Wie normativ ist die Kommunikationswissenschaft? Ein inhaltsanalytischer Vergleich deutscher und US-amerikanischer Fachzeitschriftenaufsätze
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Research in communication studies is shaped by the structural conditions under which it is conducted—for example, the science system, societal expectations of science, and the media system of the respective country. The USA are often seen as a reference frame for the development of the German Communication Studies, but differ structurally from Germany in terms of its science, society, and media system. Therefore, the study at hand compares Germany with the USA and examines the extent to which such structures affect the normative ideas that authors from these countries express in their journal articles. The normativity of the articles is measured by the normative claims and concrete calls for action articulated in them towards different groups of addressees. Normative claims exist in two variants: they can evaluate a current condition or articulate a desirable condition for the future. To answer our research question “Does the normativity of communication studies, articulated in journal articles, differ between Germany and the USA?”, we conducted a quantitative content analysis of communication studies articles published between 1970 and 2014 in scientific journals of our subject. The period under study thus encompasses a period of older and more recent intensive upheavals in society, science, and media systems (e.g., changing values, dualization of European broadcasting systems, digitalization), which challenge the working conditions and research subjects of communication scholars and are therefore likely to evoke normative claims. Given our interest in the normative statements of German and US-American communication scholars, we selected articles with at least one author with German affiliation from three German journals (German sample) and articles with at least one author with US affiliation from the 20 international journals (US sample). This results in a sample of 326 articles (n German = 61, n US = 265), in which 3233 normative claims (n German = 691, n US = 2542) were identified. For each normative claim, the content, the addressed subject and object as well as calls of action, the type of normative claim and the mentioned research field were coded by 12 communication researchers. The results confirm the strong normative influence of both German and US-American communication studies: almost nine out of ten articles contain normative claims. Regarding further formal indicators the two countries hardly differ: In both German and US-American articles desirable conditions for the future outweigh evaluations of current conditions. The majority of the authors themselves take a normative position instead of citing statements by other authors. Only about every third normative claim in the articles of both countries names a subject that is supposed to create the desirable state, every fifth claim addresses an object that is supposed to profit from this state, and every third claim is connected with a recommendation for These findings do not point to a different degree of normativity, but clearly indicate different foci of normativity: The normative claims and calls for action in the German articles focus strongly on media and journalism as main research subjects of the discipline. The US-American articles, on the other hand, focus strongly on successful social coexistence, thus pointing more beyond the discipline’s main subject, and appeal more often to the responsibility of individual actors. The results indicate that structural differences—also conveyed through the subjects of research—decisively shape the normative ideas that guide communication scholars and are expressed by them. The study thus raises awareness of the normative character of communication studies and contributes to a better self-understanding of the The present study extends preliminary work on the normativity of communication studies in several respects: Firstly, the proposed instrument of normative claims and call for action provides an opportunity to make normativity visible independently from the concrete use of the terms “norms” and “values”—in scientific publications and beyond. Secondly, the methodological design developed for the present study enables not only systematic comparisons across individual scientific sub-areas or research subjects, but also between different academic cultures. Thirdly, the concept of manifestations of normativity makes an important contribution, which can serve the self-reflection of communication studies and its normativity: The comparison elucidates how strongly one’s scientific work is shaped by the surrounding structures. Which research topics are perceived as relevant and which normative positions are represented strongly depends on the national and cultural context in which communication scholars are scientifically socialized and work.