The Transformation of Social Cleavage Structures in Germany: Social Media Analytics of Collective Protests and Social Movements (Prof. Dr. Thomas Kern, Prof. Dr. Kai Fischbach, Prof. Dr. Marc Helbling, Prof. Dr. Elmar Rieger)
With the diffusion of digital communication technologies and the rise of new social media, the social cleavage structures in Germany have considerably changed over the past two decades. Our project aims at analyzing this process by combining insights from sociology, computational social sciences and political sciences. Conflicts are a driving force of social change, a crucial element of modern societies and a (potential) origin for social cleavages. We distinguish two basic types of conflicts: contained (institutionally regulated) conflicts and transgressive (unregulated) conflicts. Contained conflicts, such as party competition or collective bargaining systems in politics, balance diverging interests, institutionalize competition, and therefore ensure the integration of society. In contrast, transgressive conflicts, such as hate speech and collective protests, always bear a risk of escalation and may unsettle social order by turning into violence. Key research questions are: (1) How have the dynamics of social conflicts in Germany changed over the past two decades? (2) How have new forms of social media communication affected the social cleavage structure? (3) What are (under these circumstances) the conditions for the transformation of transgressive conflicts into contained conflicts?
This project will use a multi-method-design mainly based on tools and approaches from empirical sociology and computational social sciences. The idea is to analyze process generated data, such as tweets, discussions, event announcements and web links, in order to study the organizations, platforms, claims, meaning structures, and social networks that shape the conflict dynamics and cleavage structures in the era of digitalization.
Submitted to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research