Theory and Research in Mass Communication: Contexts and Consequences

Theory and Research in Mass Communication: Contexts and Consequences

Theory and Research in Mass Communication: Contexts and Consequences

Theory and Research in Mass Communication: Contexts and Consequences

Synopsis

This updated edition presents a civic journalism treatment of the field of mass communication research. The sine qua non of the civic journalism movement seems to center around an implicit assumption that the human mind is an evolved part in the natural world, not a detached spectator as much traditional philosophy assumes. Thus, it has attempted to encourage journalists and members of their audiences to participate actively in civic life. Applying the same idea to mass communication academics, this book focuses on the empirical consequences of their work, especially its possible impact on human life. It argues that researchers need to connect with the broader communities in which they live and considers the impact of media research on society. Features of the second edition include: *detailed update of research evidence concerning the media violence issue; *additional material concerning media ownership structures and their possible relationship to media content and effects; *new material focusing on the impact of tobacco and alcohol advertising; *updated and expanded section concerning the history of media studies; and *an expanded discussion of philosophical issues pertaining to theory construction. This book is intended for graduate and advanced undergraduate students studying mass communication theory and related subjects, such as communication theory, media effects, media literacy, and media and society.

Excerpt

This book constitutes an attempt to promote “socialized intelligence, ” to borrow a phrase from Robert Westbrook (1991, p. 436). Traditionally, books dealing with mass communication theory and research have been largely designed for students who intend to take jobs with the media industries. My aim is wider: I want to help make this body of knowledge accessible to much larger groups of people, beginning with college students in general. Our research often has implications for the lives of everyone.

In attempting to reach a wider audience, I have continued in the second edition to rely on ideas from the philosophical tradition known as American pragmatism. Pragmatism “may best be characterized as the attempt to assess the significance for human values of technology in the broadest sense” (Kaplan, 1961, p. 14). In this sense, technology includes not only the mass media, but scientific research. In comparison to the first edition, however, I have placed more emphasis on ideas from the Social Pragmatists (see Campbell, 1995). For example, readers can find a discussion of the social, symbolic nature of mind in chapter 1. I used this to help set the tone for the entire book. I also review the implications of the nominalism and realism debate in philosophy, an ancient issue interwoven with ideas about individuality and community. The idea comes up repeatedly in the text, in areas where it helps shed light on existing literature. I have not tried to include it at every conceivable opportunity, however. This issue also ties in with the pragmatist-inspired civic journalism movement (e.g., Merritt, 1998). As I argue in chapter 1, this book is designed as a civic journalism presentation of research in our field.

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