As Professor of Media and Communication Studies at the University of Mannheim I specialize in comparative political communication and cross-border communication. Born in Namibia in 1965, I was sensitized to the opportunities and pitfalls of communication across cultural divides very early on. Throughout my academic training in Germany and the United States, I was most interested in the conflictual and cooperative dynamics of mediated public debates. A recurring theme in my work relates to the possibilities of rigorously assessing the quality of mediated communication against diverging normative models of democracy. I am particularly interested in how the theory of deliberative democracy can be amended to accomodate today's diversified and globalized communication system.
Together with the members of my research team, I study media events and media debates in the areas of climate change, migration/refugees, religion/secularism, terrorism as well as other pressing and contentious issues. In my projects I often employ standardized, automated or interpretive media content analysis of both textual and visual resources, but we also occasionally use interviews, surveys, and experiments. I particularly focus on integrating computational methods in my research and on developing multimodal (text plus image) methods of media content analysis.
I have conducted research and taught classes as a visiting scholar at New York University, the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and the University of Zürich, Switzerland. My work was published in leading journals such as the Journal of Communication, Political Communication, the International Journal of Press/Politics and others, and by renowned publishers both in Germany and internationally. I also served as Associate Editor of the International Encyclopedia of Political Communication (Wiley Blackwell, 2015) and was elected vice chair of the German Research Foundation's review board for the social sciences (2012-2016). In 2018 I serve as the convenor of the German Communication Association's annual conference held in Mannheim and entitled "Selbstbestimmung in der digitalen Welt" (Self-determination in a digitized world).