Research Projects

Ongoing projects

 100 years of “resistance”? Continuity and change in right-wing populist and far-right communication (2024-2027)


The project examines the change and continuity of right-wing populist and right-wing extremist self-articulation and enemy image construction from a communication science perspective. This involves a comparative analysis of communications from the 1920s and the early 2020s in terms of their content patterns and communication strategies.


An initial focus of the project is provided by analyzing right-(sextremist) (media) narratives and iconographies along the symbolic and historically charged communicative figure of "resistance". The analysis focuses on communicative strategies directed both internally and externally for a) ideological identity work, b) mobilization and c) the dissemination and normalization of dis/information. The second focal point is Bavaria, in particular Munich as the historical nucleus of National Socialism. It examines how actors from the right-wing populist and far-right spectrum in Germany - past and present - articulate themselves and to what extent references to Munich, Bavaria or history play a role in spreading their interpretations of the world or making them appear legitimate. Thirdly, mainstreaming, i.e. the normalization and implementation of right-wing extremist interpretations of social reality in the broader social discourse (including the associated figures of speech, images and argumentative patterns) is examined as a key goal of right-wing extremist propaganda. Empirically, historical-hermeneutic document and media analyses are carried out for the 1920s, and qualitative content analyses of social media communication (especially on Telegram) and referenced media for the 2020s. The comparison between the time periods is based on discourse analysis.


Through its diachronic comparative perspective, the project makes it possible for the first time to identify developments, changes and recurring elements in the communication of right-wing extremist actors around the figure of "resistance".


The project is part of the Bavarian research network .


Principal Investigators: Susanne Kinnebrock & Christian Schwarzenegger

Project manager: Hanna-Sophie Ruess

Project Duration: 2024-2027





DFG-Project: Alternative Media - Alternative Publics - Alternative Realities? (2021-2024)


The project investigates the users of system-critical alternative media and their usage patterns over time. System-critical alternative media are strongly associated with the dissemination of misinformation, conspiracy myths and populist agitation as well as the danger of social polarization up to radicalization. However, they can also form important arenas of counter-publicity and legitimate social criticism. For this reason, the way in which citizens deal with alternative media offerings and the associated consequences are of great social and political relevance.

In this project, the development of (alternative) media use over time and possible associated transformations are examined. Such transformations refer to the status and centrality of alternative media in the media repertoire of their users, their relationship to other media, as well as associated communicative acts (e.g., sharing, liking, communication and networking). Thus, it will be investigated to what extent a use of alternative media is associated with turning away from traditional public spheres as well as with the participation in alternative public spheres and ultimately also alternative (media) realities. For this purpose, a media repertoire perspective will be used to ascertain how and under which conditions alternative media are used and how the repertoire develops over time (emergence, maintenance and (re)formation of media repertoires). The conditions under which the use of system-critical alternative media changes, can lead users to turn away from democratic discourse and turn to more radical positions will also be explored.


Principal Investigator: Christian Schwarzenegger

Project Manager: Katharina Schöppl
Project duration: 2021-2024, DFG-Sachbeihilfe Gz: SCHW 1734/1-1




DFG-Project: De- and Restabilization of Evidence in the Corona Crisis (2021-2024)

The project examines how the production, communication and social negotiation of scientific evidence about COVID-19 take place under the conditions of the corona crisis. The rapid spread of COVID-19 and the associated pressure to act and make decisions increase the need for trustworthy scientific knowledge: contradicting experts, repreadly corrected figures, statistics and recommendations as well as the intensive medialization of dissent and conflicts also feed skepticism towards established sources of evidence. Against this background, this interdisciplinary project aims to de- and restabilize scientific evidence in the corona crisis. Four central arenas for negotiating evidence on COVID-19 at four locations will be examined (scientific research, medical practice, science journalism and social media).


Helena Bilandzic and Susanne Kinnebrock (University of Augsburg), Sascha Dickel (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz), Mariacarla Gadebusch Bondio (University of Bonn) and Ruth Müller (Technical University of Munich) are involved in this project, which is also linked to the DFG research group 2448 "Practicing Evidence - Evidencing Practice".


