Hide and See(k) – Visibility in the Digital Age II
» Main Research Topics
The spread of the World Wide Web and the emergence of easy-to-use social web applications bring with them both opportunities and risks. On the one hand, they raise the hope of integrating the diverse voices of new actors into the public discourse. The online channels also enable individuals and institutions to reinforce their need for self-expression, social recognition and legitimacy. On the other, they allow attacks on democratic processes through misinformation and “hate speech”. Reflections on how Internet use can be shaped and regulated in a globalized world are becoming just as much the focus of attention as issues regarding (in)transparency in the collection of data and individual media competence.
In this tension between hopes and concerns, visibility and invisibility have become central categories to describe and explain communication in the digital age. Although these are increasingly being explored from the perspective of communication studies, what is still missing is an integrative consideration of visibility and invisibility across research fields and theoretical perspectives, as well as a systematic elaboration and handling of relevant research questions. It is precisely this research gap that the second working group on this theme addresses, thereby continuing the work of the first funded working group (Hide and see(k) – visibility in the digital age).
The focus is still on the overarching research question: What significance does (in)visibility have in the digital world, how does it arise, and what implications does it have for individual actors, organizations, and socially relevant processes and structures? Building on the preparatory work of the last few years, on the outcomes of the CAIS workshop in August 2018, and on the expertise of members of the working group, this research interest has condensed into five areas that will be developed systematically in the form both of a working group and an affiliated workshop with external guests. Both theoretical and methodological clarifications of (in)visibility and its analysis are thereby cross-cutting issues that are taken up continuously by these two formats. Three fields of study and areas of application will be worked on successively:
- (In)visibility and power in public exchange (macro level),
- (In)visibility in the digital interaction of institutions and sub-public spheres (meso level), and
- Opportunities and risks of digitalization from the user viewpoint (micro level)