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Vlog Theories CO:RE at LSE Published: 05 Jan 2021

Uwe Hasebrink on overstating media change, concerns about media effects and building theory from research

In this vlog, Uwe Hasebrink talks about his work, the ideas that inspire him, and how we should develop our current thinking related to children’s internet use.

“Nothing is as practical as a good theory” Uwe Hasebrink, Director of the Leibniz Institute for Media Research │ Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI) and Professor of Empirical Communication Research at the University of Hamburg, reminds me. In this simple claim, originally made by the social psychologist Kurt Lewin, I see Uwe’s passion for a better understanding of media developments and their social implications which I know quite well from our work on EU Kids Online. He describes his approach to theory as eclectic – drawing on a multitude of disciplines rather than a coherent theoretical framework – but always focusing on specific phenomena and the individual as his starting point.

We go through the disciplines that have influenced his work and we talk about theoretical changes and current debates. Uwe explains a discrepancy he has noticed – misled by rapid technological advancements we tend to overstate the level of media change, reliving the same concerns about media effects on children with every innovation – and yet we keep coming back to similar concepts and theories to explain them. I’m immediately captivated by his notion of the “media repertoire” – the idea that we need to explore the full spectrum of children’s engagement with different media to be able to understand their implications. This also requires an integrative approach that sees technology use within the social context of children’s lives, socialisation and development.

Policymakers, educators, and the public often have implicit theories about what is good for children, what is bad about the media … We are not talking to tabula rasa people, so when we disseminate our research, we have to enter the communicative process from the theories that they have in mind.

For the remainder of the interview we talk about child rights, the implications of data harvesting and profiling, and what the future brings for media studies and theorisation. I hear about Uwe’s systematic approach to building theory from empirical research as a “constant cycle between theoretical reflection, empirical observations, testing empirical observations, considering implications for policy and practice, and back to learning for theory again”. He makes me see the excitement of this process as he talks about what he sees as his mission – to shift the discourse on children’s technology use from the current pre-occupation with a media-centric perspective to a more useful and child-rights friendly user-centric approach.

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Podcast: series "theory calling" with Uwe Hasebrink.


Uwe Hasebrink is director of the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI) and Professor in Empirical Communication Research at the University of Hamburg. His main research interests refer to media uses and effects in digital environments, with a particular focus on intercultural comparisons and child safety. Since 2014, he is the coordinator of the European research network EU Kids Online and is member of the Steering group of the research network Global Kids Online. He is the Coordinator of the CO:RE project, oversees the general management, and coordinates the project work and information flow.

Further reading

Hasebrink, U. and Popp, J. (2006). Media repertoires as a result of selective media use. A conceptual approach to the analysis of patterns of exposure, Communications, 31(3), 369-387. doi:

Hasebrink, U. and Hepp, A. (2017). How to research cross-media practices? Investigating media repertoires and media ensembles. Convergence, (4): 362-377. doi: 10.1177/1354856517700384

Paus-Hasebrink, I. (2019). The Role of Media within Young People’s Socialization: A Theoretical Approach. Communications. The European Journal of Communication Research, 2019(Heft 4), 407-426.

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Team member, CO:RE at LSE

Mariya Stoilova

Mariya Stoilova is a post-doctoral researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) working on children’s rights, online risks and opportunities, and well-being. She is member of the CO:RE work package 5 on theory.

London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

The team at the LSE works on theory, providing a series of mutually cross-fertilising mechanisms to coordinate and support the theoretical dimension of research. The team identifies valuable theoretical concepts that offer multidisciplinary breadth and depth in understanding the long-term impact of digital media on children and youth, and coallates all in a comprehensive theories toolkit that provides guidance throughout the theory pathway, from (research) question to generating theory.

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