Emmy Noether Group to Co-Present 8 Papers at International Communication Association Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.


The Emmy Noether research group, headed by Dr. Florian Toepfl,  have (co-)authored eight papers that will be presented at the annual conference of the International Communication Association (ICA). This year, the conference will take place on May 24-28, 2019 in Washington, DC.  


The ICA 2019 conference theme of Communication Beyond Boundaries aims for an understanding of the role of communication and media in the crossing of social, political and cultural boundaries that characterize contemporary society, and encourages research that crosses the boundaries of research domains, of particular fields of research interest, and of academia and the outside world.


Please find below all the necessary information about the sessions in which Dr. Toepfl, Dr. Anna Litvinenko, and Andrei Zavadski will participate, and the papers that are going to be presented there.  



SATURDAY, MAY 25, 2019 

Session Title: Online User Comments

8:00 AM - 9:15 AM; Jay (Washington Hilton, Lobby Level)


How Media Content Shapes Feeling Rules: The Effects of Media Messages and User Comments on How We Think We Should Feel

Leyla Dogruel; Florian Toepfl; Marlene Kunst

In addition to extant research inquiring about the relationship between media and emotions, this study is the first to investigate whether media messages can alter what Hochschild (1979) has referred to as “feeling rules,” that is, what (and how) audiences think they should feel in a given situation. In order to interrogate this claim, this study presents the results of two experiments grounded in a 2x3 between-subjects design that tests the effects of media messages, and the user comments beneath them, containing what we call “emotion prescriptions.” As our findings show, it is not so much the media but user comments that impact how audiences think that they and others should feel in a specific situation. Our results further confirm that this influence of comments on the evaluation of emotion norms is mediated through the perceived public acceptance of the feeling rule. Consequences are discussed for extant research on comment sections and feeling rules.


SATURDAY, MAY 25, 2019

Session Title: Misinformation, Disinformation, Fake News and Fact Checking 2

11:00 AM - 12:15 PM; Jefferson East (Washington Hilton, Concourse Level)


Immunizing citizens against disinformation: An experimental test of inoculation theory in the context of online astroturfing 
Thomas Zerback; Florian Toepfl; Maria Knöpfle 

Inoculation theory suggests that resistance to future persuasive attacks can be increased by (1) warning individuals that a persuasive attack on their attitude is imminent and potentially dangerous and (2) by offering information to counter the persuasive message. In the current study, we apply the inoculation approach to a new and widespread form of persuasive communication called online astroturfing. Agents of online astroturfing try to imitate grassroots movements (e.g., by using fake social media accounts that comment on the issues of interest) and thus try to influence the attitudes and public opinion perceptions of citizens. The current study experimentally tests (1) the effects of pro-Russian online comments on personal attitudes and public opinion perceptions and (2) the efficiency of three different inoculation strategies in countering these effects.



SATURDAY, MAY 25, 2019

Session Title: New Research on Identity in Political Communication

2:00 PM - 3:15 PM; Jay (Washington Hilton, Lobby Level)


Beyond Left and Right: Real-World Political Polarization in Discussions on Inter-Ethnic Conflicts in Germany, the USA, and Russia 
Svetlana S. Bodrunova, Anna Litvinenko, Ivan S. Blekanov, Anna S. Smoliarova

Studies of political polarization in social media demonstrate mixed evidence for whether discussions necessarily evolve into echo chambers or provide opinion crossroads. Recent research shows that, for political and issue-based discussions, patterns of user clusterization may differ significantly, but cross-cultural evidence of how users polarize in issue-oriented discussions is close to non-existent. Also, most of the studies develop network proxies to detect users’ grouping, while the content of tweets is rarely taken into account. We are adding to the scholarly discussion by detecting user polarization based on attitudes towards political actors expressed by users in Germany, the USA, and Russia within discussions on inter-ethnic conflicts. We have developed a mixed-method approach to detecting user grouping that includes web crawling for data collection, expert coding of tweets, multi-dimensional scaling, construction of word frequency vocabularies, and graph visualization. Our results show that the groups detected are far from conventionally left/right, and more than two sides of political talk co-exist in two of the three discussions. We also show that the debate privileging either echo chambering or opinion crossroads may be misleading, as the latter is found in the discussion cores, while the core/periphery axis reveals echo chambers in politicized talk on Twitter.


