Loading...

John Dewey

A Critical Introduction to Media and Communication Theory

by Lana F. Rakow (Author)
©2019 Textbook XVIII, 214 Pages

Summary

John Dewey: A Critical Introduction to Media and Communication Theory reintroduces John Dewey to scholars in communication studies by presenting new material and interpretations from his works, lectures, and correspondence. Dewey has been credited as being one of the giants of American philosophy, a key figure in the development of pragmatism. Going beyond Dewey’s reputation in received histories in communication, this book documents his role beginning at the University of Michigan in 1884 until his death in 1952 in establishing a view of communication as the means by which associated life and adaptation to the environment is possible. Communication enables the production of collective knowledge generated through experience and reproduced across time and space, subject to change and correction as those truths are applied and yield consequences. It is also subject to manipulation and misuse. So integral is communication to his philosophy that Dewey is best seen as having a philosophy with communication, not of it. By reviewing Dewey’s history of work relevant to communication, technology, and culture, previous assumptions by communication scholars are challenged. A fresh history is presented of his relations to key figures and his significance to the development of speech, rhetoric, journalism, mass communication research, and public relations. Because of his concerns about power, participation, identity, and knowledge, his work remains relevant to contemporary scholars. This book is appropriate for advanced undergraduate and graduate courses in theory, history, and philosophy of communication and is relevant to other disciplines with interests in pragmatism, feminist and race theory, technology, and cultural studies.

Table Of Contents


Lana F. Rakow

John Dewey

A Critical Introduction to
Media and Communication Theory

image
PETER LANG

New York • Bern • Berlin

Brussels • Vienna • Oxford • Warsaw

Names: Rakow, Lana F., author.

Title: John Dewey: a critical introduction to media

and communication theory / Lana F. Rakow.

Description: New York: Peter Lang, 2019.

Series: A critical introduction to media and

communication theory; vol. 11 | ISSN 1947-6264

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2019007939 | ISBN 978-1-4331-6731-7 (hardback: alk. paper)

ISBN 978-1-4331-2630-7 (paperback: alk. paper) | ISBN 978-1-4331-6732-4 (ebook pdf)

ISBN 978-1-4331-6733-1 (epub) | ISBN 978-1-4331-6734-8 (mobi)

Subjects: LCSH: Dewey, John, 1859–1952. | Communication—Philosophy.

Classification: LCC B945.D44 R35 2019 | DDC 191—dc23

LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019007939

DOI 10.3726/b15406

Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek.
Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the “Deutsche
Nationalbibliografie”; detailed bibliographic data are available
on the Internet at http://dnb.d-nb.de/.

© 2019 Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York

29 Broadway, 18th floor, New York, NY 10006

www.peterlang.com

All rights reserved.

Reprint or reproduction, even partially, in all forms such as microfilm,

xerography, microfiche, microcard, and offset strictly prohibited.

About the author

Lana F. Rakow is a professor emerita of communication at the University of North Dakota. She earned a doctorate in cultural studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and is the author or editor of four other books about gender and feminism.

About the book

John Dewey: A Critical Introduction to Media and Communication Theory reintroduces John Dewey to scholars in communication studies by presenting new material and interpretations from his works, lectures, and correspondence. Dewey has been credited as being one of the giants of American philosophy, a key figure in the development of pragmatism. Going beyond Dewey’s reputation in received histories in communication, this book documents his role beginning at the University of Michigan in 1884 until his death in 1952 in establishing a view of communication as the means by which associated life and adaptation to the environment is possible. Communication enables the production of collective knowledge generated through experience and reproduced across time and space, subject to change and correction as those truths are applied and yield consequences. It is also subject to manipulation and misuse. So integral is communication to his philosophy that Dewey is best seen as having a philosophy with communication, not of it. By reviewing Dewey’s history of work relevant to communication, technology, and culture, previous assumptions by communication scholars are challenged. A fresh history is presented of his relations to key figures and his significance to the development of speech, rhetoric, journalism, mass communication research, and public relations. Because of his concerns about power, participation, identity, and knowledge, his work remains relevant to contemporary scholars. This book is appropriate for advanced undergraduate and graduate courses in theory, history, and philosophy of communication and is relevant to other disciplines with interests in pragmatism, feminist and race theory, technology, and cultural studies.

