Working area 7
How do media as infrastructures of communication and networking influence the social structures of a society? How are they challenged, changed or stabilised in the context of media upheavals? How do media as carriers of symbolically mediated communication shape the possibilities of perception and cultural interpretation of reality? Conversely, which ideas and experiences of social-structural order or which world views and culture-specific experiences of reality manifest themselves in the development and social use of media technologies?
These are fundamental questions that the working area of media sociology deals with.
Starting from a broad concept of media - which in principle includes all carriers of symbolically mediated communication - we investigate the interactions between technological and social development in a long-term perspective. Our research and teaching activities concentrate on the empirical analysis of media-related transformation processes of culture and society, their methodological reflection, as well as the empirically founded theory formation for the description of techno-socialities and media cultures in world society. The Bielefeld Sociology of Media is therefore not a special sociology in the sense that it would deal with media as a special segment or functional area of society. Rather, it sees itself as a "hyphenated sociology" in the sense that it seeks knowledge-promoting connections with other special sociologies when observing social phenomena and their cultural interpretation. At the same time, it is a General Sociology, insofar as it is not limited to a specific subject area, but understands media as conditions for the constitution of society.
In this context, the social situation, which, following Erving Goffman, is understood as a micro-unit of socialisation, offers a central starting point for the empirical research of the working area. The social situation is interesting in terms of media sociology not only in its own right, but also in its interfaces and transfers between orders of interaction and social macrostructures. For example, one can ask in what way media structure, modify or even create social situations. Moreover, it is worthwhile to examine how media link locally situated interactions translocally or intersituatively and make them available supra-situatively and how this affects the relationship between presence and representation. The mediatisation of social situations and its consequences for social order can be examined in the most diverse social fields, from intimate relationships to world politics. Thus, with a view to digital media, the differentiation of situation-adequate modes of presence and the adaptation of presence norms and routines could be examined equally in the family, at school or at work. Who has which obligations or possibilities to be (not) present in which situations and in which form? Following on from this, it would also be interesting to ask how participation opportunities are related to presence expectations and opportunities. Do (digital) media and the orders of presence reconfigured with them help to reduce existing social inequalities, do they tend to consolidate them or even reinforce them?