Successful collaboration begins with a shared language, hence the need for a glossary. This joint effort of contributors from several teams ensures, on the one hand, terminological and conceptual coherence across not only our theoretical approaches, but also the qualitative case studies and quantitative research conducted in OPPORTUNITIES. On the other hand, our glossary facilitates communication between the academic side of the project and the fieldwork conducted by NGOs, uniting our teams working from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ghana, Italy, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and Senegal.

For more information about the Structure and Objectives of the Glossary, click here...)


Knowledge by acquaintance

Knowledge by acquaintance is knowledge based on direct interaction with an object or a situation; the term was coined by Bertrand Russell (1910–1911). The Cross Talk format developed in OPPORTUNITIES aims to facilitate encounters between migrants, citizens, and other stakeholders and is designed to thus shift public perceptions of migration from knowledge by description to knowledge by acquaintance. 

⇢ see also Cross Talk

References and further reading:

Russell, Bertrand. 1910–1911. “Knowledge by Acquaintance and Knowledge by Description.” In Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society. 11: 108–128.

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The term Kollektiverzählung (‘collective narrative’), introduced to narrative theory by Roy Sommer (2009, 2017), describes the narrative construction of an “imagined community” (Anderson 2006 [1983]). While the term originally applied to nations, it can also be used to describe other communities whose coherence relies on some kind of unifying vision or narrative – from football fans to corporate cultures or diasporic communities. In this sense, an imagined community is always also a “narrative community” (Müller-Funk 2012) defined by a set of shared and shareable stories. The analysis of collective narratives can focus on the processual dimension of narrative construction or the result of that process (the German composite noun perfectly captures this semantic indeterminacy), some kind of narrative identity which may also inform, in sociological terminology, an in-group’s attitudes towards out-groups. Narrative identities created through collective storytelling include antagonistic notions of self vs. other or ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ as well as inclusive concepts foregrounding narrative bonding. A collective narrative can also be viewed as an ensemble of stories or narrative templates which all members of a narrative community recognize as representative or constitutive of their shared experience.

Examples of inclusive narrative communities based on a shared collective narrative are diasporas whose constitutive stories typically revolve around migration, generations, cultural traditions, experiences of racism and rejection, or conviviality and inclusion. Examples of exclusive narrative communities are nationalist discourses which reject cultural hybridity or multiculturalism in favor of ethnic homogeneity and shared traditions. Inclusive and exclusive collective narratives are often engaged in counter-narrative dynamics.

⇢ see also Anti-racism, Conviviality, Diaspora, Frames of migration, Othering, Racism

References and further reading:

Anderson, Benedict. 2006 [1983]. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Revised edition. New York, NY and London: Verso.

Müller-Funk, Wolfgang. 2012. The Architecture of Modern Culture: Towards a Narrative Cultural Theory. Berlin and New York, NY: De Gruyter.

Sommer, Roy. 2009. “Kollektiverzählungen: Definition, Fallbeispiele und Erklärungsansätze.” In Wirklichkeitserzählungen: Felder, Formen und Funktionen nicht-literarischen Erzählens, edited by Christian Klein and Matías Martínez, 229–244. Stuttgart: Metzler.

Sommer, Roy. 2017. “Kollektiverzählungen: Wie narrative Wirklichkeitsentwürfe gesellschaftlich wirksam werden.” In Liechtenstein erzählen 1: Demokratische Momente, edited by Roman Banzer, Hansjörg Quaderer, and Roy Sommer, 213–235. Zurich: Limmat Verlag.

Category: A, C

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Labor migration

The term labor migration refers to migration that is carried out for employment purposes. States such as Senegal have instituted specific regulation of immigration for employment purposes. Some states of origin play an active role in regulating labor migration and seeking employment opportunities abroad for their nationals.

