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    Topographies of Local Public Spheres on Social Media: The Scope of Issues and Interactions
    (2021) Pfetsch, Barbara; Maier, Daniel; Stoltenberg, Daniela; Waldherr, Annie; Kligler-Vilenchik, Neta; de Vries Kedem, Maya
    Following calls for a spatial turn in communication studies, we investigate the reach and topography of Twitter communication in two case studies of Berlin and Jerusalem. We theorize on the spatial dimensions of social media communication and their potential to establish a public sphere that can reach from the local to the global level. Empirically, we investigate the scope of Twitter communication of local users in Berlin and Jerusalem and ask to what degree their interactions and issues indicate a local public sphere or extend beyond the local level. We use a combination of topic modeling and a novel localization index to explore the spatial dimensions of the two Twitterspheres. Our data point to a considerable share of locally rooted conversations, but the majority of communication reaches beyond the local. At the intersection of interactions and issues, we uncover complex, semilocal configurations of public communication.
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    Diskursarchitekturen deutscher Nachrichtenseiten
    (2020) Strippel, Christian; Paasch-Colberg, Sünje; Gehrau, Volker; Waldherr, Annie; Scholl, Armin; Deutsche Gesellschaft Für Publizistik- Und Kommunikationswissenschaft E.V.
    For some years now, news sites around the world are increasingly confronted with abusive user comments in their respective comment sections and discussion forums. While these spaces were long seen as promising instruments of democratic participation, they now have a reputation as spaces full of insults and hate speech. Since this not only poses a threat to social cohesion but can also compromise the image of a news site, many platforms have taken measures to regulate the comments on their sites since then. Some have published community guidelines, hired moderation teams and implemented monitoring software. As an additional measure, many adapted the technological design and the features of their comment spaces to gain more control over the posted comments. This includes, for example, requiring commenters to register with the site, sorting of comment threads and various degrees of anonymization. Many authors refer to this technological design of comment spaces as "discourse architecture." The theoretical argument behind this term is that the way comment spaces are "built" influences how commenters behave within them. This perspective is particularly interesting from the point of view of journalism research, since the relationship between editorial staff and audience is manifested in such technological architectures. Several studies have analyzed and compared various discourse architectures in order to investigate possible effects on commenting behavior. However, there is still a lack of a systematic analysis in this field. Apart from individual case studies, there are no findings on the diversity of discourse architectures which provide information on the technical conditions of audience participation on the Internet. On the theoretical basis of the discourse architecture approach, this study investigates two research questions: How are the included discourse architectures designed (RQ1)? And what types of discourse architectures can we identify (RQ2)? In order to answer these questions, we conducted a standardized analysis of 361 German news sites, which produced three key findings. Firstly, with regard to RQ1, we found that 173 of these 361 news sites offer comments sections, whereas only 24 offer discussion forums. In contrast, almost all sites in the sample have an additional Facebook page. Al-though we have not checked whether these pages actually contain posts and comments, against this back-ground we can nevertheless assume that the discourse architecture of Facebook has become the most important technological infrastructure for commenting news articles in Germany. Acknowledging the low deliberative quality of user discussions on Facebook revealed by earlier studies, this would be quite problematic with regard to social integration. Secondly, the detailed analysis of the comment sections showed that most news sites do not exhaust the possibilities of using technical discourse architectures to gain more control over the discussions of users and users. Overall, the technological design of the comment sections is quite inclusive, not very restrictive and only weakly regulated. The most popular features are required registration, rating of comments, opprtunities to report comments and the restriction of comment sections to certain topics. Thirdly, with regard to RQ2, five distinct types of discourse architectures for comment sections could be identified within the sample. They differ in terms of their combinations of features and as well as in terms of their outreach. Additionally, we found a significant correlation between the outreach of the news sites and the number of features that strengthen editorial control over the comments.
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    The Language Labyrinth: Constructive Critique on the Terminology Used in the AI Discourse
    (2021) Rehak, Rainer
    In the interdisciplinary field of artificial intelligence (AI) the problem of clear terminology is especially momentous. This paper claims, that AI debates are still characterised by a lack of critical distance to metaphors like ‘training’, ‘learning’ or ‘deciding’. As consequence, reflections regarding responsibility or potential use-cases are greatly distorted. Yet, if relevant decision-makers are convinced that AI can develop an ‘understanding’ or properly ‘interpret’ issues, its regular use for sensitive tasks like deciding about social benefits or judging court cases looms. The chapter argues its claim by analysing central notions of the AI debate and tries to contribute by proposing more fitting terminology and hereby enabling more fruitful debates. It is a conceptual work at the intersection of critical computer science and philosophy of language.
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    Perspektivwechsel: Migrationsberichterstattung in ausgewählten afrikanischen Ländern und Deutschland aus Migrant*innensicht
    (2020) Zappe, Anna-Carina; Bastian, Mariella; Leißner, Laura; Henke, Jakob; Fengler, Susanne; Gehrau, Volker; Waldherr, Annie; Scholl, Armin; Deutsche Gesellschaft Für Publizistik- Und Kommunikationswissenschaft E.V.
    Since 2015, migration and immigration have been relevant topics of political debate in Germany. Therefore, various communication studies researched the media reporting on these issues and examined how it affects the perception of migrants within the German population (e.g. Arlt & Wolling, 2017). In distinction to this, the present study addresses the question of how migrants themselves receive migration reporting, how they perceive it, and how it shapes their personal migration and integration actions. We conducted two focus group discussions with migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa. The participants discussed both the reception and evaluation of migration reporting in their country of origin and in Germany. The results show that the topic of migration was hardly reported in the countries of origin, which is why personal migration decisions were more influenced by interpersonal communication. In Germany, the African participants perceive media reports about migration issues as too one-sided and as reduced to the sub-themes of poverty and war.
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    Migrating Counterpublics: German Far-Right Online Groups on Russian Social Media
    (2023) Voskresenskii, Vadim
    Due to censorship and deplatforming policies on big social media platforms, far-right users have been forced to migrate to other online platforms that provide them with safer spaces for communication. One of these platforms is the Russian social networking site VK. This research investigates the German political environment on VK, which predominantly comprises online groups supporting far-right views. The analysis of users’ activity in the online groups showed that VK functions as an alternative platform and is not used for outward-oriented goals. Looking at the activities on VK in terms of the theory of sustainability practices, we claim that one of the most critical functions of VK is archiving content. This practice ensures the preservation of accumulated narratives in the case of complete deplatforming on a mainstream platform. We found that people who use VK for communication form two different thematic clusters: The first focuses on German domestic issues, and the second focuses on transnational conspiracy theories.