The sub-project by Helena Bilandzic and Susanne Kinnebrock is dedicated to science journalism: the media coverage of scientific works and findings on COVID-19 is examined by using a quantitative content analysis. The project will start at the end of 2021.


Principal Investigators (Augsburg): Prof. Dr. Helena Bilandzic & Prof. Dr. Susanne Kinnebrock

Project Manager: Markus Schug

Project Duration: 2021-2024

Funding: Part of the DFG-Research Unit “Practicing Evidence - Evidencing Practice“



DFG-Project: Effects of Narrative Evidence in Science News Coverage of Genomic Research (Phase 2) (2020-2025)

This project investigates the strategies used by journalists to provide evidence for scientific claims in science news and how such ‘evidencing practices’ ultimately affect the audience.  Specifically, we consider narratives as evidencing practices as they allow an intuitive understanding of complex scientific issues.

  1. In the first phase of this project, print and televised German news reports on genomic research were examined for evidencing practices in a content analysis. Results show that almost half of the scientific claims reported are accompanied by narratives. In addition, narratives do not stand alone, but are most often combined with other evidencing practices (i.e. references to authorities or data). Narratives are used to support scientific claims and only rarely to contradict them. Generally, the narratives found in science coverage have a rich narrative quality (or high level of narrativity). Three types of narratives have emerged: stories of (1) the research process and the course of the study, (2) scientists conducting the research and (3) people benefitting from the research or being affected by it.
  1. The second phase of the project is driven by this differentiated view of narratives in science news coverage. Following theories of narrative processing and persuasion, we assume that different types of stories have different effects on audiences. Also, we expect that narrativity (the way in which the plot, the structure and the language of a story are elaborated) plays a significant role. The goal of the second phase is to explore such differential effects of narratives. Three consecutive experiments with cross-sectional samples investigate the effects of narratives on recall, understanding of scientific criteria, and the credibility of studies and researchers. We will systematically investigate the effects of the three types of narratives and of lower or higher levels of narrativity. Narrative engagement – the subjective experience of being immersed in a story – serves as a central mediator.

After having analyzed the dynamics between destabilizing and restabilizing forces on scientific evidence in the content analysis of phase one, we consider this interaction and subject it to a careful test: the second phase specifically investigates the conditions under which stabilizing effects of science narratives actually occur on an individual level. By considering the effects of different narratives of science on audiences, this project explores a mode of communication that is relevant for communicating and negotiating between different cultures of evidencing. In doing so, the project supports a central tenet of the research group by providing insight into the way in which individuals interpret, learn about and accept scientific evidence.

The project will contribute to the fields of narrative persuasion and science communication by developing a differentiated theoretical account of media narratives, and testing specific mechanisms of effects.


Principal Investigators: Prof. Dr. Helena Bilandzic & Prof. Dr. Susanne Kinnebrock

Project managers: Janine Blessing

Project duration: 2020-2025

Funding: Part of the DFG-Research Unit “Practicing Evidence - Evidencing Practice in Science, Medicine Technology and Society“



Digital Stress in the Media (2019-2023)

The project aims to systematically analyse how digital stress (as a social phenomenon) is discussed publicly. The project focuses on the following questions:

Which media actually deal with digital stress? How is it described, i.e. which affected groups and environments, causes and symptoms are addressed? And which specific subsequent health issues, but also which possible prevention measures, are discussed?

  1. In a first step, a conceptual field analysis explores in which media and under which terms digital stress is addressed.
  2. Based on this, a qualitative content analysis of relevant online forums will be conducted in order to examine how digital stress presents itself from the perspective of those affected and which coping strategies they recommend.
  3. In addition to the individual perspective, a quantitative content analysis of the depiction of digital stress in mass media will be conducted. It focuses on environments in which stress arises, characteristics of the described digital stress and attributes of persons affected by digital stress (stereotypes, etc.). It will be analyzed to what extent media coverage follows classical media logics (e.g., stereotypes) or current research findings on digital stress.

