How Britain and Germany Became Risk Societies – a Comparative Analysis of Discourse-Semantic Changes of British and German Newspapers, 1960-2014

Monday, 16 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Jens ZINN, University of Melbourne, Australia
The presentation reports from an ongoing research project which examines institutional and discursive changes in Britain and Germany through the analysis of digitized newspaper archives. On the basis of a number of text corpora which are built from articles of newspapers of different style and political bias, the project examines with the help of linguistic tools fundamental social changes towards a risk society. First, it suggests conceptualizing risk society in terms of a particular discursive practice. Risk stands for a discourse which utilizes risk words which reflect and shape social practices in a particular way. The 1960s are a crucial decade for a discourse semantic shift in the news media. Since then the overall number of risk words is rapidly growing. New constructs such as ‘at risk’ and ‘put at risk’ become more common and spread across a growing number of social domains. Institutional changes such as the development of epidemiology, the introduction of risk registers and the introduction of new public (risk) management as well as the ongoing crisis of the health sector coins the themes which mobilize risk communication in the media. At the same time fundamental changes in the economic systems has sustainably changed news coverage and the reporting of risk. The project has now turned to compare the results of the UK with discourse-semantic changes in Germany. It presents most recent results of similarities and differences in the development of media discourses in the UK and Germany towards Risk Societies from 1960s to 2014.