The 21st century may be called the time of disruptive public spheres. Segmentation and growth of complexity of today's societies in lifestyles, consumer behavior, and media use has coincided with proliferation of communication channels and means of micro-production of media content and meanings. The state of public communication is characterized by loss of fields of common reference – in social life as well as in communication, and public communication is described as hybrid, liquid, transgressive, or post-.
How do we cope with the multiple contexts of living (Deuze 2019), and what is the new role of the media systems in this coping? Are media to reproduce and reflect the complexity of today's societies, or, are they to reduce it to make life comprehensible and safe? Can one speak of 'restricted contexts' in non-democratic societies or 'closed contexts' hardly available for external examination? Is contextualization a new large-scale aim of major media, or is it oppressing diversity? And what, at all, do we mean today by common context and contextualization?
One answer to this seemed to come via big data research. The hope of many scholars was that collecting and running full data would 'tell it all'. But, soon enough, it was realized that dealing with big datasets from both traditional and social media demanded even more local, longitudinal, and discursive knowledge. If so, how do we put together data-oriented research designs and the uniqueness of each case under scrutiny? What would be the rigorous procedure of selecting the proper contextual background for media research? What is the perfect balance between theory, data, and context?
These issues become even more important in comparative perspective where a lot of side knowledge has to be omitted in order to make comparisons possible. The relations between theory and context, context and method, contextual understandings and real-world practices are in the focus of the tracks described below.