Zum Inhalt springen

Media-related changes in societies do not simply result from “disruptive technologies” being invented and then implemented by companies. Such a perspective would be far too simplistic an assumption of impact to capture the complexity of media-related changes. Rather, we are dealing with a multifaceted transformation involving various individual and supra-individual actors (Berker, Hartmann, Punie, & Ward, 2006; Bijker & Law, 1992; Couldry & Hepp, 2017; Dolata, 2013). A particular group of actors here are ” pioneer communities” (Hepp, 2016), which act as ” intermediaries” (Bourdieu, 2010: 360) between technology development, companies, politics, and users. In essence, media-related pioneer communities are characterized – in addition to the shared sense of unity among their members – by the fact that they play a pioneering role in their respective field, which is concretized in experimental media practices, that they have formed an “organizational elite” (Hitzler & Niederbacher, 2010: 22), and that they share “socio-technical imaginations” (Jasanoff & Kim, 2015) of a possible (media) future.

Historically, the importance of pioneer communities for media-related transformations has been demonstrated in particular by Fred Turner (2006) in his well-known study of the Whole Earth Network. This network, which originated in the American counterculture, brought together utopias of new community with ideas of the transformability of society through technology and a conceptualization of cybernetics and general systems theory derived from military research. The members of this network were not so much “developers” as journalists and technology enthusiasts who developed ideas of online communality, platform exchange, and an individualized society. For a long time, their discourse had a significant impact on the development of technology in Silicon Valley and its support by American policymakers. Important publication organs of this network were first the Whole Earth Catalog, the online community Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link (WELL), and later the magazine Wired.

About the authors

Andreas Hepp
Andreas Hepp is Professor for Media and Communication Studies with the special areas Media Culture and Communication Theory at the ZeMKI, Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research. Hepp graduated 1995 from the University of Trier with an MA-degree in German Studies and Political Science, focusing on media communication. Between 1995 and 1997, he was a research associate in the interdisciplinary research project “Talking about Television. The Everyday Appropriation of TV“ at the University of Trier (funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG). In 1997, he finished his doctoral thesis on everyday appropriation of television, combining various perspectives of Cultural Studies with sociological conversation analysis. After having done some post-doctoral research at the University of Trier, Andreas Hepp was a lecturer at the Interfaculty Institute for Applied Cultural Studies at the University of Karlsruhe (TH) in 1999. Between 1999 and 2003, he worked as a research associate at first, and later on as an academic assistant (wissenschaftlicher Assistent) at the Institute for Media and Communication Studies at the Technical University of Ilmenau. During that time, he was also a research fellow at the Nottingham Trent University, UK, and a visiting researcher at the University of Sunderland, UK. In 2004, he finished his habilitation thesis on media cultures and globalisation. In 2003 and 2004, he was a deputy professor for media sociology and media psychology at the University of Muenster. From 2005 to 2010 he was professor for communications at the faculty for cultural studies, University of Bremen.

Susan Alpen
Susan Alpen has been a research assistant at the Institute for Historical Journalism, Communication and Media Studies (IPKM) at the University of Bremen since July 2017. She completed her Master’s degree in Communication and Cultural Management in 2015 with a thesis on “Media, Public Spheres and Society between Fragmentation and Integration” at Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen. From April 2016 to July 2017, she worked as a research assistant in the EU-funded CBHE Erasmus+ project “Media Literacy as a Media Competence Program for Social Change”. The project was developed in cooperation with six universities from Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, as well as the University of Vienna and the Open University of the Netherlands. In close collaboration with the partner universities, Susan Alpen worked on a two-stage Delphi study conducted in Southeast Asia, which now forms the scientific basis for the development of a Massive Open Online Course to promote media literacy in Southeast Asia.

Piet Simon
Piet Simon was a research assistant at the Center for Media, Communication and Information Research (ZeMKI) at the University of Bremen from 2015 to 2018. He taught in the Bachelor’s program in Communication and Media Studies. He was also active in the interdisciplinary research network “Communicative Figurations”. In a subproject of Prof. Dr. Andreas Hepp, he dealt with the communicative construction of communities in mediatized places in the city.