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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 Twelve: Breaching Sites of Power in Law and Policy Debates: Four Models (Sharon Strover)


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Breaching Sites OF Power IN Law AND Policy Debates

Four Models


Many communication policy scholars are interested both in how policy issues take shape as well as in actually influencing the debates and deliberations on them. This has led to a lively literature characterizing public discourse on different topics. For example, in the U.S. scholars have analyzed the extensive and intensive public involvement in net neutrality debates in 2015 by characterizing the ebbs and flows of public input to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and activity in web and other online environments, even as they have measured the “views” and responses of citizens as they encounter or seek different information and perspectives (Faris et al. 2015; Gibbs 2014; Lannon and Pendleton 2014).

However, these endeavors to gauge the operations of democracy by proxy data—often public forms of discourse and sometimes direct letters or complaints to agencies such as the FCC—are only a start in how the academic community engages policy-making processes. Quiet and institutionally-based models that channel academic or research-based power to people in policy environments have existed for years, and they continue to exist. However, they often operate under the radar for reasons that will become clear in the following pages.

This chapter analyzes four alternative models characterizing academic “voice” that represent viable mechanisms for communicating with sources of power and decision-making in the field of...

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