Framing Big Data: Medial interpretations and communicative opinion-forming on large amounts of data and new data-based processes.

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Quelle: UPC School

How are aggregated data and new data-based processes framed in the media?

The project examines how large amounts of data and the processes based on them are framed in a media-communicative manner. It reconstructs the framing of big data on a broad material basis from a comparative perspective. Three levels are linked to one another: First, the frames in professional forms of communication are compared with those in participatory forms of communication. Second, the influence relationships between these editorially and journalistically produced or user-generated frames are traced over time. Thirdly, these processes are examined in a country comparison of Germany, the USA and South Africa.

In doing so, the project addresses three essential gaps in order to understand the creation of cultural meaning in the context of expansive datafication processes: Firstly, it records the repertoire of interpretations of big data in a comparison of forms of communication. Second, it explores the dynamic development of the discourse on big data over time. Thirdly, it discusses the variance in perspectives on big data in a country comparison.



The study investigates the discursive negotiation processes and the news frames on Big Data by way of a content analysis. The press articles from three countries are examined, which are: Germany, U.S., and South Africa. The period of analysis is January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2020.

You can download the codebook here.

In order to achieve the three research goals, the project uses a multi-method design. The combination of data and methods allows the comparative recording of media frames and the temporal relationship between journalistic and user-generated articles. It includes the qualitative preliminary analysis of socio-political issues and aspects of presentation. Based on this, the press releases are collected. With this material, key events are inductively identified as phases in which the volume of thematically relevant articles increases significantly. The key events determined in this way then serve as a criterion for sampling the user-generated communication. This is followed by the manual content analysis of the verbally and visually manifested frames in the corpus of the press releases and in the corpus of the user-generated communications.

In the next step, the discourse connections between the two corpora are explored over time. In a country comparison, the similarities and differences in the interpretations of and discourses about big data are discussed comparatively.

The project delivers the following three results:

First: Determination of the domain-specific repertoire of media frames around big data. It takes into account their multimodal, text and image comprehensive constitution in professional and participatory forms of communication.

Second: Reconstruction of the discursive processes of interpretation into new types of data volumes and data-based processes. It tracks the development of the topic over time.

Third: Elaboration of cross-country specifics and similarities in dealing with big data. The comparative analysis thus deepens the understanding of the developing social preoccupation with the diffuse field of action big data and the interpretation of the processes, prerequisites, consequences and responsibilities associated with it.

At least three peer-reviewed articles in leading international communications science journals and a monograph by the project team should result from the project.

Head of Project

Prof. Dr. Christian Pentzold

Prof. Dr. Christian Pentzold


Media and Communications
Nikolaistraße 27-29, Room 5.05
04109 Leipzig

Phone: +49 341 97-35701
Fax: +49 341 97-35749

Project members

Dr. Charlotte Knorr

Dr. Charlotte Knorr

Research Fellow

Media and Communications
Nikolaistraße 27-29, Room 5.13
04109 Leipzig

Phone: +49 341 97-35717

April 2021 to March 2024

The project is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)