SATURDAY, MAY 25, 2019

Session Title: Gender, Memory, and Media

3:30 PM - 4:45 PM; Embassy (Washington Hilton, Terrace Level)

Memories on demand: Narratives about 1917 in Russian authoritarian publics
Anna Litvinenko, Andrei Zavadski 


This article looks at the digital remembrance of the Russian Revolution in the year of its centenary. Operationalizing Florian Toepfl’s (2018) theory of authoritarian publics, it examines what memory narratives about 1917 were constructed by leading Russian online media, in the situation of an absent overarching memory narrative imposed by the state. Through a qualitative content analysis, the authors reveal a multiplicity of narratives about the Revolution in Russia’s publics and discuss its implications for the authoritarian regime’s stability. They argue that the flexible nature of digital memories does not necessarily challenge the authoritarian rule, but can work in its favor by allowing to target – and satisfy – various sections of a fragmented society. Set at the intersection of communication studies and memory studies, this article is a contribution to research on public discussions and digital remembrance in non-democratic contexts. 


MONDAY, MAY 27, 2019

Session Title: The Social and Market Dynamics of News Audiences and Analytics 
11:00 AM - 12:15 PM; Georgetown East (Washington Hilton, Concourse Level)


Integrating survey and digital trace data to investigate audience participation on online platforms of news media: Implications of two exploratory studies of the Facebook pages of RT German and Tagesschau
Florian Toepfl


This article proposes a novel methodological approach that integrates digital trace and survey data in order to investigate user participation on online platforms of news media. First, a sample of participants is invited to participate in an online survey via a personal message that contains a link with a reference number. The reference number allows for matching completed questionnaires with individual participants. Second, the survey and digital trace data of participants are analyzed in combination. This article discusses the benefits and limitations of this integrated approach, as well as practical and ethical considerations, with reference to two exploratory studies. 


MONDAY, MAY 27, 2019

Session Title: International Perspectives and Cross-Cultural Studies of ICTs 
2:00 PM - 3:15 PM; Columbia 11 (Washington Hilton, Terrace Level) 

YouTube in Authoritarian Elections: Political Videos during the 2018 Presidential Campaign in Russia
Anna Litvinenko 


Previous studies on ‘youtubification’ of political communication (May 2010) have been largely focusing on the democratic context. This study aims at exploring the role of the global video sharing platform in authoritarian politics, on the example on the Russian presidential elections 2018. It draws on the qualitative content analysis of 169 political videos collected from the section ‘Popular’ of the Russian YouTube during the last two months of the presidential campaign. The results show that oppositional discourse dominated the most popular political videos of the Russian YouTube and that pro-state actors tried to co-opt the platform, publishing videos made in amateur and semi-professional style. Drawing on the findings, I discuss the risks and benefits of the YouTube-publics for the Russian authoritarian regime and the role of social media in ‘consultative authoritarianism’ (He and Warren 2011).


MONDAY, MAY 27, 2019

Session Title: Online Publics and Counterpublics 
5:00 PM - 6:15 PM; Cabinet Room (Washington Hilton, Concourse Level)


Do counterpublics benefit from accusing the media of excluding their view? Effects of the “suppressed voice rhetoric” in user comments on the news audience
Marlene Kunst; Florian Toepfl; Leyla Dogruel


Counterpublics seek to increase the persuasive power of their arguments by criticizing the mainstream media for suppressing opinions that do not fit into their worldview. Even though this “suppressed voice rhetoric” (SVR) has recently become common in online debates, we know little about its potential effects. In order to contribute to filling this gap, this article presents two experimental studies that explore how user comments containing a SVR influence the news audience. Our findings show no effect on audiences’ perceived mainstream media bias, but indicate that the SVR influences issue attitudes. Moreover, the SVR heightens the expectations of public deliberation for individuals who identify with the counterpublic and lowers these expectations for individuals who identify with the dominant public. We conclude that this effect might set in motion a spiral that increases the counterpublic’s discursive activity while strengthening the dominant public’s reluctance to enter into a joint debate.


TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2019

Session Title: User Comments on the News
11:00 AM - 12:15 PM; Jay (Washington Hilton, Lobby Level)


The (Non-)Adoption of Participatory Newsroom Innovations under Authoritarian Rule:
How Comment Sections Diffused in Belarus and Azerbaijan (1998-2017)
Anna Litvinenko 


Extant research on how innovations diffuse among news organizations over time has focused on democratic contexts. By contrast, this is the first longitudinal study to investigate the spread of a participatory newsroom innovation under authoritarian rule. Adopting a multiple case study design, the article reconstructs the histories of comment sections on the leading national news platforms in two authoritarian contexts, which vary maximally with regard to the outcome of the diffusion process. As the findings show, in Belarus, the diffusion process followed a classic S-shaped curve of adoption and was almost completed by 2009. In contrast, in Azerbaijan throughout the 2000s, no more than two innovator organizations implemented the innovation. As key factors explaining this stark difference we identify a more restrictive approach of the Azerbaijani leadership to user participation as well as the low intensity of communicative exchange between local and foreign news organizations in Azerbaijan.


More information about the ICA 2019 conference can be found here