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Challenging Communication Research


Edited By Leah A. Lievrouw

Communication scholarship has not enjoyed the same kind of theoretical cohesion or ontological security as some disciplines. The field’s intellectual «roving eye» and resistance to establishing a single core body of knowledge has inspired serial rounds of soul-searching and existential doubt among communication scholars, on one hand, and celebration and intellectual adventurism, on the other. The theme of the 2013 ICA annual conference thus raised an interesting question: For a field that is perpetually in flux and «decentered», what exactly is, or should be, challenged? How, and by whom?
The chapters in this collection, chosen from among the top papers presented in London, suggest that the challenges themselves are constantly being reinvented, broken down and reorganized. The communication discipline undergoes continuous change rather than following an orderly, stepwise path toward the neat, complete accumulation of knowledge. The chapters challenge familiar approaches, notions or assumptions in communication research and scholarship and reflect on the field’s multifaceted and increasingly open character in an era of shifting social relations, formations and technologies.
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Chapter Eight: Uncommon Knowledge: Testing Persistent Beliefs about Configurable Culture and Society


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Uncommon Knowledge

Testing Persistent Beliefs about Configurable Culture and Society


Since the turn of the century, the rapid coevolution of networked digital media platforms and the cultural forms and practices that rely upon them has blurred the lines that previously divided opposing social categories, such as production versus consumption, professional versus amateur, and public versus private (Aufderheide & Jaszi, 2011; Bruns, 2008; Deuze, 2007; Gunderson, 2004; Jenkins, 2006; Lowood, 2006; Ondrejka, 2004; Shiga, 2007; Sinnreich, 2010; Sinnreich, Latonero, & Gluck, 2009; Taylor, 2006). Individuals and communities operating in digital, networked, and mobile environments are able to create, copy, appropriate, manipulate, edit, distribute, and consume audio and visual content in a multitude of new ways. The affordances of the personal computer, digital content, editing software, and Internet technologies have contributed to an ever-expanding number of emergent cultural forms; mash-ups, remixes, machinima, software add-ons, video game mods, and photoshopping are just a few examples.

Because of the ontological blurriness they engender, many of these technologies and practices do not fit neatly into—and often come into direct conflict with—the existing social institutions that regulate cultural creation and exchange. Recent battles over cultural authorship and ownership have become a familiar manifestation of this tension (Elkin-Koren, 1996; Kim, 2007; Lessig, 2004, 2008; McLeod, 2007; Ondrejka, 2004; Ross, 2006; Shiga, 2007; Vaidhyanathan, 2001; Wagner, 2003). Increasingly, individuals find source material for cultural...

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