History of the Media Research at the University of Siegen


The University of Siegen was founded on August 1st 1972 as a polytechnic school. Even in the founding phase, “media and communication” formed one of the four interdisciplinary research areas. In the founding phase, the University of Siegen sees itself as a modern university with an interdisciplinary approach and a close connection between practice and theory. Founding Rector is the economist Artur Woll. In 1980, the polytechnic was converted in “Gesamthochschule-Universität Siegen” and 2003 it was transferred to the “University of Siegen”. Even with the founding act in 1972, media and communication research is particularly emphasized – at this time no self-evident fact. However, this orientation is symptomatic at the beginning of an emerging upheaval within the linguistic and literary sciences since the 1960s. It was an extension of the subject aerea of the literature on the reception aesthetics and literary reception history, on the so-called trivial literature and this proscessing to the literature and this processing to the literature media such as theatre, film and television. The literature and philology discovered television as a new field of research on the trail over the trivial after all. Helmut Schanze argued already 1972 for television series as a literary science subject.


LUMIS – Institute for Empirical Literature and Media Research

In addition to the expansion of the research subject, the literary sciences in the 1970s experienced a further important impetus from the so-called theorist debate and method discussion in which hermeneutic traditions, analytical philosophy as well as social and scientific sciences collided. One of the subsequent developments of these debates was articulated as “making literature science empiric”. It was above all the work of the philosopher, linguist and literary scholar Siegfried J. Schmidt, who, in addition to the cultural psychology of Norbert Groeben, played a decisive role in this direction. During his work in Bielefeld, Schmidt developed the analytical and social science concept of an “empirical literature science”. After his change to Siegen (1979), this conception is even more clearly defined. Siegfried J. Schmidt takes over a professorship in German philology and general literary studies in Siegen. Together with Helmut Schanze and Christian W. Thomsen, he founded the Institute for Empirical Literature and Media Research (LUMIS) in 1984 as the university’s central scientific institution, the forerunner institution of today’s Institute for Media Research. The term “media” in the name of the institute is noteworthy, it clearly indicates – and in accordance with the context of the Siegen literary sciences – the broadening of the focus, which is now being carried out on a large scale with the various variants of the media sciences. As a central scientific institution, the institute fulfills interdisciplinary tasks, pursues interdisciplinary research and supports the range of courses offered by the departments. Employees of Schmidt were for the time Achim Barsch, Helmut Hauptmeier, Dietrich Meutsch, Gebhard Rusch and Reinhold Viehoff with the foundation of the LUMIS join in 1984 from Paderborn FEoLL Peter M. Hejl, Wolfram K. Köck and Raimund Klauser besides. Through the establishment of the Institute for Empirical Literature and Media Research (LUMIS), the Siegener succeeded in consolidating and institutionalizing the empirical approach in literary sciences in the following years. The Siegen Research Group is also known for its commitment to constructivist positions and the development of constructivist communication, media, social and historical theories. The constructivist commitment radiates very successfully above all in other disciplines, especially in philosophy, sociology and history, as well as in communication science. Today, Siegfried J. Schmidt is known to a large audience primarily as a designer of constructivist discourse. The Siegen Constructivism takes up, above all, the “radical constructivism” of Ernst von Glasersfeld, including the basic principles of Heinz von Foerster, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. In addition to the development of constructivist communication, media and social theories, which was funded by the DFG in numerous individual projects, LUMIS also played a decisive role in the application and implementation of the first DFG special research area at the University of Siegen. Siegfried J. Schmidt remains director of the LUMIS until 1997, following a call for a chair for communication theory and media culture at the University of Münster. This change also marks his farewell from literary studies. In 2001, the managing director of LUMIS, Ralf Schnell, transferred the facility to the Institute for Media Research. The Institute of Media Research pursues the aim of a trans-disciplinal integrated media research.


Collaborative Research Center (SFB) 240

“Aesthetics, Pragmatics and History of the Screen Media”

The media research in Siegen would not be possible without the special research area 240. From 1985 to 2000, 33 subprojects were carried out in the DFG special research area “screen media” and nearly 100 scientists were employed. The establishment of the SFB 240 goes back to the efforts of the Germanist Helmut Kreuzer, already since 1972 as a foundation Senator of the Gesamthochschule Siegen contributed desicively to the development of the research profile of the University. In 1983, Kreuzer encouraged the establishment of a special research area in Siegen with a focus on literary-scientific media research. Special research areas are set up at the request of a university by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) to establish temporary and local research interests. The application is carried out between Department 3 (Linguistics and Literary Studies) and the LUMIS between 1983 and 1985. Later, scientists from fields 1 (Social Sciences, Philosophy, Theology, History, Geography), 4 (Art and Music Pedagogy), 5 (Economics, Business Information Systems and German and European Economic Law) and 12 (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science). Thus the SFB 240 becomes a model for an interdisciplinary institution of the University of Siegen. In September 1983 an application group was formed, consisting of the later subproject leaders Thomas Koebner (then Marburg), Helmut Schanze (then Aachen) and Siegfried J. Schmidt. In April 1985 the application of Helmut Kreuzer to the German Research Association was submitted to the German Research Foundation. In November 1985, a new special research area 240 was set up, which is now entitled “Aesthetics, Pragmatics and History of the Screen Media”. Kreuzer became the first speaker between 1985 and 1989, followed by Christian W. Thomsen (until 1991) and Helmut Schanze. The work of the SFB 240 was extremely successful. After the initial application, follow-up applications are made in 1988, 1991, 1994 and 1997. In the SFB 240 projects, historico-hermeneutical researches and socio-scientific-empirical methods are fruitfully intertwined. The success of the SFB “screen media” with over 2000 publications, numerous international conferences and workshops marks the establishment phase of media research and media science in Siegen and beyond Siegen. Former project managers and employees of the SFB 240 are now professors of the media sciences at numerous universities in Germany and abroad. The theory, history and aesthetics of the screen media, once brought together in the title of the SFB 240, have thus become paradigmatic foundations of the new discipline “media science”. The SFB 240 not only influenced the scientific landscape in Siegen, but also German media research and the emergence of media science as a discipline. Siegen’s media research also served a pilot function in relation to the media sector that emerged in the 1980s.


DFG Research Fellowship 615 “Medienumbrüche”

SFB / FK 615 “Media shifts” – media cultures and media aetics at the beginning of the 20th century and the transition to the 21st century

The success of Siegen’s media research is not least reflected in the successful establishment of the DFG research college 615 on the subject of “media shifts” at the University of Siegen. In the application, we were able to refer to the many years of experience and the relevant human resources in the field of media sciences. In contrast to comparable research projects, the research group includes both technological aspects as well as anthropological, cultural-historical and literary-scientific questions, which lead to and accompany the digital upheaval in the transition to the 21st century. The comparison with the media’s upheavel situation at the beginning of the twentieth century allows the formation of contrasting focuses, which serve for the historical foundation of the rhetoric of media shifts. The formation of these focuses is based on the insight that upheavals do not necessarily result in socially positive connotations. On the contrary, media shifts in different cultures result in different consequences in terms of content, time, social, media and space. Website: www.fk615.uni-siegen.de.