Value Conflicts in a Differentiated Europe: The Impact of Digital Media on Value Polarisation in Europe (ValCon)

The project will examine the role of digital social & news media in creating political value polarization among citizens and in promoting the rise of populism in Europe. It includes a comparative survey in 6 countries and qualitative analysis of debates conducted through social media. The overall aim of our research is to explain the growing tendency in and across Europe to contest the core values that anchor the European project, and clarify how this new trend relates to digital media usage. At a broader level, ValCon addresses the challenges posed by a deep crisis of liberal democracy in Europe and the world. This crisis, we assume, is a manifestation of increasing conflicts over liberal values, which—we further argue—social media both drives and amplifies.

ValCon asks the following core question: To what extent can value conflicts, as expressed in polarized opinions and extremist political views among the public, be attributed to patterns of social media communication? To answer this question, we analyse the dynamics of online value conflicts and how they affect the legitimacy of political order. Is the EU as a community of value drifting apart? And if so, how is this "drifting apart" related to the erosion of value consensus at national level? In this context, our proposed project addresses two major challenges to European societies today: digital media’s rapidly increasing contribution to political polarisation, and the emergence of new social cleavages within and across European societies. More on the project here.

ValCon is coordinated by Prof. Monika Eigmüller (EUF, Flensburg), Prof. Hans-Jörg Trenz (UniFI, Florence), and Prof. Juan Díez Medrano (UC3M, Madrid). More on teams here.

Funding: Challenges for Europe

Funding period: 9/2020 - 8/2024

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Volkswagen-Stiftung funds an additional module on COVID-19

Our application "Lockdown of the Public Sphere? Value Contestation and Digital Mobilization during the COVID-19 Pandemic" was successful, therefore for 12 months starting from 1.9.2021 we will delve into the visual world of digital mobilization for (counter-)protests againts governmental restrictions on Instagram. Our academic plans contain a  method school on visual framing for young scholars from different European countries with possible future collaborations and common publication. Stay tuned!