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Susanne Kinnebrock

Project Manager: Dr. Cordula Nitsch, Hanna-Sophie Rueß

Project Duration: 2019-2023

Funding: The Bavarian Research Association ForDigitHealth



DFG-Project: Narrative as a Mode of Evidence in Public Discourse about Genetic Research (Phase 1) (2017-2020)

Genetic research is popular – as a field of inquiry, but also as a topic in mass media. It is mainly therapeutic applications and the fear of uncontrollable gene mutations that account for the overwhelming attention afforded to genetic research by society as a whole and in the media, despite the fact that the topic is highly abstract and, thus, difficult to communicate. This raises the question how results from genetic research may be presented to a lay audience and how evidence may be attributed to research which is potentially impenetrable for regular citizens. As a non-scientific audience lacks the expertise to routinely evaluate scientific findings, journalism has the crucial role of setting out the appropriateness of research results and conveying which findings are deemed to be evident to a media audience. Journalists in fact engage in (second-level) practicing evidence. On the one hand, journalists themselves are recipients of scientific evidence; on the other hand, they communicate scientific evidence to the public at large – certainly not without transforming scientific evidence according to media logics.

This project explores the use of narratives for practicing evidence in the media. We assume that media – in addition to the practice of evidencing through presentation of methods and data borrowed from science – use narratives to explain and qualify genetic research.

Narratives have a privileged position among all possible presentation forms: Audiences are familiar with this type of everyday communication; also, narratives facilitate memory, interest, understanding, accessibility and relevance attribution in scientific topics. This is especially true for topics that are abstract and cannot usually be experienced in daily life – such as genetic research.

In a standardized content analysis of a wide array of print media coverage on genetic research, we explore narratives as a mode of evidence, and compare it to other modes used in the media. The analysis includes the focus of the story on genetic research (e.g., story about gaining scientific insight, about the people concerned by the study results, or about the scientists involved), the level of narrativity as well as references to fictional master plots such as the Frankenstein myth. Ultimately, we relate these categories to the valence of media coverage.


Principal Investigators: Prof. Dr. Susanne Kinnebrock & Prof. Dr. Helena Bilandzic

Project managers: Magdalena Klingler

Project duration: 2017-2020

Funding: Part of the DFG-Research Unit “Practicing Evidence - Evidencing Practice in Science, Medicine Technology and Society“



Completed Research Projects

“Caring About Care”: Until the End of Life… Perceptions of Autonomy, Responsibility and Vulnerability (2015–2019)

The project "Caring about Care" was dedicated to the question of why people decide for or against advance care planning (ACP) for final stages of life. From a gender and culture sensitive perspective, it was examined how ideas of autonomy, vulnerability and the need for care affect the preparation for future situations of dependency and to what extent these ideas are shaped by (public) debates on advance care planning. In order to explore the argumentation patterns in public debates, the mass media coverage in print media and TV, the medical scientific literature as well as the advice literature on living wills were analysed. Moreover, which positions and expectations the population holds on ACP, how ACP is discussed in online forums and among professional (legal, medical and social) consultants was also examined. The project’s findings show that the topic of ACP is not addressed in a gender and culture sensitive way, neither in public debates nor in people's life worlds. Moreover, patterns of argumentation that emphasize the autonomy of the individual over care and responsibility centred perspectives were found in public debates as well as in people's beliefs. The project thus illustrates that individual ideas of advance care planning are (also) shaped by public discourse.


Principal Investigators: Prof. Dr. Susanne Kinnebrock & Prof. Dr. Dr. Mariacarla Gadebusch Bondio

Project Managers: Anna Wagner, Dr. Manuel Menke & Rico Krieger

Project Duration: 2015-2019

Funding: The Bavarian Research Association ForGenderCare




Mothers for the State”: Female connoted Social Work as a Historical Legitimation Pattern on the Way to Equal Rights (1890-1919 / 1945-1960)? (2015-2019)

This interdisciplinary cooperation project (History and Communication) examines the discursive connection between gender and care initially postulated by the first German women’s movement at the beginning of the 20th century. Based on women’s traditional responsibility for care work, middle-class feminists successfully redefined care as a governmental responsibility. Referring to the remarkable engagement of women in care work and the increasing professionalization of social work at the time, the feminists underpinned their demands for more participation in society and political rights. As a reaction to the lack of a welfare state and the resulting social problems, the German (middle-class) women’s movement successfully organized care work and helped to create state structures for professional social work, publicly emphasizing that women in particular had great expertise in care.

