Communication and Cohesion: On the Influence of the Media on Social Cohesion in a Plurally Differentiated Society

The issue of social cohesion has experienced a remarkable renaissance in recent years. The assumption that the media have an integrating function for society is a decades-old topos. It is assumed that the common use of media unites society, and that a fragmentation of media use in the higch-choice media environment may cause social divisions. Given the postulated importance of the media for the cohesion of societies, it is surprising that although there are many theoretical texts on the integrative or cohesive role of the media, there are comparatively few that systematically test this assumption empirically. The dissertation project fills this gap and examines the central research question: To what extent does the use and perception of news coverage in different media contribute to social cohesion?

In a first step, the cohesive function of the media is analyzed theoretically. It is assumed that the media make a positive contribution to social cohesion if they adequately reflect the heterogeneity of pluralistic societies in their reporting. This ensures that members of society perceive themselves as publicly represented and thus as part of society. Consequently, it is the representation of different social groups in the public sphere that significantly contributes to social cohesion as a crucial mediation mechanism. In a second step, this assumption is tested in a cross-sectional survey representative for the German population. The repertoire approach is used to determine how combinations of different media types in more or less diverse media repertoires affect the perception of media representation and thus social cohesion.

Project staff:
Daniel Stegmann M.A.