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Democracy in the European Union faces challenges resulting from social transformation processes that include increasing polarisation or (covert) authoritarianism as well as undemocratic influences on elections or the dissemination of manipulative information.

The search for new balances in these rapidly changing social contexts amid tensions of different framework conditions is not only confronted with shifts in well-established values, but also with transforming notions of democracy and the social practices fundamentally associated with a public sphere and the valid political and social order.

Against the backdrop of the current discourse of rethinking and reshaping virtual and real public spaces as well as civic engagement, this research focus aims to comprehend how democratic functionality of public spaces can be maintained, sharpened, achieved and developed in the European Union and its nations.

This requires, among others, the clarification and exploration of the following concerns and questions:

  • How are communication spaces changing both online and offline? What are the structural preconditions and processes of transformation affecting the public sphere and the social order (keywords: different models of democracy and democratic deficits of the existing order)? What potentials can be accessed and utilised?

  • How about the democratic quality of information (keywords: disinformation, democratic information performance and pluralism) and the interfaces of information supply and usage?

  • How are users' expectations, media diets and usage behaviour transforming (keywords: information repertoires, media literacy) and how are the conditions of production (keywords: future of journalism, role of platforms) developing?

This research focus aspires to contribute to the development of alternative models for the future, which will motivate and enable (especially young people) to proactively shape their social future and implement their own visions.

Publications and Lectures