Theory and Research in Mass Communication: Contexts and Consequences

By David K. Perry | Go to book overview

Preface

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.

-vii-

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