| Philosophische Fakultät, SPF Wissen. Räume. Medien., Studium

"Verschwörung(s)trennt" (conspiracy separates) wins the 2021 Project Forum

In the second digitally organised Project Forum of the Department of Media and Communication Studies at the University of Erfurt, six project groups presented the results of their project study phase 2020/2021 today. The sponsorship prize of 500 euros was won by the project "Verschwörung(s)trennt" (conspiracy separates), which examined communication techniques used by opinion leaders in the context of conspiracy theories and how they are perceived by recipients.

The project group consisting of Anne-Kathrin Draga, Christine Ermer, Josephine Wegner, Lea Rottenbach, Johanna Herlan, Daria Todorova, Antonia Dürr and Niklas Menge (photo, from left to right) pursued the aim of their study to examine the communication techniques of two popular opinion leaders - Attila Hildmann and Ken Jebsen, both of whom are conspicuous for their conspiratorial and partly right-wing extremist online presences.
In addition, the BA students researched how users perceive and appropriate their conspiratorial content on alternative platforms such as Telegram and KenTube.

Their study was methodologically divided into two approaches: The Telegram posts and the videos on KenTube were examined with regard to communication techniques and content with the help of a content analysis. First of all, a qualitative description of the material was made, which made it possible to comprehensively analyse the research material. In order to look at the side of the recipients, the students also worked with episodic guided interviews, which represent a middle ground between narrative interviews and open surveys.

The study showed that Attila Hildmann and Ken Jebsen can be classified as opinion leaders. The Telegram posts are often characterised by rhetorical stylistic devices such as irony or neologisms and their basic character can be classified as aggressive/ angry and denouncing. Similar enemy images, for example the established media or those in power, as well as conspiracy narratives are communicated on both channels. In addition, the interviews of the project group confirmed the assumption that users both consciously turn to the content presented and engage in follow-up communication. A predominant turning away from the so-called mainstream media and a critical attitude towards the federal government could also be confirmed.

With their study, the group "Verschwörung(s)trennt" convinced the jury this year. But also the five other projects again investigated exciting topics:

  • "Bridging Research-AG": Racism Discourse in Transition? A Comparative Critical Discourse Analysis Based on the Reporting of the Racially Motivated Violent Acts of the NSU and in Hanau
  • "Diversitisement": The appearance of diversity dimensions in German television advertising - a comparison over time
  • "DopeFlix": How Netflix series can influence attitudes towards drugs and acquisitive crime
  • "Expertise in the crisis": A multi-perspective study on the representation and impact of scientists in the coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • "Infodemie": News choices in the context of the COVID-19 infodemic: A subject-differentiated comparison of students in Germany

All project descriptions can be found in the brochure of the 2021 Project Forum (German only): Broschüre des Projektforums 2021
We congratulate all project applicants and especially the winners of "Verschwörung(s)trennt" for the 2021 funding award.

All the work was done within the framework of the "project study phase", a unique concept in German teaching: over a period of one year, students apply the knowledge they have acquired during their studies in small groups to solve real or realistic problems within communication science. Project partners are media and business enterprises as well as public institutions and organisations.

The award is sponsored by the Erfurt Association for Communication and Media (Erfurter Verein für Kommunikation und Medien e.V.) and comes with prize money of 500 euros.