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Challenging Communication Research

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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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Editor’s Introduction: Challenge and Change in Communication Research

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Editor’s Introduction

Challenge and Change in Communication Research

LEAH L. LIEVROUW



From the start, communication scholarship has not enjoyed the same kind of theoretical cohesion or ontological security as some other disciplines. Its origin stories feature disciplinary crossovers, reinventions, and hybrid projects, ranging from Chicago School pragmatism and ethnomethods, to the experiments and surveys of Columbia’s Bureau of Applied Social Research, to the disciplinary heteroglossia of cybernetics and the Macy Conferences. Its early adherents left the certainties of a dozen established fields, ranging from rhetoric, theater, literary criticism, and philosophy, to social psychology, engineering, speech therapy, political science, sociology, and anthropology. They ventured into a barely defined but apparently irresistible arena of research, scholarship, practice, and critique dedicated to understanding just how, under what circumstances, and with what tools people make, share, and unmake meaning.

Moreover, the longstanding disconnect between the field’s dramatic institutional success after the Second World War (the global proliferation of schools, degree programs, academic departments, journals, academic and professional societies and conferences), and its 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. As new modes of mediation and interaction have emerged, the field has adapted its agendas and methods accordingly. Younger scholars often lead the way. ← 1 | 2 →

So the theme...

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