The project thus analyses the connection between gender and care on two levels: how it was publicly constructed in the media and how (historic) practices of female care work actually changed. It focuses on two periods characterized by different contextual conditions: First, the heyday of the organized women’s movement during the time of the German Empire (1890 – 1918) when middle-class feminists politicized care in the light of their deprived legal and political status as women and supported the establishment of a welfare state. Second, the restorative post war period (1945 - 1960) when women had political rights, but the women’s movement had declined. Similar to imperial times, women’s responsibility for care was not questioned: however, care vanished from the arena of public debate and necessary care work was predominately carried out in private. Care was no longer politicized and there was instead a rise in retraditionalization trends.


Principal Investigators: Prof. Dr. Susanne Kinnebrock & Prof. Dr. Sylvia Schraut

Project Managers: Désirée Dörner, Mirjam Höfner & Dr. Andre Dechert

Project Duration: 2015-2019

Funding: The Bavarian Research Association ForGenderCare




The Handbook of European Communication History (2011-2019)

Handbook project with the “Communication History” section of the “European Communication Research and Education Association”, ECREA, edited by Klaus Arnold, Paschal Preston and Susanne Kinnebrock, editorial assistant: Mandy Tröger. Funded by the Delp Foundation.


Convergent Media Production: National Practices and European Trends (2012-2016)

Cooperation Project with the University of the Bundeswehr, Munich, the Institute of Applied Media Studies, Zurich, the University of Navarra, Pamplona, the Catholic University of Portugal, Lisbon, and the University of Salzburg

(Susanne Kinnebrock & Manuel Menke)


The Local Newspaper “Münchner Merkur” and the Preferences of its Readers – an Explorative Study on User Habits and the Role of the Local Press in Media Repertoires (2013-2014)

(Susanne Kinnebrock, Christian Schwarzenegger & Barbara Nazarewska, funded by the Münchner Merkur)


ECREA: History of a Communication Association for Europe (since 2010)

Cooperation Project with Södertorn University, Stockholm

(Christian Schwarzenegger & Anne Kaun)


"Audimaxismus" - Demands and Social-political Positions of the Protest Movement “Vienna 2009” (2010)

(Christian Schwarzenegger and Cornelia Brantner, Axel Maireder, Irmgard Wetzstein, University of Vienna, funded by the Cultural Department of the City of Vienna (MA 7)


Public Communication in the Digital Age: Implementation of Convergent Media Production in German Newspapers (2010-2012)

(Susanne Kinnebrock & Sonja Kretzschmar, funded by the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Germany)


Science and Society in Dialogue? PR 2.0 for Universities (2010-2011)

Cooperation with the Department for Public Relations of RWTH Aachen University and “RWTH extern”

(Susanne Kinnebrock & Christian Schwarzenegger)


Gender Constructs in German, Austrian and Swiss Newspapers (2008-2012)

Cooperation Project with the Austrian Academy of Sciences

(Susanne Kinnebrock, Birgit Stark &Melanie Magin, funded by the City of Vienna)


Narrative News Formats (2008-2012)

Cooperation Project with Helena Bilandzic and her DFG-Project „TV-Stories and Social Reality“

(Susanne Kinnebrock)


Journalism as a Profession for Women in the Beginning of the 20th Century (2007)

(Susanne Kinnebrock, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany, and the German Data Forum)


Political Magazines for Women and their Audiences (2005-2006)

(Susanne Kinnebrock, funded by the Program of the Bund-Länder Commission for Educational Planning and Research Promotion)


Political Magazines for Women from 1725 to 1933 (2004-2005)

(Susanne Kinnebrock, funded by the Program of the Bund-Länder Commission for Educational Planning and Research Promotion)