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Communicating with Power


Edited By Cherian George

Communication is ubiquitous and information is abundant. Political and economic markets are more open than they have ever been. Yet, there is no escaping the fact that communication continues to flow across fields where power is distributed unevenly. This collection of articles analyzes and responds to asymmetries of power in a diversity of contexts. They are drawn from presentations at the 2016 Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, held in Fukuoka, Japan. The conference theme presented an opening for scholars from various disciplines and academic traditions to engage with the questions of power at different levels of analysis—from micro sites of power like a doctor’s consultation room, to the geopolitical arenas where nations wage war, make peace, and spy on one another. The resulting collection straddles different methodologies and styles, from survey research to essays. Leading scholars and junior researchers have combined to create a volume that reflects the breadth of communication scholarship and its contemporary concerns.

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Chapter Seven: Public Discourse on the Responsibility of Corporations: A Holistic Framework (Kerstin Thummes / Ulrike Röttger)


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Public Discourse ON THE Responsibility OF Corporations

A Holistic Framework


The question who is responsible for which action or challenge in society has increasingly become a matter of public discussion as formerly fixed responsibilities are eroded by global transformations, such as the shift of power from national political institutions to transnational economic organizations or the changing structures of public communication through digitalization. In the public arena, traditional and new media shape the perception of risks through the framing of issues and thereby influence the redefinition and ascription of responsibilities in society. Facing the multi-perspectivity of voices reflected in public discourse, research on corporate responsibility must consider the dynamics between various responsibility assessments instead of separately exploring communication strategies on corporate responsibility (Du, Bhattacharya, and Sen 2010; Seele and Lock 2015), related media coverage (Tang 2011; Tench, Bowd, and Jones 2007) and stakeholder perceptions of CSR (Kim 2014; Russell, Russell, and Honea 2016). Despite some conceptual approaches encouraging a more holistic understanding of CSR communication (Schultz and Wehmeier 2010; Schultz, Castello, and Morsing 2013; Wehmeier and Röttger 2011), there still is a lack of studies that scrutinize the emergence of responsibility assessments under the outlined conditions of societal transitions and multi-perspectivity in public discourse.

This chapter proposes a framework for the empirical analysis of assessments of corporate responsibility emerging from the interplay of various participants in public...

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