Malte Heckelen

Responsible for Website Management / Academic Staff, Department Digital Humanities

Digital Humanities


+49 711 685-81282


Herdweg 51
70174 Stuttgart
Room: 020

Office Hours

Please write an email to make an appointment. Tuesday to Thursday works best.


  • Agent-based modeling
  • (Social) network analysis
  • Social Media data analysis
  • Polarization, opinion dynamics on large as well as small scale
  • Side project: Character networks in superhero comics
  • WS 18/19: Exercize class for "Theoretical and Computer Science basics for the Digital Humanities" (German)
  • WS 18/19: Ring lecture "Computer Science introduces itself - Introduction for Humanists" (German)
  • SS 19: Project seminar, group "Network analysis" (German)
  • WS 17/18: Exercize class for "Theoretical and Computer Science basics for the Digital Humanities" (German)
  • SS 17: Project seminar, group "Agent-based modeling" (German)
  • WS 16/17: Introduction to Digital Humanities (German)
  • 05/2016 - now: University of Stuttgart, research associate and doctoral student at the department of Digital Humanities, Institute of Literary Studies
    • Dissertation topic: Communication norms and polarization -
  • 04/2013 - 09/2015: University of Bremen, student assistant at the Institute of Sociology, Department of Sociological Theory
  • 10/2012 - 09/2015: M.A. Sociology and Social Research, University of Bremen
    • Master thesis: Methodological perspectives of Topic Modeling for Framing Analysis
  • 10/2008 - 09/2011: B.A. Sociology, University of Osnabrück
    • Bachelor thesis: Relationship of social movements to the old and new media  - the case of Anonymous

The dissertation project is focused on the one hand on polarization as a mass phenomenon and on the other on cognitive assumptions from persuasion research. People use mental heuristics to, for instance, break down the complexity of a topic and, possible due to time pressure (or low interest), to be able to make a judgement or decision quickly. Such phenomena are related to individual polarization and social influence through various pathways. The project is focused on describing the relation of individual polarization to polarization as a mass phenomenon through empirical analysis as well as simulation.

In social psychology and political science, effects of mental heuristics on persuasion and polarization are primarily researched through individual or small group experiments. Certain effect patterns are visible, but the strength and direction of these effects varies considerably. This could be due to small samples and the various, highly interactive predictors. However, communication is subject to norms like any other social phenomenon. These peer group norms possibly also exert influence on the way an individual is (subconsciously) predispositioned to the usage of mental heuristics and related tools in certain scenarios. It might also factor in decisions on which communications are considered more valid and persuasive (e.g. some communities may find communications from the same group more persuasive than scientific evidence).

To research this, a sociologically oriented decision model is constructed, in which individuals base their communicative decisions on their knowledge of peer group communicative behavior. This model serves as a theoretical underpinning for the empirical analysis of Twitter data. This data is gathered on various connected communities and their discussions of various topics over time. To relate the more individual-focused decision model to large-scale implications, an agent-based model will be constructed.

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