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The Communication Ecology of 21st Century Urban Communities


Edited By Yong-Chan Kim, Matthew D. Matsaganis, Holley A. Wilkin and Joo-Young Jung

The Communication Ecology of 21st Century Urban Communities addresses the questions of whether it (still) matters what neighborhood individuals live in and if it is still necessary and possible for city dwellers to build and maintain place-based communities.

The book’s contributors address how urban communities are formed, reformed, and transformed from a communication infrastructure theory perspective. Through the lens of this theory, communication is defined as a fundamental social process by which cities are sustained and changed over time. The chapters in this book elaborate the theoretical and methodological frameworks of the communication infrastructure theory approach; articulate theory-driven and multi-method frameworks for the study of the city; and speak to pressing, contemporary, research- and policy-related challenges (or questions).

The broad array of issues addressed within this volume is expected to draw the interest not only of communication researchers and professionals, but also of students, scholars, practitioners, and policymakers from a variety of backgrounds and with an interest in different aspects of life in the city, including: public health, technology, civic engagement, and urban planning and design.

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Chapter Two: Toward an Integrated Urban Sociology of Communication: The Research of Sandra Ball-Rokeach and the Metamorphosis Project (Lewis A. Friedland)


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Toward an Integrated Urban Sociology of Communication

The Research of Sandra Ball-Rokeach and the Metamorphosis Project


Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison


The research program of Sandra Ball-Rokeach constitutes one of the few attempts over a 40-year period to sustain sociological thinking on communication. Her original contribution of media system dependency theory grew from critical engagement with the uses and gratifications paradigm dominant in the 1960s and 1970s. Specifically, Ball-Rokeach was attempting to reintroduce the dimension of institutional structure and power into the framework within which individuals made specific choices to use the media.

Her research since the 1990s constitutes the most developed program in the subfield of urban communication and runs parallel to major urban sociology scholars including Wellman, Castells, and Sampson. I will argue that despite some other work in urban communication, Ball-Rokeach stood almost alone at the intersection of urban sociology and communication proper, carving out a distinct research program. Finally, I will evaluate the Ball-Rokeach program in relation to a series of urgent contemporary problematics in the field, drawing from recent developments in what is a resurgent field of urban sociology of communication. ← 28 | 29 →

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