DFG-Project: Alternative Media - Alternative Publics - Alternative Realities?

Project description:

The project researches the users of alternative media critical of the system and their their modes of use over time. In the current debate, system-critical alternative media are strongly associated with the spread of misinformation, conspiracy myths and populist agitation and the danger of social polarisation and even radicalisation. This often overlooks the fact that alternative media have traditionally formed important arenas of counter-publics and legitimate social critique. Alternative media and the alternative public spheres that develop in them, through them and around them can give pro-social and pro-democratic impulses, address grievances and give expression to legitimate counter-positions, as well as aim to unsettle and destroy discourses and the culture of debate. The long-term effects of the potential of alternative media and how they influence public discourse and opinion-forming can ultimately only be determined by dealing with these media and their publics. Therefore, the way citizens deal with alternative media offerings and the associated consequences are of great social and political relevance.

In a qualitative panel study with several data collection points, the project analyses the development of (alternative) media use over time and asks about possible accompanying transformations in modes of use and intensity of use. 

Such transformations refer, among other things, to the significance and centrality of alternative media in the media repertoire of their users and in their relationship to other, traditional media. Likewise, associated communicative acts of connection (e.g. sharing, liking, connection communication and networking) are analysed. 

In this way, it will be examined to what extent the use of alternative media goes hand in hand with a turning away from traditional public spheres and a (predominant) participation in alternative public spheres and whether this ultimately also goes hand in hand with participation in alternative (media) realities and a turning away from a social reality that is recognised as common. For this purpose, a media repertoire perspective will be used to investigate how and under what conditions alternative media are used and how the repertoire develops over time (emergence, maintenance and (re-)formation of media repertoires). 

In the course of this, it will also be explored under which conditions the use of system-critical alternative media can possibly change and lead to a turning away from democratic discourse and a turning towards more radical positions, or whether the use of alternative media can contribute to a more versatile and critical information behaviour.





Current publications:

  • Schwarzenegger, C. (2020). Personal epistemologies of the media: Selective criticality, pragmatic trust, and competence–confidence in navigating media repertoires in the digital age. New Media & Society, 22(2), 361–377.
  • Schwarzenegger, C. (2021). Communities of Darkness? Users and uses of anti-system alternative media between audience and community. Media and Communication. 9(1).
  • Schwarzenegger, C. (2022). Understanding the users of alternative news media – Media epistemologies, news consumption, and practices. Digital Journalism.



Ass. Prinicpal Investigator of the Research Project "100 years of 'resistance'"
Public Communication
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Researcher and PhD candidate
Public Communication