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The Track of Medial Change1

The ZMI was founded in 2001 by Prof. Henning Lobin and political scientist Prof. Claus Leggewie. Prof. Leggewie was the Executive Director until 2007. Prof. Katrin Lehnen is the current Executive Director, following Sabine Heymann. Dr. Jutta Hergenhan has been the Academic Manager since June 2017.


The Term "Interactivity"

The Track of Medial Change2

At the time of its foundation, the focus of the ZMI's research activities, especially regarding new media and the phenomenon of interactivity, was entirely novel. According to the ZMI's "Mission Statement":
"Interactivity is not a simple media phenomenon which denotes a transition period from the electronic old media to the digital new media and then vanishes after a slowdown of technological development. Instead, the findings of the various contributions suggest that the emergence of interactive communication spaces indeed constitutes a qualitative leap for media evolution. The increasing aggregation of formerly separated, perhaps adjacent 'media formats' to ever more complex structured 'media environments' does not stand without consequences for a disposition of societal communication." The distinctive feature of the separation of "real" and "communicative" bodies conforms to this image: there are not only new media environments, but also populations of social actors who are located therein, and are engaged in some kind of change. Within this structure, the contact area between space and body, called the interface, is of particular importance. The contact thresholds between human being, medium, and machine significantly regulate the perception of “interactivity” and therefore, in a second step, also regulate the possibilities and boundaries for a reconfiguration of societal communication. By looking only at the developing multiplicity of media forms, content, and structures, the term "interactivity" therefore cannot be unraveled and determined. Much more important is the non-medial, social repercussions in an interactive cooperation between space, body, and interface.


The Beginning

The Track of Medial Change3

In 1998, lecturers coming from different faculties of the Justus Liebig University Giessen, and who shared the common interest relating directly to communication and media-science issues in their various forms, met for the first time. Their idea of bringing those concepts together was inspired by day-to-day university life. The JLU's board of directors, with Prof. Stefan Hormuth as University President at that time, welcomed and supported their initiative. After a planning phase lasting almost three years, the ZMI was founded on April 1, 2001, with work on the first research projects beginning in May 2001. At that time, there were approximately 50 ZMI members who all had one thing in common: an interest in all issues which had arisen from the application and usage of media and, in particular, from digital, computer-mediated communication. Questions of individual, societal, economic, juridical, political, and artistic composition as well as the impact of the media were approached and in each case, from the perspective of interactivity in particular. Apart from that, the ZMI initiated and coordinated activities pertaining to teaching, further education, and science transfer. Partners of the ZMI, from the very beginning, consisted of university and non-university research and educational institutions, political and administrative institutions, as well as the media and other companies.

In the spring of 2005, the ZMI created the policy paper, "The ZMI on the Move," in which new objectives and methods were established. This manifested the following year with new objectives: During this second phase, its aim was no longer only a cautious concentration of all media-related teaching and research activities at the JLU, with regional and national transmission as well as internal and external service activities, but then additionally, the permanent establishment of advanced fundamental research concerning the general topic of interactivity, with inter-regional cooperation and international transmission. Interactive platforms which had been developed for the ZMI as a model were carried on only if they could be linked to this central topic and/or if they provided valuable empirical data.