Conflict and asymmetrical communication

Conquest and war, siege and occupation, espionage and surveillance: conflicts are also instrumental in determining forms of interaction, exchange and resistance.

In his dissertation on “Siege and the security dispositif – cities as actors in asymmetrical conflicts on the threshold between the Late Middle Ages and the early modern period”, Dominik Greifenberg (supervisor: Prof. Ralf Peter Fuchs, Institute of History) is exploring the political self-determination of town communes and their relationship to the princes around the year 1500. Central to the study is a comparative assessment of situations of heightened uncertainty(-ies) at the transition from medieval to early modern times: looking at the sieges of Soest in 1447, Neuss in 1474/75 and Münster in 1534, it explores how autonomous town communes acted in such crisis situations. The superior position of the princes as from the outgoing Middle Ages added the element of asymmetry to these conflicts. To what extent this was perceived by the communal actors is one of the questions of the study.

There has been a paradigm shift in historical research into military occupations in recent years. Where attention used to focus on institutional and political structures, it is now shifting to questions of the coexistence among occupiers and the occupied. Occupation is understood as a social process that requires interactions between rulers and the ruled and has scope for action on both sides. The dissertation on “The British on the Rhine – the allied occupation of Germany after the First World War” (Benedikt Neuwöhner, supervisor Prof. Fuchs) picks up on and simultaneously tests this premise. The study opens up a new perspective on the occupation of the Rhineland and presents a more detailed picture of the region’s history during the post-war Weimar Republic.

When in 2013 the whistle blower Edward Snowden revealed the scope and size of the surveillance programmes conducted by the NSA and its partners, privacy advocates and NGOs intensified their protest activities – with mixed success. Applying discourse analysis with a focus on argumentation, narrative and rhetorical structures, Till Wäscher of the School of Intercultural and International Communication (SIIC) analyses the means and strategies of political communication among data privacy advocates. His dissertation is titled “Framing Opposition to Surveillance – Political Communication Strategies of Privacy Activists in the Aftermath of the Snowden Leaks”. (supervisor: Prof. Jens Loenhoff, Communication Studies).

In 2018, approval was granted for the MEDAS 21 (Global Media Assistance: Applied Research, Improved Practice in the 21 Century) graduate research school by the VW Foundation. Supported by the three institutes of the University Alliance Ruhr (UA Ruhr) that deal with communication, media and journalism (UDE Institute of Communication Studies, the Institute of Journalism in Dortmund, and the Institute of Media Science in Bochum), the structured doctoral programme (with Prof. Loenhoff from the UDE) explores the significance of media and journalism in regions of political and economic crisis. For decades, Western development organizations have been working to promote media actors in transition countries as agents of civil society change. How effective have these measures been so far? Which new concepts need to be developed under changed global conditions? And with what impact are new actors in the field of media development assistance pushing into the global market of MDA? Working at the interface between theory and practical application, the combination of specialist perspectives and “interdisciplinarity within a discipline” promises innovative theoretical approaches to the field of media development.