The subproject “Right-Wing Populist Conspiracy Discourse in Social Networks” investigates the intersection between conspiracy and right-wing populist discourses, specifically in the contemporary German context.

Conspiracy theories are frequently deployed by fringe political actors that aim to undermine political institutions and boost their own claims to legitimacy. Conspiracy theories relating to controversial political issues appear to activate supporters of various causes by tapping into strong emotions, such as alienation, fear and resentment (Hameleers, 2021). It therefore seems desirable to develop computational tools for the detection and measurement of the prevalence of such ideas in online environments (e.g. Gründl, 2020, for right-wing populism). For the study of large datasets taken from Twitter and Facebook, a novel computational dictionary was developed within the scope of this project. Two sets of methods drawn from the toolkit of the text-as-data approach are employed. The first set of methods combines theoretical considerations and manual annotation with automated procedures for creating, expanding, cleaning and optimizing the dictionary. In this process, the dictionary is also divided into categories the literature supports, such as anti-elitism, antisemitism or a vocabulary of exposure and revelation. The second set of tools is used to apply the dictionary and interpret the results of this application to demonstrate the dictionary’s usefulness for research purposes. This project is further supported by two workshops carried out over duration of the project, to which external experts are invited. The results will be published.

Further Information & Contact

University of Bremen
Cornelius Puschmann
Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research (ZeMKI)
Linzer Straße 6
28359 Bremen

Stanford University
Hevin Karakurt
Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages
Stanford, CA 94305

University of Basel
Nicola Gess
Department of German Studies
Nadelberg 4
4051 Basel

University of Basel
Oliver Nachtwey
Department of Sociology
Petersgraben 27
4051 Basel

Selected Publications

Cornelius Puschmann, Hevin Karakurt, Carolin Amlinger, Nicola Gess & Oliver Nachtwey: "RPC-Lex: A dictionary to measure German right-wing populist conspiracy discourse online," in: Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, special issue: Conspiracy Theories in Digital Environments (2022). (peer reviewed) open access
Nicola Gess: Halbwahrheiten. Zur Manipulation von Wirklichkeit, Berlin: Matthes & Seitz 2021. Link
Nicola Gess: "Half-Truths. On an Instrument of Post-Truth Politics", in: Ben Carver, Dana Crăciun, Todor Hristov (eds.): Plots: Literary Form and Cultures of Conspiracy, London: Routledge 2021, pp. 164–178.
Nicola Gess: "Versuch über die Halbwahrheit", in: Matíaz Martínez, Katharina Rennhak, Michael Scheffel, Roy Sommer, Antonius Weixler, (eds.): Postfaktisches Erzählen, Berlin: De Gruyter 2021, pp. 23–41. Link