Dynamics of Digital Mobilization

Welcome to the Blog of the Research Group Dynamics of Digital Mobilization of the Weizenbaum Institute and Freie Universität Berlin!

Our research group investigates the logics and interrelationship of digital information infrastructures, (transnational) mobilizations in networked digital publics, the dynamics of diffusion and manipulation of information under conditions of automation and algorithmic control, and the quality of public debates in Europe and on an international scale.


  • Unveiling the Stylistic Dynamics of Conspiracy Theory Communication in Digital Spaces
    Today, the proliferation of conspiracy theories has become a prevalent issue, often fueled by the expansive reach of digital forums and social media platforms. A collaborative project led by Annett Heft, Kilian Buehling, Xixuan Zhang (all Freie University of Berlin/Weizenbaum Institute), research on the complex nuances of online communication surrounding conspiracy narratives. In their investigation, they analyze conspiracy-related communication on social media platforms like 4chan and Reddit, and Twitter, as both the origin for radicalized user communities, and avenues for disseminate conspiracy theories. Central to their findings is the recognition of platform-specific influences on communication dynamics. From the anonymity and […]
  • Alliances and opportunity structures of gender contestations in Germany
    From the 22nd until the 23rd February 2024, Annett Heft (Free University of Berlin/Weizenbaum Institute) had the great opportunity of presenting her work in the International Conference Polarization and Beyond. What Comes Next in Political Communication Research. The event was organized by the I-POLHYS: Investigating Polarization in Hybrid Media Systems and hosted by the University of Bologna. The conference aimed to share the primary outcomes of the I-POLHYS research project with the global scientific community and a wider audience. It also sought to engage international researchers examining diverse aspects of political communication dynamics related to polarization. At the international conference […]
  • 2nd Place for the Best Paper Award by DGPuK
    We extend our congratulations to Annett Heft and Kilian Buehling (both Freie Universität Berlin/Weizenbaum Institute) along with their esteemed colleagues, Pablo Jost (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz), Maximilian Zehring, Hendrik Bitzmann, and Emese Domahidi  (all Tehnische Universität Ilmenau), and Heidi Schulze (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich), for their notable achievement of receiving the 2nd place for the Best Journal Paper in Communication Science 2023 Award by German Society for Communication Science (DGPuK). Their paper titled “Mapping a Dark space: Challenges in Sampling and Classifying Non- Institutionalized Actors on Telegram” was published in Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft in 2023. Their work critically addresses the challenges prevalent in […]
  • Vox Populi(st): Contexts and consequences of populism in user comments on news media Facebook pages
    On December 13, 2023, Daniel Thiele (Freie Universität Berlin & Weizenbaum Institute, Berlin) presented his research titled “Vox Populi(st): Contexts and Consequences of Populism in User Comments on News Media Facebook Pages” at the Helsinki Conference on Emotions, Populism and Polarization at the University of Helsinki. The conference was organized by the Helsinki Hub on Emotions, Populism and Polarisation (HEPPsinki) and attracted a diverse group of international researchers at various career stages, exploring populist mobilization in time and space, (de)radicalization, pandemic endurance, and datafication focusing particularly on interpretive and discourse theoretical research in an interdisciplinary context. On the conference’s final […]
  • Right Topic, Right Source? Source Diversity and Balance in Right-Wing Alternative News Content Across Topics
    On February 11, 2024, the final version of the article titled “Right Topic, Right Source? Source Diversity and Balance in Right-Wing Alternative News Content Across Topics,” authored by Annett Heft (Freie University of Berlin/Weizenbaum Institute), Tim Ramsland, and Eva Mayerhöffer (both Roskilde University), was published by Taylor & Francis. The article investigates how right-wing alternative news media, in their pursuit of both journalistic legitimacy and partisan credibility, impact source and topical diversity as well as content balance. Analyzing a dataset of 1000 randomly chosen articles from 20 right-wing alternative online news sources spanning six countries (the US, the UK, Germany, […]
  • Pandemic Protesters on Telegram: How Platform Affordances and Information Ecosystems Shape Digital Counterpublics
    Kilian Buehling and Annett Heft (both Freie University of Berlin/Weizenbaum Institute) published an article on the Pandemic Protesters on Telegram: How Platform Affordances and Information Ecosystems Shape Digital Counterpublics in Social Media + Society.  Their research investigates the role of platform affordances, their adoption by movement actors, and the strategic use of information ecosystems in shaping a digital counterpublic during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study analyzes data from over 300 Telegram channels and group chats associated with the Querdenken movement over a two-year period. Employing a combination of automated and manual techniques such as topic modeling, network analysis, and quantitative […]
  • Cross-Border Journalism Content: Status Quo and Perspectives
    Journalism has been crossing borders since news media and nation-states co-emerged in the seventeenth century. Still, the internet era has further advanced and expanded the border-transcending production, dissemination, and reception of news. The rise of cross-border journalism reflects the “increasing connectedness, boundarylessness, and mobility in the world” (Berglez, 2008, p. 855). The new “The Palgrave Handbook of Cross-Border Journalism” (2024) explores cross-border journalism through conceptual and empirical lenses, scrutinizes transnational journalism cultures in the Internet age, and deliberates on the theoretical and methodological challenges of analyzing cross-border journalism. In the chapter “Cross-Border Journalism Content: Status Quo and Perspectives” Annett Heft […]
  • Politicization and Right-Wing Normalization on Youtube: A Topic-Based Analysis of the “Alternative Influence Network”
    Curd Benjamin Knüpfer (Free University of Berlin), Carsten Schwemmer (Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich) and Annett Heft (Free University of Berlin/Weizenbaum Institute) published an article on the Politicization and Right-Wing Normalization on Youtube: A Topic-Based Analysis of the “Alternative Influence Network” in the  International Journal of Communication. The study addresses a  gap in current research on YouTube’s actual content. Built on Lewis’s (2018) classification of an “alternative influencer” network, the study applies structural topic modeling across all text-based autocaptions from her study’s sample to identify common topics featured on these channels, and to trace politicization over time. The researchers find that political […]
  • Light and Shadow of Participation and Mobilization in Networked Digital Public Spheres
    On November 30th and December 1st, Annett Heft (Freie University of Berlin/Weizenbaum Institute) had the opportunity to participate in the conference „Zwischen Gefährdung & Emanzipation: Demokratie unter Druck“ (Between Threat and Emancipation: Democracy Under Pressure) hosted by the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society, together with the Amadeu Antonio Stiftung, Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, and the Forschungsinstitut Gesellschaftlicher Zusammenhalt.  With a regional focus on Germany, the conference addressed the pressures democracy faces, due to the increase of anti-democratic and anti-human ideologies. Such promotes exclusionary processes that restrict participation and question justice, while the performance deficits of the political system […]