MEDAS 21 - Global Media Assistance: Applied Research, Improved Practice in the 21 Century

At present, the importance of media and journalism in the world regions shaken by political and economic crises is increasingly coming to the attention of international decision makers. For decades, Western development organizations have been working to promote media actors in transition countries as agents of civil society change. How effective were these measures so far? Which new concepts need to be developed under dramatically changed global conditions? And with what impact are new actors in the field of media development assistance (MDA) - such as China, Russia and Qatar - pushing into the global market of MDA?

International communications and media studies have so far found few answers to these urgent questions. This is the starting point for the research program MEDAS 21 proposed by the three institutes of the University Alliance Ruhr (IfJ Dortmund, IfM Bochum, IfK Duisburg-Essen), which deal with journalism, media and communication. The structured doctoral program is located at the intersection of university theory and practical application and builds on extensive previous experience of the project partners.

In particular, the unique combination of perspectives from Journalism Studies, Media Studies and Communication Studies, and the "interdisciplinarity within a discipline" promises innovative theoretical approaches to the field of media development cooperation and focuses solutions to problems of practical relevance. The manifold relations of national and international media, traditional mass media and social media in transformation societies, the complex transnational and transcultural interdependencies of new donor and recipient constellations between the Global North and South and within the Global South as well as the different levels of media co-operation (journalists, media organizations, Media policy) make a context-sensitive, cross-media and multi-dimensional analysis by Journalism/Media and Communication Studies necessary. 

Core questions of the research school are thus in the following areas of media development cooperation:

  • changes in the socio-political, economic and technological framework conditions
  • effectiveness and legitimacy (impact skepticism)
  • atomization tendencies and complexity gains (fragmentation)
  • conflict of civil-humanitarian and security aspects (securitization)
  • Public Diplomacy supremacy
  • digital transformation
  • the economic re-evaluation of the current logics of action - and restrictions of the media cooperation landscape (Political Economy of Communication)
  • study designs in the MEZ evaluation (Evaluation & Methodology Challenges)
  • communication for social/political change
  • constructive/peace journalism
  • theoretical-conceptual inconsistencies of the project designs (paradigm rivalry / conceptual ambiguity)

The research school, with its up to seven doctoral students, is based on an excellently established international research and practice network and promotes the dialogue between science and professional practice, which is so important in the field of international media development. It underlines the necessary scientific policy reorientation by a promising strategic orientation towards praxis in communication, journalism and media studies.

Project partners are Deutsche Welle Akademie, Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), African Media Initiative (AMI), Media Cooperation and Transition (MiCT) as well as the Catholic Media Council (CAMECO) and the Swiss Fondation Hirondelle.