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Hide and See(k) – Visibility in the Digital Age II

AG Stehle Mahrt

The spread of the World Wide Web and the emergence of easy-to-use social web applications are associated with opportunities and risks. On the one hand, the changes are linked to the hope of integrating diverse voices of new actors into the public discourse. Online channels also enable individuals and institutions to express their need for self-expression, social recognition and legitimacy. On the other hand, the new applications allow attacks on democratic processes through misinformation or “hate speech”. Considerations of how internet use can be shaped and regulated in a globalised world are moving to the centre of attention, as are questions of (in)transparency in the collection of data and individual media competence.

In this tension between expectations and concerns, visibility and invisibility have become central categories for describing and explaining communication in the digital age. These are increasingly being researched in communication studies. However, an integrative consideration across research fields and theoretical perspectives as well as a systematic derivation of corresponding questions and their treatment are lacking. The second working group on this topic addresses this research gap and continues the work of the first funded working group (Hide and See(k) – Visibility in the Digital Age).

The focus continues to be on the overarching research question: What is the significance of (in)visibility in the digital world, how does (in)visibility arise and what consequences does it have for individual actors, institutions and socially relevant processes and structures? Building on the preliminary work of the last few years, the results of the CAIS workshop in August 2018 and the expertise of the WG members, this research interest has condensed into five topic areas that are to be systematically worked on further: as a WG as well as in a connected workshop with external guests. Both theoretical and methodological clarifications of (in)visibility and its analysis are cross-cutting themes that these two formats continuously take up. Three subject and application areas are successively worked on. These are

  • (In)visibility and power in public exchange (macro level),
  • (In)visibility in the digital interaction of institutions and partial public spheres (meso level)
  • and the opportunities and risks of digitalisation from the user’s perspective (micro level).

Research focus

  • Visibility
  • Invisibility
  • Digitisation
  • Digital Communication
  • Communication and Media Studies


PD Dr. Merja Mahrt
Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Institute for Social Science

Dr. Helena Stehle
University Hohenheim, Institute for Communication Science


Dr. Annekatrin Bock
Leibniz Institute for international School Book Research

Dr. Cornelia Brantner
IWAF – Institute for Science Communication and applied Research GmbH

Dr. Hanne Detel
University Tübingen, Institute for Media Science

Prof. Dr. Ines Engelmann
Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Institute for Communication Science

Dr. Christine Linke
University Rostock, Institute for Media Research

Prof. Dr. Katharina Lobinger
USI – Università della Svizzera italiana, Institute for Communication Technologies

Prof. Dr. Julia Metag
University Freiburg/Université de Fribourg, Departement for Communication Science and Media Research

Substitute Prof. Dr. Anne Schulze
Hochschule Koblenz, Department of Social Sciences

Dr. Nina Springer
Södertörn University, Stockholm (Schweden), School of Social Sciences

Dr. Claudia Wilhelm
University Erfurt, Seminar for Media- and Communication Science

Dr. Imke Hoppe
Universität Hamburg