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German Press on the Social Digitisation: An Accompanying or Frame Building Correspondent?

Open Panel

Abstract

Mere political processes such as legislative debates or elections can stimulate a so-called press-party parallelism, resulting in a selective media support of certain political orientations (Seymour-Ure, 1974). But can such a biased coverage also be expected when rather unpolitical developments are focused? The pervasive innovation and diffusion of digital technology in human life, also perceived as the social digitisation, can be regarded as a relevant process which produces political dispute, but clearly distinguishable political positions do not exist (Negroponte, 1995). The present study wants to find out if the latent press-party parallelism of Germany’s quality press had an impact on the way it framed the social digitisation. Therefore, frames were understood as poly-elemental patterns of interpretation which may vary depending on the journalists’ political and social attitudes (Entman, 1993; Inglehart, 1977; Lipset & Rokkan, 1967; Patterson & Donsbach, 1996; Schönbach, 1977). Consequently, the press coverage about the social digitisation could be geared towards an intended frame building (Scheufele, 1999). The study consisted of a content analysis of articles from five German newspapers and news magazines, from the years 2003 (n=211) and 2008 (n=210), which were categorized ideologically (Author, 2010). Five frames were empirically derived using cluster analysis. The findings show that press-party-parallelism may have led to a differentiated construction of the social digitisation. Politically right-leaning press presented the social digitisation more in terms of its economical outcomes while politically left-leaning press tended to focus more on the individual constraints of the social digitisation. Furthermore, the observed structurally consistent frame patterns in both years indicate an ideologically driven strategic frame building. In terms of possible framing effects, media coverage could so influence the further social acceptance and diffusion of digital technology. Politically left oriented media could slow this development down while politically right oriented media could accelerate it.