, further, suggest that datafied welfare can be fruitfully studied with the capabilities approach to better understand how ideas and values of data welfare intersect with and may allow for the ‘good’ life and human flourishing. The main aim is to highlight the deep-seated changes of the welfare state that emerge with the delegation of care and control tasks to algorithmic systems and the automation based on datafication practices. Welfare provision is undergoing major shifts that imply fundamentally rethinking the role of technology that supports and enhances welfare with the help of data. The full piece can be read here.

Each year, the president of the International Communication Association speaks to the plenary session of its annual conference. Conceptualizing the speeches as disciplinary talk, we examined them using a combination of qualitative content analysis and bibliometric study. The results show how presidential addresses either aimed to present a metaview of the field or to offer targeted reflections revolving around individual interests. Both types reiterate common topics—that is, they talk the talk—but they receive scant attention and thus cannot respond to calls for more integration of the field. Moreover, the speeches do not lead the walk—they remain ambivalent about how to respond to its pluralization and do not steer communication studies in a particular direction. Read the full article here.

The article looks at artistic impressions of future robotics and considers how they inspire research into human–machine interaction. Our analysis of visual scientific practices and the epistemic ramifications of these speculative drawings emerges from a long-term participant observation study in a multi-disciplinary project on smart and autonomous technologies in public spaces. We discuss the design, appropriation and modulation of visual scenarios and scrutinize how these diegetic futurescapes are imaginatively engaging and suggestive of scientific progress and experimentation. We argue that the future-oriented scenes defy common notions of post hoc scientific representations. Instead, they are ex ante presentations of the ambition to imagine human–machine relations in the future and to draw the large-scale research venture together. The register of evaluation thereby shifts from aesthetic criteria to scientific parameters. More than just visual tokens, the scenarios became a catalyst for collaboration. The full article can be read here.

Not infrequently, smart home imaginaries and installations are envisaged for nuclear families dwelling in detached houses fitted with the latest Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. In our article, we follow one approach to escape this powerful but inadequate projection that entails inviting people to imagine alternative forms of domestic IoT use. Surveying the setup of these nascent endeavors, in particular attempts that pivot on narrative accounts and forward-oriented fictions on the design of new habitats, we show how these seek to evoke visions of technologically supported cohabitation and everyday life. Due to their inclusive ambitions, such approaches face participatory predicaments that arise from the sought-after spontaneity and creativity within a purposive process. In response, all of them resort to methodological scaffolding that helps their designers to reconcile the tension between the idiosyncrasies embraced by the procedures and the overarching requirements of a particular exercise. The full paper can be read here.

The smart village is digitally networked and participatory. Its “smartness”, in other words, should be based on interaction between technological infrastructures and civic engagement. While this vision has inspired European policymaking and public discourse in recent years, understanding of the interaction between digitalization and civic participation in rural areas remains limited. In order to fill this gap, this paper offers a systematic review of journal contributions situated at the intersection of digitalization, participatory efforts and rural development. Overall, our study shows that digital rural development and its interplay with participation processes is still a niche concern in scientific journals. We find that articles focus primarily on projects seeking to increase broadband capacity. Second, they focus on the spatial characteristics of rural areas, where social relations and intermediaries play an important role. Third, they emphasize the integration of top-down measures with bottom-up initiatives. There is no single, dominant theoretical approach conceptualizing the intertwining of digitalization and civic participation processes in rural areas. It is evident that local social networks are strengthened and maintained through both analogue and digital formats. Furthermore, the literature provides evidence that sustainable forms of digital engagement are based on civil society initiatives that are supported and accompanied by administrative measures. Full article here.

This article interrogates the memetic reactions triggered by #Sharpiegate. The affair was a moment of political absurdity that provoked critical engagement with the irrationalities of Trump’s performance. Analyzing the imbroglio around a doctored map of Hurricane Dorian in 2019, we show how parodic memes offered a response to publicly displayed unreasonableness. Our analysis characterizes the renditions shared on Twitter as clumsy corrections. In the tradition of political jamming and its tactic of détournement, this memetic genre works by emulating the distortion of images with bold scribbles. The renditions take the form of prospective or retrospective interventions that hoped to draw a desirable condition into being. This gesture of point-blank meddling stands in opposition to the populist truth-tampering that became evident in the affair. The meme provided a rallying point for spontaneous resonance and collective self-ascertainment while acknowledging its limited ability to correct political pretensions out of touch with reality. Read the full article here.

Remembering is both cognitive act and communicative process. The social conduct is dependent on media in order to record, transport, and relive all things deemed memorable. Starting from this basic assumption, the article discusses, in a first step, the concept of media memory work through which relations to the past are accomplished and enacted. In a second step, the online encyclopedia is employed to show what kinds of insights about the contingent and potentially conflictual constitution of mnemonic texts become possible. Finally, we take a look at the twofold temporal orientation of media memory work that is not only happing in retrospect since all references to the past implicate a space of possible future developments.