⇢ see also Brain drainMigration

References and further reading:

Tandian, Aly, and Sylvia I. Bergh. 2014. “From Temporary Work in Agriculture to Irregular Status in Domestic Service: The Transition and Experiences of Senegalese Migrant Women in Spain.” In Migration, Gender and Social Justice: Perspectives on Human Insecurity, edited by Thanh-Dam Truong, Des Gasper, Jeff Handmaker, and Sylvia I. Bergh, 47–67. Berlin and Heidelberg : Springer. URL:

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Legacy media

The media described as legacy media are those that engage in traditional mass communication. These media are distributed from a single point of distribution to a fundamentally divided audience and no interaction is possible. In diametrical opposition to legacy media are the so-called new media that, with the rise of the Internet, allow interaction. The rise of the Internet has also meant that media content is less produced by media professionals, but that anyone can create media. This manifests itself especially in the so-called social media where anyone can spread messages. Within the traditional media sector, both print and audio-visual media, new means are also constantly being found to respond to the new market, so that older media are also often branded in the ‘new’ market.

⇢ see also Filter bubble

References and further reading:

Arrese, Ángel, and Jürg Kaufmann. 2016. “Legacy and Native News Brands Online: Do They Show Different News Consumption Patterns.” International Journal on Media Management 18.2: 75–97.

Wagner, Kurt, 2017. Three Major Ways Social Media is Changing Journalism. Illuminate: Bright Ideas from Santa Clara University Leaders. URL: Date of access: September 8, 2023.

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Level Telling Field

The Level Telling Field (LTF) is the key metaphor of OPPORTUNITIES, defining the way we seek to conceptualize and improve narrative dynamics in the public sphere. The concept is inspired by the sports metaphor of the “level playing field.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines this as “a state or condition of parity or impartiality; a situation offering equality of opportunity or in which fairness to all parties is observed.” In global trade, level playing fields ensure that “all countries and firms compete on an equal footing to offer consumers everywhere the widest possible choice and the best value for money” (OECD 2021, n. p.). In analogy to fair trade, level telling fields ensure fair competition between narratives, concepts, and ideas in the public sphere to prevent lies, distorted representations, toxic narratives, or xenophobic propaganda from shaping the public image of migrants and refugees and from influencing migration policies.

Level Telling Fields are playbooks and mechanisms for an open, constructive, and productive debate – the cornerstone of a democratic, pluralist, secular society. They are best viewed as commitments by all participants in a debate to adopt a shared set of premises, to agree on principles and rules, and to define processes and procedures for conducting debates and documenting results. LTF premises include: a) A commitment to a democratic worldview grounded in human rights and a human development paradigm (see Nussbaum 2010); b) Adhering to commonly accepted standards for evaluating claims, opinions, and arguments; and c) Sincerity, i.e. a serious commitment to debate as a democratic means of opinion-building and decision-making. LTF principles include vertical multiperspectivity, an ethics of listening, and perspective taking. LTF processes and procedures depend on contextual parameters such as participants and goals.

An LTF approach to migration insists that all participants in a debate subscribe to these premises and principles, and define a set of procedures designed to ensure a fair conversation, e.g. in the context of a Cross Talk event. The LTF approach requires that a wide range of perspectives (i.e. experiential stories of migration as well as policy narratives on migration) should be represented, and calls for a system of checks and balances to move beyond the toxic debates which have characterized European narratives on migration following the so-called refugee crisis in 2015. Level telling fields can be established locally, in Cross Talk events, but they also have an impact on national and European conversations on controversial issues.

The LTF approach is not limited to migration. It seeks to overcome toxic debates, with a particular focus on institutional and endemic racism, and addresses wide-spread feelings of anger, frustration, and anxiety (see Mishra 2017, Shafak 2020) which are indicative of the closing of public space in a “post-democracy” (Crouch 2004). LTF playbooks and mechanisms continue examining the shifting boundaries of public and private spheres (see Habermas 1992) as well as other consequences of digital communication. They also serve as diagnostic tools for evaluating narrative dynamics in the public sphere and detecting threats to democratic systems of checks and balances across the globe (see Ziblatt and Levitsky 2018).

⇢ see also Cross Talk, Ethics of listening, Multiperspectivity, Narrative dynamics, Stories of migration, Narratives on migration, Perspective takingScale

References and further reading:

Crouch, Colin. 2004. Post-Democracy. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Habermas, Jürgen. 1992. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Mishra, Pankaj. 2018. Age of Anger: A History of the Present. London: Penguin.

Nussbaum, Martha. 2010. Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities. Princeton: Princeton UP.

Shafak, Elif. 2020. How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division. London: Profile Books.

