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BredowCast 92: Gesellschaftlichen Zusammenhalt erforschen – Ein Zwischenfazit

BredowCast 92: Gesellschaftlichen Zusammenhalt erforschen – Ein Zwischenfazit

Sociologist and media researcher Jan-Hinrik Schmidt has headed the Hamburg section of the Research Institute Social Cohesion for four years, which is about to enter its second funding phase. In the BredowCast, he sums up the first four years of the project.

At the beginning, the question was: What is this so-called "social cohesion" anyway? And how can it be measured? For Jan-Hinrik Schmidt, it was clear from the beginning of the Research Institute Social Cohesion (RISC) that social cohesion today has less to do with shared values and lifestyles. Our society has become too heterogeneous for that. What is more important for the definition and measurability of cohesion is the way in which a society deals with conflicts.
Even today, after four years of research on the topic, Jan-Hinrik Schmidt sees the situation similarly. However, today he would emphasize more strongly that it is less about cohesion as a state that needs to be researched and measured, "but about the process in which cohesion is repeatedly strengthened and weakened."

The Role of the Media in Social Cohesion

The RISC is about to enter its second five-year funding phase by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. It was founded in 2020 as a decentralized institute spread across eleven locations throughout Germany. The Hamburg location is based at the Leibniz Institute for Media Research. It researches the role of the media in the development of and threats to social cohesion. 
Four sub-projects investigated the influence of media use on social cohesion, the integration task of public service media as well as the role of the relationship between journalism and the audience for social cohesion. Another project was dedicated to the development of a technical infrastructure for systematic research with social media data, a kind of support service for the entire RISC. Transfer was central to all of these projects. How research can be brought to the people was always considered in the projects from the outset.

Second Funding Phase

In the next five years of research, there will be more sub-projects at the Hamburg section of RISC, probably seven to eight, which will be bundled into three main areas of work. This time, all sub-projects will focus on the question of understanding. How does German society communicate about itself? And what role do the media play in this?
Social cohesion is currently a frequent topic in public debates. "The image is often conveyed that our society is more divided than it actually is," says Jan-Hinrik Schmidt. There are indeed small sections of society that have lost trust in public institutions and politics, that want a different society and perhaps even have authoritarian ideas. It will be important to take this mood in the public debate seriously, but to counter it with scientific facts and to point out that this is only a small part of society. In such contexts, the RISC can provide clarity with its scientific expertise.


RISC Projects from Funding Phase 1 

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