The Coronavirus has prompted an urgent need for guidance and practical intervention. Newsmakers responded to this demand by providing outlooks that plotted the contagion’s contours against a host of parameters. The article looks back at this acute area of sensemaking where journalistic forecasts, epidemiological modelling, and policy measures intertwined. It examines how possible courses of the pandemic were displayed and discussed in the multimodal infographics and reports of data journalistic news products. The estimations predominantly choose to take the form of bell-shaped curves which conceived of the disease as a kind of wave that should, after reaching its peak, flatten out again. Confronted with an immense degree of uncertainty around the illness and an ambiguous environment of conflicting meanings and explanations, we argue that this predictive newswork fulfilled some of the journalistic functions of brokering knowledge. By giving cogent visual form to the incoherent prognoses, it raised awareness of the available models and rendered COVID-19’s potential developments accessible to policy makers and the public. By comparing sources, the data-driven forecasts fostered engagement with the spectrum of outlooks and the uncertainty they entailed. Furthermore, the news pieces connected consonant sources from science and public health institutions. Here’s the article.

This article studies the online encyclopedia Wikipedia as a core example of the storage and sharing of commons-based digital materials. It focuses on the voluntary, day-to-day activities of its editors as they gather and transform digital information goods that are made available free of charge. Using the notion of articulation work, I stress the effort that goes into accommodating the engagement with the encyclopedia within the contributors’ media-suffused daily routines. Then, the article discusses the typical practices of transcribing, republishing, and relicensing through which the transition from non-free ownership to freely shared property is brought about. Finally, the freedom that is inherent in the modification of the legal status of ideas and artifacts and their public circulation requires us to interrogate the ethical implications of the digital commons collected and spread by Wikipedians. The full article can be read here.

The future of data-driven journalism has attracted widespread attention, but what about the future in data journalism? In other words: How do future predictions shape the formulation of knowledge claims in newsmaking that relies on the analysis of large troves of digital data? Based on interviews with professionals working on such projects, we study how they exploited predictive analytics to make evidentiary propositions and we interrogate the epistemological conceptions that underpin this future-oriented data journalism. Despite growing ambitions to generate more precise prognoses in a shorter amount of time, the practitioners downplayed the journalistic relevance of such projections. Instead, they stressed their dependence on past numeric information and the time-consuming effort needed to produce forward-looking stories that connect with the public. We argue that acknowledging the temporal exigencies around anticipatory news allowed those working on data journalistic projects to explore the possibilities of probabilistic storytelling while at the same time maintaining a professional paradigm of fact-based, post hoc reporting. The full article can be read here.

This article analyzes the media representations circulating around the trials of the accused Nazi collaborator John/Ivan Demjanjuk. It examines the American, Dutch, German, Russian, Jewish-Dutch, and Jewish-American discourses that framed the consecutive legal proceedings in Israel, the U.S., and Germany. Our study interrogates the convergences and divergences in the transcultural translations as well as the local appropriations of the events that formed part of the cosmopolitan commemoration of the Holocaust. We reconstructed inclusive media frames which were able to traverse different languages and cultures. We also found exclusive frames in our study that did not travel across these boundaries. The palette of views on Demjanjuk’s personal guilt and on the capacity of the trials were informed by culturally distinct mnemonic tropes and sponsored by different groups of memory agents. The full OA article can be downloaded from here.

Since its inception, the internet has been as much technological as social, practical as ideological in character. This article examines academic discourse and asks how research on the multifaceted internet has evolved over the past 25 years. In order to investigate the formation of this academic field, we collected articles published in major academic journals dedicated to new media and digital communication as well as mainstream periodicals in communication studies over the past quarter of a century. Relying on a combination of (semi)automated content analysis and citation analysis, we find that articles related to the internet and its manifold aspects are cited more often than research on other topics. The literature review suggests that as the sociomaterial infrastructure of the internet has become deeply enmeshed in society its study has evolved from a niche pursuit to the discipline’s core area of inquiry. Read the full article here

Vergangenheit wird in Medienkommunikation nicht einfach bewahrt oder konserviert, sondern sie wird in kontingenten gegenwärtigen Bezügen aufgearbeitet und gemäß aktueller Relevanzsetzungen rekonstruiert. Die Verbindungen zwischen digitalen Medien als mnemonischen Instanzen und den erinnerungskulturellen Stiftung von Identitätsbezügen und Gemeinschaftlichkeit liegen einerseits auf der Hand und sind andererseits in ihrer Komplexität bisher nur in Ansätzen detailliert nachvollzogen. Im Aufsatz stellen wir drei Dimensionen heraus: (1) Die zentrale Bedeutung von Bildern und bildbezogenen Praktiken im Erinnern in und mit digitalen Medien. (2) Die soziale Vernetzung im Kontext des Umgangs mit Erinnerungen. (3) Die vermehrte Erzeugung und rekursive Nutzung digitaler Daten in erinnerungskultureller Kommunikation.