OECD. 2021. “Levelling the Playing Field.” OECD. URL:

Ziblatt, Daniel, and Steven Levitsky. 2018. How Democracies Die. New York, NY: Crown.

Category: C

Work Package: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8



Life story

Life stories are narratives that individuals or groups (co-)construct to share experiences. Research in narrative studies distinguishes between big stories and small stories in this context. While the term big story mainly refers to the coherent narrative of a person’s self or personal identity, so-called small stories qualify as narratives we tell each other in everyday communication for the purposes of making sense of our experiences and forming collective identities with specific social groups.

A special type of small story is the “broken narrative” (Nünning and Nünning 2016) – stories people tell to come to terms with lifechanging experiences such as a severe illness, a trauma, or other kinds of social, political, economic, or ecological crisis. Since these narratives are associated with a drastic rupture in people’s lives, they display a high degree of tellability; they are frequently incoherent, fragmented, or disorganized (see Hyvärinen et al. 2010). Migrant stories may constitute such broken narratives, especially if they deal with traumatic experiences of war, violence, suppression, or flight. 

⇢ see also Experience, Migrant narrative, Migration and identity, Narrative identityTellability

References and further reading:

Bamberg, Michael. 2007. “Stories: Big or Small – Why Do We Care?” In Narrative – State of the Art, edited by Michael Bamberg, 165–174. Amsterdam and Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

Bamberg, Michael, and Alexandra Georgakopoulou. 2008. “Small Stories as a New Perspective in Narrative and Identity Analysis.” Text & Talk 28.3: 377–396. Georgakopoulou, Alexandra. 2006. Small Stories, Interaction and Identities. Amsterdam and Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

Hyvärinen, Matti, Lars-Christer Hydén, Marja Saarenheimo, and Maria Tamboukou, eds. 2010. Beyond Narrative Coherence. Amsterdam and Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

Nünning, Ansgar, and Vera Nünning. 2016. “Conceptualizing ‘Broken Narratives’ from a Narratological Perspective: Domains, Concepts, Features, Functions, and Suggestions for Research.” In Narrative im Bruch: Theoretische Positionen und Anwendungen, edited by Anna Babka, Marlen Bidwell-Steiner, and Wolfgang Müller-Funk, 37–86. Wien: V & R unipress / Vienna University Press.

Ochs, Elinor, and Lisa Capps. 2001. Living Narrative: Creating Lives in Everyday Storytelling. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press.

Category: A

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Limited effects paradigm

In the 1930s, the study of media placed strong emphasis on the powerful effect of media. This was not surprising, given the impact of the Nazi regime’s propaganda. Later, beginning in the 1940s and 1950s, attention shifted to a perspective of limited effects. From that time on, the study of the media has made it clear that a variety of intermediate variables determine how the media exerts influence (see Valkenburg et al. 2016 for a synthesis of the evolution of thinking on media effects). For example, research shows that people like to hold on to their existing ideas rather than absorb information like a sponge (Holt 2018). Arno Slaets et al. (2021) rightfully remark that news users (being one specific example of media users) who are confronted with a multitude of (internally) diverse messages, interpret messages selectively, depending on cognitive interpretation frames that have been shaped by their personal, family, and social life trajectories and are influenced by their current living conditions and social contexts.

⇢ see also Attitudes, beliefs, and values, Frames of migration, News frame

References and further reading:

Holt, Lanier Frush. 2018. “Using the Elaboration Likelihood Model to Explain to Whom “#Black Lives Matter” … and to Whom It Does Not.” Journalism Practice 12.2: 146–161.

Slaets, Arno, Pascal Verhoest, Leen d’Haenens, Joeri Minnen, and Ignace Glorieux. 2021. “Fragmentation, Homogenisation or Segmentation? A Diary Study into the Diversity of News Consumption in a High-Choice Media Environment.” European Journal of Communication 36.5: 461–477.