Advance Praise for

John Dewey

“For what purposes is John Dewey’s work relevant, a philosopher once asked. Lana F. Rakow offers a comprehensive critical account of the enormous range of Dewey’s intellectual agendas and activist leadership. Whether readers have only heard passing references to the (in)famous Dewey-Lippmann debate or already appreciate Dewey’s call for public-minded communication processes and systems that support participatory democracy, Rakow clarifies Dewey’s approach to communication, leaving no doubt that he deserves a central place in communication studies.”

—Linda Steiner, University of Maryland

“We owe Lana F. Rakow a debt of gratitude for this concise, well-written introduction to John Dewey as a pragmatist philosopher, activist, and public intellectual whose systematic thought on communication in relation to culture, technology, inquiry, art, community, and democracy is foundational to communication studies yet widely underappreciated. Grounding her argument in Dewey’s correspondence and notes of his early lectures as well as his voluminous publications and relevant secondary sources, Rakow criticizes poorly documented claims and conventional wisdom about Dewey that pepper the communication literature. Every serious student of communication should read this book.”

—Robert T. Craig, University of Colorado Boulder

This eBook can be cited

This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.

Preface

John Dewey’s name first came into my field of vision in the 1980s when I was a graduate student in the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Those were heady intellectual days, full of contested ideas in classrooms and lecture halls and pubs, about power and identity, feminism and postcolonialism and critical race studies, postmodernism and Marxism and cultural studies.

As a white feminist activist, I was learning there are feminist theories to explain what I knew from experience but also that experience is not innocent of social meanings, including racism and privilege. As someone raised in what thinks of itself as a community in a rural state, I was learning there was little interest in the academy for explaining the political and economic disenfranchisement of the local and the distant from seats of power. Then The Public and Its Problems landed in my hands by way of a reading list by James Carey. Dewey took ordinary people seriously. He described how we are silenced politically and why community and the local still matter. He made it possible for me to envision a society in which margins of all kinds are brought to the center to name our experiences and to contribute to the collective intelligence needed to redefine ourselves and make change. It was the missing←vii | viii→ political solution to feminism’s identified problem. The dots that connect the two are called feminist pragmatism.

John Dewey became one of my intellectual companions through the next three decades of my professional and political life. He was the inspiration behind the founding of the Center for Community Engagement at the University of North Dakota, where community and university knowledge could come together, and where the public could arise from the issues identified and and discussed and solutions forwarded. It was an experiment in creating the intelligence needed for sound public opinion. It was an experiment in participatory democracy.

Then came a disturbing effort by a few in the field of communication studies to discredit Carey and Dewey and reassert Walter Lippmann as the heroic forerunner of the study of communication. The response required more than a rebuttal to accusations about the now famous Dewey-Lippmann debate of the 1920s. The field needed to know Dewey better and what is at stake when we misunderstand these epistemological and political differences. I began research for this book while on development leave from the University of North Dakota in 2014–2015. Although I thought I knew Dewey’s work fairly well, I had no idea what I was in for. The sheer quantity of his publications, with their astonishing range of topics relevant to communication across a span of seventy years, slowed my progress well behind schedule while the expanding results exceeded the word requirements of my publisher, leaving pages of detail and supporting evidence on the cutting room floor.

Some of the missing pieces can be found in four conference papers and three publications (see the bibliography below) that preceded this volume. My disagreements with Carey’s analysis of Dewey on power and community can be found in “The Metropolis and the Hinterland: Community as the Blind Spot of Carey’s Theory of Communication,” presented first as a paper at the National Communication Association conference in Chicago in 2014, then published in a revised version in Journal of Communication Inquiry in 2016. My rebuttal to the Dewey-Lippmann debate controversy was presented as “The World Outside and a Debate Inside our Heads: Duped by Carey or Lippmann?” at the International Communication Association (ICA) in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2015. A much shortened version has been published as “Family Feud: Who’s Still fighting About Dewey and Lippmann” in Javnost in 2018. Part of the conference paper, “The Dewey Problem in Communication History: The Michigan Years Revisited,” presented to ICA in Fukuoka, Japan in 2016, has found its way into chapter three of this volume. Chapter four is based on “Who Uses Dewey and←viii | ix→ Why? Remembering and Forgetting John Dewey in Communication Studies,” presented to the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference in 2016. Dewey’s use by public relations scholars and educators has been published as “On Dewey: Public Relations and Its Eclipse of the Public,” in Public Relations and Social Theory.

