SCOPE (Societal COmmunication in times of PErmacrisis) (Start: 01.01.2024)

Uncertainty, Disinformation and Polarization: Social Communication in Times of Permacrisis


Speaker: Prof. Dr. Michaela Maier (Kommunikationswissenschaften)
Co-speaker: Prof. Dr. Paul Lukowicz (Informatik)

Representatives of other disciplines:

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Maier (Politikwissenschaften)
Jun.-Prof. Dr. Selma Rudert (Psychologie)
Jun.-Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Berger (Umweltwissenschaften)

Other representatives:

Dr. Ines Welzenbach-Vogel (Gleichstellung)
Dr. Jennifer Bast (Nachwuchs)

Other professors:

Prof. Dr. Henning Best (Soziologie)
Prof. Dr. Oliver Frör (Umweltwisenschaften)
Jun.-Prof. Dr. Janpeter Schilling (Umweltwissenschaften)
Prof. Dr. Melanie Steffens (Sozial-, Umwelt-, und Wirtschaftspsychologie)
Prof. Dr. Stephan Winter (Kommunikationspsychologie)

The SCOPE (Societal COmmunication in times of PErmacrisis) potential area focuses on the examination of how profound and enduring crises, referred to as "permacrises," impact citizens' information behavior, social coexistence, and political decision-making processes, using climate change and migration movements as illustrative examples. Information attention and processing play a central role in addressing permacrises. While traditional journalism has been a primary source, the spotlight is now shifting towards the internet and social media, particularly for population groups skeptical of conventional journalism. Previous social and behavioral science research on crisis management has primarily relied on disciplinary case studies, with limited interdisciplinary and comparative approaches. To bridge this research gap, the proposed potential area at RPTU seeks to analyze crises from interdisciplinary perspectives encompassing communication and political science, psychology, sociology, environmental science, and computer science.

The consortium comprises 22 scientists, including 7 professors, 5 junior professors, and 10 postdocs. They delve into questions such as:

  • How do different actors strategically communicate specific aspects of the crisis, such as scientific evidence on climate change or the causes and consequences of migration?
  • To what extent do individuals who reject traditional journalistic formats access relevant information for comprehending crises? Which population groups are particularly susceptible to misinformation and conspiracy theories?
  • What are the effects of this information behavior, such as loss of trust and polarization?
  • Can media education and targeted interventions improve attitudes towards social elites and other population groups, thus strengthening social cohesion and support for the democratic system?

The interdisciplinary collaboration on this topic contributes to the further profile development of RPTU in the areas of "Sustainable Development" and "Social and Digital Transformations." Notably, the partnership with the Department of Computer Science assumes significance as it provides access to expertise in Computational Social Sciences (CSS) for the Landau campus for the first time.