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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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Prologue: Project History and Introduction (Sandra J. Ball-Rokeach)


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Project History and Introduction


In the communication field, I am most known for my work concerning media and power and, subsequently, a discursive approach to understanding diverse urban communities. Preceding these concerns and as a young sociologist, my attention was focused upon the legitimation of violence—be it in the service of social change or social control—development of a conflict theory of violence, and the relationships between value priorities and sexism, racism, and anti-environmentalism. Throughout these inquiries of the turbulent, yet hopeful 1960s and 70s, my positioning was the challenger of prevailing ways of defining and accounting for these social phenomena.

In the process of challenging, one has to unlearn and experience ambiguity. Perhaps this is why, as Friedland notes in this volume (Chapter 2), the role of ambiguity in social change and social conflict was a constant underlying theme in my work, one that persists to this day. Being a woman in the furiously sexist environment of those times, I had to unlearn sexism—this process led to an understanding of, and an equally persistent thematic focus upon inequality.

Since those more hopeful decades, neo-liberalism has generated changes in American value priorities that legitimate the stark inequalities of contemporary life in and beyond urban communities. To put it most plainly, it is freedom for capitalists and to hell with equality. The exquisite tension between individual freedom (the...

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