Studying media and communication processes through the lens of time and temporality enjoys a long history. Waves of technological innovation such as mechanization and electrification have come with a profound reconfiguration of social time. This holds true for datafication too. Datafication – referring to processes of quantification and the transformation of evermore objects into data, as well as the automation of judgements, evaluations, and decision-making – requires us to rethink, once again, the relationship between media, data, and temporality. In this piece, we address the continuities and disruptions emerging in the nexus of time and media. Thus, we discuss the challenges of acting in the present, acceding to the future, and mobilizing the past in increasingly datafied societies. We assume that the changing mediations of time leave their mark on the ways we process and order the pace, sequence, and rhythms of intersecting lives. The full OA article is available here.

Digital media, networked services, and aggregate data are beacons of the future. These incessantly emerging tools and infrastructures project new ways of communication, bring unknown kinds of information, and open up untrodden paths of interaction. They are instrumental for the articulation of future visions and their interface with concrete design choices. More than just being material conveyors of future-oriented ideas, these technologies are deeply intertwined with conceptions about their impact on how we will live, how we will interact, and how we will learn and communicate. Thus, digital networked devices and services are not only technical innovations as they stay in constant interplay with the sociotechnical imaginaries that inspire and guide their production and diffusion. When examining the future-making capacity of networked services and digital data, a couple of overarching themes emerge. In this article, we would like to highlight three of them as they pertain to future times that are digitally imagined and enabled. These are the uneven spatial distribution of future opportunities, the conservatism of data-driven projections, and the preemptive presencing of anticipated futures. The full article can be read here.

It has become commonplace to speak of media practices as a nexus of doings and sayings. In our article, we scrutinize this fuzzy account and the forms of articulation it entails. We start by arguing that, in order to be recognized as social practices, activities—regardless of whether they are verbal utterances or wordless body movements—have to initiate a cultural signification process that turns them into socially intelligible performances. Forming part of social practices in general, communicative practices then are modes of sign use that enable us to address recurrent and newly emerging tasks of understanding, accommodating, and comprehending. We shed light on the insights such a conceptual distinction reveals by interrogating the shades of sensemaking within mnemonic online communities and their nostalgic remediations of the past. Read the full OA article here

The article proceeds from the interest in a practice-oriented vocabulary in culturalist studies of communication and media. It assesses whether a jump on the practice bandwagon can be justified by the contribution of praxeology to scholarly work that seeks to contextualize communicative routines or the production and appropriation of media. Setting out from the principles of recursivity, relationality, and expressivity characterizing media practices, I look at the ways in which media ensembles are constituted through the articulation of their technological, discursive, organizational, and institutional features. From that, I outline perspectives for a practice-inclined analysis of the transformation of collective orientations to media, the maintenance of media-saturated everyday lives, and the modification of media affordances. Read the full OA article here.

This article examines the representation and use of quality time. It brings together an analysis of images tagged and shared under the hashtag #qualitytime on Instagram with an investigation into the trope’s resonance in everyday life. In the interviews and profiles studied in this article, people used the term to indicate and display instances of self-determined solitude or of fulfilling conviviality in which mobile phones and social media were conspicuously absent. At the same time, the notion required them to carve out and valorize moments of purpose, a goal that was often unattainable. Use of the hashtag was thus accompanied by both the opportunity and the obligation to aspire to temporary retreats in which free time was employed for meaningful activity. This means that the somewhat pretentious keyword signifies the ideal of temporal autonomy while also pointing to the slim chance of finding uncompromised spells of time within harried leisure. The full article ca be read here.

Our article examines how journalistic reports and online comments have made sense of computational politics. It treats the discourse around data-driven campaigns as its object of analysis and codifies four main perspectives that have structured the debates about the use of large data sets and data analytics in elections. We study American, British, and German sources on the 2016 United States presidential election, the 2017 United Kingdom general election, and the 2017 German federal election. There, groups of speakers maneuvered between enthusiastic, skeptical, agnostic, or admonitory stances and cannot be clearly mapped onto these four discursive positions. Coming along with the inconsistent accounts, public sensemaking was marked by an atmosphere of speculation about the substance and effects of computational politics. We conclude that this equivocality helped the journalists and commentators to sideline prior reporting on the issue in order to repeatedly rediscover the practices they had already covered. The full article can be read here.

