"Tinder the city"

Software-based scenarios against the crisis of publics in cities and surrounding areas

Principal investigators: Prof. Dr. Andreas Hepp (ZeMKI, University of Bremen), Prof. Dr. Andreas Breiter (ifib, University of Bremen) and Prof. Dr. Wiebke Loosen (Hans-Bredow-Institute)

Project staff: Ulrike Gerhard (ifib, 2017-2018), Andrea Grahl (ZeMKI, University of Bremen), Katharina Heitmann (ZeMKI, University of Bremen), Hendrik Hoch (ifib), Dr. Leif Kramp (ZeMKI, University of Bremen), Julius Reimer (Hans-Bredow-Institute), Adrian Roeske (ifib), Lies van Roessel (ZeMKI, University of Bremen, 2017-2018)

Supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Duration: 2017-2020

Website:  http://www.molo.news/

The economic crisis of regional newspapers continues as local news apps have yet failed to establish themselves. Researchers and software developers of the Center for Media, Communication and Information Research and of the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI) are now trying to go a new, much more experimental way: In co-creation, together with future users, they develop an innovative mobile news- and information-app for young people in the city and its surrounding areas.

The project combines empirical communication and media research with co-creative software development. With the experimental app, this both aims to act contrary to the apparent loss of relevance of the city and the regional area. Causes for the crisis of the mediatized public sphere in the city and the rural area are amongst others the mobile way of living, social relations which are no longer location-based and the divers media use of citizens. The classical regional and local media haven't managed to adequately cope with these issues as they are successively losing relevance. They are especially facing the problem of no longer reaching the (younger) people. “This app is supposed to show what is possible, when we turn the thinking around that not the interests of media companies are in the focus but the interests of the users”, says Prof. Dr. Andreas Hepp (ZeMKI), who leads this research project together with Prof. Dr. Andreas Breiter of the Institute of Information Management Bremen (ifib), as well as Prof. Dr. Wiebke Loosen from the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI) of the University of Hamburg. This project therewith attempts to put the interests and habits of the users in the first place instead of just bringing print journalism onto the digital device.

The project which is funded by the federal ministry for education and research (BMBF) takes a radical different approach: First the everyday media use of young citizens has been analyzed. Then together with these young people the way an ideal local news and information app should look like, has been developed in a step by step co-creation process. In the first two funding years of this project the experimental app molo.news has been created. First as a prototype in the form of a webapp together with a corresponding editorial platform. In the third year of funding (2019-2020) the prototype was implemented as a native app and the editorial system of molo.news was optimized. From 2020 on molo.news will be accessible in the App Store and in the Play Store for free download.

The development process of the app was carried out in collaboration with different stakeholders of the public city sphere: the media and digital economy in the metropolitan area of Bremen, the city and municipal administrations, the cities advisory council, political parties and associations as well as other local collectives like sports clubs, (neighbourhood-)initiatives, art clubs, locally rooted social movements or religious communities. Through this co-creation approach empirical findings as well as expectations and wishes of future users were integrated in the whole process of software development from the beginning. This process enabled the researchers to explore the wide range of possibilities for innovative software development and can give impulse to how such software could generally be created in the future.

The experimental app is first developed for Bremen and its surrounding areas. For the future, an expansion of the area where it can be applied, is imaginable. In order to expand in the future a sustainable business model is supposed to be implemented. To achieve the overall goal to strengthen solidarity within local communities a criteria catalogue for good, innovative local journalism will be worked out.


Project publications

  • Hepp, Andreas (2020): Artificial companions, social bots and work bots: communicative robots as research objects of media and communication studies In: Media, Culture & Society. Here you can read the paper.
  • Hepp, Andreas/Loosen, Wiebke (2019): Molo.news: Experimentally Developing a Relational Platform for Local Journalism. In: Media and Communication 2019, Vol. 7. Here you can read the paper.
  • Roeske, Adrian/Heitmann, Katharina (2019): Nutzer*innenwünsche an eine alternative Nachrichtenplattform. Co-Creation als Methode partizipativer Sozialforschung. In: Marion Brüggemann/Sabine Eder/Angela Tillmann (Hrsg.): Medienbildung für alle – Digitalisierung. Teilhabe. Vielfalt. Schriften zur Medienpädagogik 55. München: kopaed, 161-174. Download as *.pdf file.

Selected publications

  • Heise, Nele/Loosen, Wiebke/Reimer, Julius/Schmidt, Jan-Hinrik (2014): Including the audience. Comparing the attitudes and expectations of journalists and users towards participation in German TV news journalism. In: Journalism Studies, 15(4), 411–430. DOI:10.1080/1461670X.2013.831232.
  • Hepp, Andreas/ Kubitschko, Sebastian/ Marszolek, Inge (Hrsg.) (2017): Die mediatisierte Stadt: Kommunikative Figurationen des urbanen Zusammenlebens. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, im Erscheinen.
  • Hepp, Andreas/ Simon, Piet/ Sowinska, Monika (2017): Living together in the mediatized city: Young people’s communicative figurations of urban communitization. In: Andreas Hepp/ Andreas Breiter/ Uwe Hasebrink (Hrsg.): Communicative figurations: Transforming Communications in times of deep mediatization. Basingstoke: Palgrave, available online here.
  • Kramp, Leif (2016): Conceptualizing metropolitan journalism: New approaches, new communicative practices, new perspectives? In Leif Kramp/ Nico Carpentier/ Andreas Hepp/ Richard Kilborn/ Risto Kunelius/ Hannu Nieminen/ Tobias Olsson/ Pille Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt/ Ilija Tomanić Trivundža/ Simone Tosoni (Hrsg.): Politics, Civil Society and Participation: Media and Communications in a Transforming Environment. Bremen: edition lumiere, pp. 151-183.
  • Loosen, Wiebke (2016): Publikumsbeteiligung im Journalismus. In: Klaus Meier & Christoph Neuberger (Hg.): Journalismusforschung. Stand und Perspektiven. 2., aktualis. u. erw. Aufl. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 287–316.
  • Loosen, Wiebke/Schmidt, Jan-Hinrik (2012): (Re-)Discovering the audience. The relationship between journalism and audience in networked digital media. In: Information, Communication & Society, 15(6), 867–887. DOI:10.1080/1369118X.2012.665467.
  • Reimer, Julius/Heise, Nele/Loosen, Wiebke/Schmidt, Jan-Hinrik/Klein, Jonas/Attrodt, Ariane/Quader, Anne (2015): Publikumsinklusion beim “Freitag”. Fallstudienbericht aus dem DFG-Projekt „Die (Wieder-)Entdeckung des Publikums". Arbeitspapiere des Hans-Bredow-Instituts Nr. 36. Hamburg: Hans-Bredow-Institut für Medienforschung. Online verfügbar:http://www.hans-bredow-institut.de/webfm_send/1115.