Christian Pentzold

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.