The article is interested in how newsmakers exploit numeric records in order to anticipate the future. As this nascent area of data journalism is experimenting with predictive analytics, we examine its reports and computer-generated presentations, often infographics and data visualizations, and ask what time frames and topics are covered by these diagrammatic displays. We too interrogate the strategies that are employed in order to modulate the uncertainty involved in calculating for more than one possible outlook. Based on a comprehensive sample of projects, our analysis shows how data journalism seeks accuracy but has to cope with plenty of prospective probabilities and the puzzle of how to address this multiplicity of futures. Despite their predictive ambition, these forecasts are inherently past-bound because they rest on archival data. This form of quantified premediation limits, we conclude, the range of imaginable ways of future-thought to one preferred mode, that is, extrapolation. Read the full open access article here

Usually, the alluring notion of “affordances” comes with the idea that technology makes some activities possible while constraining others. Our article departs from this dichotomic view and seeks to appreciate the multiplicity of socio-material prefiguration. Discussing three empirical examples from human-robot communication, we show that the affordances of “smart” technologies are not acted out in a smooth, planned process or through rational action alone. Rather, affordances are collective achievements that emerge within the interplay of humans and machines. This challenges the separation into active use and passive usability. It also demands us that we think through what types of agency are associated with these kinds of agents and what we take to define agency at all. Agency rests, we argue, on the capability to engage in intelligible encounters; it builds on purposive activities even though they might only realize a limited repertoire of tasks. The full article can be read here

The exploitation of numeric data in journalism has been embraced as a fundamental shift in the way news making is done. An air of newness and urgency pervades much of the mushrooming academic debate and professional discourse around the so-called “computational turn” toward quantitative reporting. Although it builds on this literature, C. W. Anderson’s book-length study significantly broadens our perspective on data journalism and the technological, institutional, practical, and intellectual settings that allowed it to emerge and thrive. Unearthing these historic contexts, it shows that the protean data-oriented forms of news making are not a recent trend made possible by digitization or networked communication. Rather, they are an element of innovation and experiment that has been threading through the multiple stages of modern journalism during the twentieth century. The full article can be found here

Imagining “big data” brings up a palette of concerns about their technological intricacies, political significance, commercial value, and cultural impact. We look at this emerging arena of public sense-making and consider the spectrum of press illustrations that are employed to show what big data are and what their consequences could be. We collected all images from big data-related articles published in the online editions of The New York Times and The Washington Post. As the first examination of the visual dimension of big data news reports to date, our study suggests that big data are predominantly illustrated with reference to their areas of application and the people and materials involved in data analytics. As such, they provide concrete physical form to abstract data. Rather than conceiving of potential ramifications that are more or less likely to materialize, the dominant mode of illustration draws on existing, though often trite, visual evidence. The full article can be found here

Das Initiativ-Netzwerk „Kommunikationsgeschichte digitalisieren: Historische Kommunikationsforschung im digitalen Zeitalter“ der Fachgruppe „Kommunikationsgeschichte“ der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Publizistik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft und des Nachwuchsforums „Kommunikationsgeschichte“ NaKoge, das sich mit diesem Beitrag vorstellt, verfolgt vor dem Hintergrund des nachhaltigen und tiefgreifenden digitalen Strukturwandels wissenschaftlicher Erkenntnisgewinnung und der zunehmenden Relevanz digitaler Forschungskontexte, wie sie aktuell auch in der Kommunikations- und Medienwissenschaft intensiv diskutiert werden, das Ziel, die historische Kommunikations- und Medienforschung für die vielfältigen Herausforderungen der Digitalisierung und die Zukunft fit zu machen. Im Mittelpunkt stehen die Fragen, wie sich im Kontext der Digitalisierung feldspezifische Erkenntnisinteressen, Methoden und Themen verändern und verschieben und welche spezifischen Fragestellungen, Herausforderungen und Perspektiven hieraus für die Kommunikations- und Mediengeschichte resultieren. Mit diesem Kollektivbeitrag sondieren die Initiatoren gemeinsam mit ProtagonistInnen der ersten Stunde wesentliche Schauplätze und Themenbereiche, die eine Diskussion zur historischen Kommunikations- und Medienforschung in digitalen Zeiten zu bearbeiten und zu berücksichtigen hat, und wollen damit zugleich Impulse für die weitere Diskussion und Forschung setzen. Programmatisch vermessen und reflektiert werden die Konturen, Probleme und Potentiale der Digitalisierung historischer Kommunikations- und Medienforschung und kommunikations- und medienhistorischer Erforschung der Digitalisierung in den Dimensionen (1.) Erkenntnisfokus, Gegenstandsbereich und theoretische Perspektiven, (2.) Methoden sowie (3.) Quellen.