Valkenburg, Patti, Jochen Peter, and Joseph B. Walther. 2016. “Media effects: Theory and Research.” Annual Review of Psychology 67: 315–338. DOI:

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Media selection behaviour

In a research paper of which Leen d’Haenens, promoter for IMS in the OPPORTUNITIES project, is a co-author (see Verhoest et al. 2019), the phenomenon of media selection behaviour was synthesized as follows: “The abundance of available news channels and titles, to which the Internet has greatly contributed, raises the issue of choice. Does the availability of a multitude of viewpoints enlarge people’s vision of the world or do they select from it in ways that consolidates or even narrows down their existing view? This type of question has traditionally been the concern of selective exposure research and has spurred much new research into news consumption. The core assumption of most recent literature on selective exposure to news is that recipients tend to filter out value-inconsistent information which causes them to feel discomfort and are, consequently, more likely to consult value-consistent information that confirms their viewpoints.” (Verhoest et al. 2019, 4–5)

⇢ see also Filter bubble

References and further reading:

Verhoest, Pascal, Arno Slaets, Leen d’Haenens, Joeri Minnen, and Ignace Glorieux. 2019. Selective Exposure in an Environment of Information Diversity: Results of a Diary Survey and Attitude Analysis of News Use. DIAMOND report. URL:

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Simply put, a metaphor is a linguistic comparison between two conceptual domains that are normally seen as separate and independent. Metaphor theorists call this comparison a “cross-domain mapping.” The phrase “a flow of migrants,” for instance, implicitly compares migrants to a fluid moving through a container (such as a water pipe). This metaphorical expression thus maps the conceptual domain of human migration onto the movement of a physical, inanimate substance. A metaphor is an implicit comparison, while a simile is an explicit comparison (“the migrants are like flowing water” etc.), but the underlying conceptual mechanism – the cross-domain mapping – is largely the same.

Metaphors and similes have long been associated with literary works (especially poetry), but they are pervasive in everyday language and media discourse. Some metaphors are so convntional that they hardly register as metaphors (arguably, this is the case for “a flow of migrants”). Other metaphorical expressions are more sophisticated and unconventional – they stand out and therefore may elicit a stronger emotional response. Creative metaphors can be used to enrich and complicate the meanings of narrative; alternatively, narrative can build on and challenge existing metaphorical expressions.

⇢ see also Discourse analysis, MetaphorologyNarrative technique

References and further reading:

Kövecses, Zoltán. 2010. Metaphor: A Practical Introduction. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

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Work Package: 2, 3, 5




Inspired by conceptual metaphor theory and cultural narrative theory, metaphorology – i.e. the systematic study of metaphor – proceeds from the assumption that metaphors play a central role in processes of sense-making and shaping culture (see Lakoff and Johnson 2003). According to Ansgar Nünning, “[m]etaphors not only serve to structure how we understand cultural transformations, they also project ‘mini-narrations’ onto them, thereby providing ideologically charged plots and explanations of cultural and historical changes rather than neutral descriptions thereof” (Nünning 2009, 233; Nünning 2012, 62–63). The metaphor of crisis (see “Crisis”) serves as a perfect example of such a mininarration, as crises do not naturally occur in the world, but are always the result of discursive strategies by means of which we try to make sense of past events as leading to a current situation and now require “a decision about the further progress of the incident that has to be made amongst a number of possibilities” (Nünning and Sicks 2012, 15).

⇢ see also Crisis, Crisis narration, Narrative

References and further reading:

Lakoff, George, and Johnson, Mark. 2003. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago, IL and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Nünning, Ansgar. 2009. “Steps Towards a Metaphorology (and Narratology) of Crises: On the Functions of Metaphors as Figurative Knowledge and Mini-narrations.” In Metaphors Shaping Culture and Theory [= REAL: Yearbook of Research in English and American Literature 25], edited by Herbert Grabes, Ansgar Nünning, and Sibylle Baumbach, 229–262. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.

Nünning, Ansgar. 2012. “Making Crises and Catastrophes – How Metaphors and Narratives Shape Their Cultural Life.” In The Cultural Life of Catastrophes and Crises, edited by Carsten Meiner and Kristin Veel, 59–88. Berlin and Boston, MA: De Gruyter.

Nünning, Ansgar, and Kai Marcel Sicks. 2012. “Turning Points as Metaphors and Mininarrations: Analysing Concepts of Change in Literature and Other Media.” In Turning Points Concepts and Narratives of Change in Literature and Other Media, edited by Ansgar Nünning and Kai Marcel Sicks, 1–28. Berlin and Boston, MA: De Gruyter.

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