The chapters in this book are meant to be a resource for the Dewey novice as well as the seasoned scholar in communication studies. Chapter one reintroduces Dewey to a field that has been uneven in attention given to his work over the years. His reputation preceded him, foreclosing some of the thoughtful attention he enjoyed from other fields. A short personal and professional biography is provided in the chapter to give a context for his long and productive career, including the story of his praxis and the continuing relevance of his ideas to the future of the field. Chapter two maps the trajectory of how Dewey has been used by different areas of communication studies. He was an early influencer of speech and rhetoric, journalism, mass communication research, public journalism, and public relations, through his publications as well as his relationships with key figures across the field. Whether and how his work has been used and remembered has depended upon the political and intellectual agendas brought to the task, including arguments about the Dewey-Lippmann debate, while his most critical insights about power and knowledge have too often have been overlooked.

Dewey’s turn to communication, the focus of chapter three, and to culture, the focus of chapter four, both occurred during the first ten years of his career at the University of Michigan. In chapter three, philosophical influences from Hegel to Charles Darwin and William James are reviewed, and his role at the nucleus of a group that would form the later Chicago School confirmed. As he was understanding the self and social consciousness through the role of language, communication came to supply the connecting link between the real and the ideal, the seeds of that philosophy found in lectures in 1892–1893. Chapter four demonstrates that Dewey turned to cultural anthropology around 1893 and to culture by around 1900 when the foundations of his cultural philosophy were well in place, preceding his move to Columbia University and relationships with anthropologists there. He understood humans to be formed and informed through language, where meanings that can make sense of experience are to be found. His approach to cultural differences was based on his assessment of how groups vary in their adaptation to the environment and their use of social inquiry to handle doubt. In the U.S. he advocated cultural pluralism rather than assimilation.←ix | x→

Chapters five and six take readers through Dewey’s philosophy with communication and his philosophy of technology. After the formative years where communication came to provide the linchpin to his philosophy, explained in chapter three, Dewey’s thinking about communication can be found in roughly three additional periods. The second is marked by his essay reformulating psychology’s stimulus-response reflex arc into a circuit, providing the template for understanding how individuals are able to give meaning to what is in their environment. The third and fourth periods reflect his disturbance with an economic sphere running unchecked and the inability of democracy to function in the absence of alignment of the needs of the public for the results of social inquiry with opportunities for discussing and giving direction to the changes needed. Chapter six constructs Dewey’s approach to technology and the machinery of communication. Technologies have developed as the result of science altering the environment and then being harnessed by industry, entering into society without discussion and altering social practices and social relations. The machinery of communication have been used as a private means of profit that give a scatter-shot glance at passing events and cheap forms of amusement, rather than being developed into eloquent media that provide an understanding of underlying patterns of change and enable people to respond and participate in determining the direction of society.

These stories about the field of communication studies and about Dewey’s philosophy are necessarily framed by my own personal and intellectual experiences and will be found inadequate or just wrong by some. In pursuing the project, I have found Dewey’s philosophy to be broader and richer than I imagined while the conclusions about it found in the literature often maddeningly under informed and unsourced. Although I have challenged those assumptions and criticisms, I encountered my own questions, about his approach to cultural differences, about the relationship between basic science and the research arms of government and industry, about the hijacking of eloquence by advertisers and purveyors of entertainment. His philosophy, as he believed about the human condition itself, is not settled or closed but subject to discussion, debate, and reinterpretation.

Whatever my failings in telling these stories and whatever concerns about Dewey’s philosophy are raised telling them, it is my hope that past assumptions will be shaken and a fresh look at Dewey’s significance for the study of communication will result.←x | xi→

Bibliography

Rakow, Lana F. “Family Feud: Who’s Still Fighting About Dewey and Lippmann?” Javnost—The Public 25, 1–2 (2018): 75–82. Reprinted in The Liquefaction of Publicness: Communication, Democracy and the Public Sphere in the Internet Age, edited by Slavka Splichal, 75–82. New York: Routledge, 2019.

Details

Pages
XVIII, 214
Year
2019
ISBN (PDF)
9781433167324
ISBN (ePUB)
9781433167331
ISBN (MOBI)
9781433167348
ISBN (Hardcover)
9781433167317
ISBN (Softcover)
9781433126307
Language
English
Publication date
2019 (September)
Published
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XVIII, 214 pp.

Biographical notes

Lana F. Rakow (Author)

Lana F. Rakow is a professor emerita of communication at the University of North Dakota. She earned a doctorate in cultural studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and is the author or editor of four other books about gender and feminism.

Previous

Title: John Dewey