Communication and Community

Communication and Community

Communication and Community

Communication and Community

Synopsis

This distinctive volume combines synthetic theoretical essays and reports of original research to address the interrelations of communication and community in a wide variety of settings. Chapters address interpersonal conversation and communal relationships; journalism organizations and political reporting; media use and community participation; communication styles and alternative organizations; and computer networks and community building; among other topics. The contents offer synthetic literature reviews, philosophical essays, reports of original research, theory development, and criticism. While varying in theoretical perspective and research focus, each of the chapters also provides its own approach to the practice of communication and community. In this way, the book provides a recurrent thematic emphasis on the pragmatic consequences of theory and research for the activities of communication and living together in communities. Taken as a whole, this collection illustrates that communication and community cannot be adequately analyzed in any context without considering other contexts, other levels of analysis, and other media and modes of communication. As such, it provides important insights for scholars, students, educators, and researchers concerned with communication across the full range of contexts, media, and modes.

Excerpt

Concerns about community, the balancing of individual rights with social responsibilities, and the weighing of freedom and equality permeate nearly every aspect of American life. In marriages, neighborhoods, and workplaces, via face-to-face and mediated behaviors, we strive to “commune” and we long to separate; we make sense of our cooperative lives and we deny them; we bond and we break.

Throughout the public sphere, political leaders and citizens bemoan a slide in civility, express a fear that the will to cooperate has weakened, and worry about the decline of responsibility in social life. Recent years have witnessed a remarkable thematic resonance across political speeches, media commentary, citizen complaints, and scholarly writings: The problems of contemporary life (e.g., declining “social capital, ” loss of neighborliness, threats to the family, divorce, uncaring corporations, unstable jobs, faceless technology, exploitative movies, anonymous suburbs, unsupervised children) are collectively captured by the “problem of community.” Often, certain types or practices of communication are identified as contributing to the problem (e.g., violent television programs and movies, nihilistic music, apathy-producing news coverage); more frequently, the hope of communication is offered as the solution (as witnessed by the daily talk shows and their incessant calls for “more” communication—sincere, open, and face-to-face—as the balm for life's many, and sometimes weird, wounds).

A book on Communication and Community would thus seem to fit the Zeitgeist of the 21st century's dawn; and given the intricate character of the relationship between these complex terms, communication and community, a collection of essays by both new and established voices from across the areas of communication studies seems the most appropriate form for such a book. In the few pages that follow, we preface this collection by suggesting a few themes readers might keep in mind . . .

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