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Department of Communication and Media Research Public Sphere & Society


Our research questions refer to the central interest of social sciences: How can we describe and understand the transformation of the social order within contemporary modern society?

  • The question of the transformation of institutions, organizations and roles: Here we specialize in mediatization effects, i.e. in the transformation of the respective action systems, their institutions and organizations as a consequence of the new structural transformation of the public sphere. We investigate how the reputation of institutions, organizations and role-bearers is being transformed by the news coverage, the transformation of the mediated reputation constitution of institutions, organizations and role-bearers. We do this with comparisons over time and across countries, and examine how these social units change as a result of the transformation of public communication.
  • The question of social change: Here we focus on the long-term observation of contemporary modern societies on the basis of public communication. We are especially interested in phases of crisis and upheaval in social developments, in which existing guiding ideas and structures change radically within a short time. The selection and careers of communication events with a powerful impact are analyzed over long time periods and across countries.
  • The question of the (digital) structural transformation of the public sphere: Here we focus on changes in the interest patterns of public communication and their effects on society. We examine the transformation of the communicative exchange relationships between the media, business and politics, the financial development of the media as well as changes in the quality of a mediated public sphere.

The division “Public Sphere and Society” cooperates closely with the fög – Research Center for the Public Sphere and Society of the University of Zurich. Have a look at our Website

Current Projects


NRP77: The Relevance of Journalism in the Digital Information Repertoires of Young Adults

Digitalization changes how young adults obtain information. Our research project responds to this development and analyzes the digital information repertoires of 18- to 25-year-olds with a multi-method study design during three years (October 2020 - September 2023).  

As part of the National Research Program "Digital Transformation" (NRP 77), the Research Center of the Public Sphere and Society (fög), together with the Department of Communication and Media Research at the University of Zurich (IKMZ) and the École Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne (EPFL), investigate how young adults obtain information online, using a mobile tracking study. 

The aim of the project is to generate in-depth insights into the information behavior of young adults. In addition, we want to demonstrate––in exchange with media organizations––how and with which topics journalism can reach young adults. 

Project website: 


NRP78: Covid-Norms 

The project “Covid-Norms” investigates the protective behavior of the Swiss population and the public discourse about the most important measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. The monitoring, which is updated weekly, shows how widespread various protective measures are in the Swiss population, how much approval they receive from the population, and how they are discussed in the public discourse. For the population monitoring, the LINK Institute conducts weekly online surveys of 425 Swiss in the three major language regions. The content analysis of the public discourse includes the most important news media. Based on this monitoring, we derive recommendations for strategic communication on these protective measures (e.g., campaigns).

The monitoring is realized by the Department of Communication Science and Media Research (IKMZ) and the Research Center for the Public Sphere and Society (fög) of the University of Zurich. It is funded within the framework of the National Research Programme “Covid-19” (NRP 78) of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

Project website:


URPP Digital Religion(s): Religious organizations in the Public Sphere. Communication and Reputation in an Era of Digital Change

The project addresses the ways that specific religious organizations (phase 1: Christian organizations) and world religions in general describe themselves and are described by others in the (digital) media-based society. Of particular interest are the dynamics of themes in public discourse and the formation of reputation by religious organizations under the conditions of the digital transition.

The aim of this project is a comprehensive consideration of media coverage of religious organizations and world religions, in traditional as well as social media. In addition, we examine the perception of religious organizations among the Swiss population.

Project website:


Governance of Disinformation

Communication channels and tech platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, or Telegram enable the rapid and almost unlimited spread of mis- and disinformation and thus also increase the need for (new) regulation.  

Together with Prof. Dr. Florent Thouvenin and Dr. Stephanie Volz from the Center for Information Technology, Society, and Law (ITSL) at the University of Zurich, we identify and develop governance options from a communications and legal perspective for dealing with challenges related to mis- and disinformation and thus for a healthier online discourse in Switzerland. 

The project is funded by the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM). The duration is 12 months and started in June 2021.  


Yearbook Quality of the Media 

The Yearbook Quality of the Media – Switzerland Suisse Svizzera of the Research Center for the Public and Society has been empirically studying Swiss media and usage behavior for more than 10 years. All media genres are analyzed––press, radio, television, online, social media––which are increasingly intertwined. This enables discussion of media quality and raises quality awareness of journalism among audiences and media professionals.

The research results are a source for media professionals, actors in politics and business, academia, and anyone interested in the development of the media and its content. 

Project website:ät-der-medien.html