Communication Studies: Blurring disciplinary boundaries

A landmark study in the last decade identified ‘604 different theories, general scientific paradigms, and schools of thought’ in articles in three stalwart journals in the last fifty years. Six out ten of these theories originated in the field of communication while the other theories were from Psychology, Philosophy, Sociology, Political Science, Economics, Cybernetics, Arts, Literature, Linguistics. Over two percent of these theories originated in Biology and Mathematics as well. Among the theories originating in communication studies, they could be neatly divided into six different areas — speech (or communication studies); general mass communication theories; media psychology or media sociology); media law and politics; media economics and programming theories.

Western communication theories over the years have been defined by seven different traditions (Craig & Muller, 2007). For a very brief overview, The Rhetorical Tradition is related to the ancient Greek legal system where individuals had to argue their own cases. The use of logos, ethos and pathos was the standard method of persuasion. The Semiotic Tradition in communication research performs two different function. It is treated as a methodology for examining signs through the framework of other theoretical concepts. At the same time semiotics can be seen as a theoretical framework to understand images, psyches etc. The Phenomenological Tradition in communication studies concerns itself with the study of conscious human experience. The Cybernetic Tradition for the study of cognitive and social systems rests on four ‘conceptual pillars’ — circularity, information, process and participation. The Sociopsychological Tradition concerns itself with the interaction of the individual with the society. Contemporary theorists of the Sociocultural Tradition contend that reality is constructed through interaction in groups. Critical theorists critique capitalism and domination.

Media and Communication studies in the non-Western context have concentrated on two distinct clusters. One, Platform or channel studies that have focused on peculiarities of channels such as newspapers, magazines, radio (including community radio), television, cinema and internet. A major concern of these platform studies has been the impact of these media on the audiences and the content produced by these media. On the other hand, there have been ‘public communication’ studies — journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing etc.

Access to digital technology, in the last few decades has not only changed communication, social life is hard to imagine without digital technology. It is not an exaggeration to say, digitalization has irreversibly changed economics, politics and society. Digital mediation is no longer the sole preserve of media and communication scholars. In fact, it is fair to say that in the present age, communication studies does not have any boundary since almost everything can be considered a ‘communicative process’ in the digital networked society. It has spawned new specializations in other traditional fields — digital sociology, digital anthropology, digital economics, digital geography etc. To compound matters for media and communication scholars, digital media is not defined by any singular media logic. There is no single construction of reality, but a multiplicity of constructions defined by the human-technology interactions.

1 thought on “Communication Studies: Blurring disciplinary boundaries”

  1. मीडिया सिद्धांतों पर अच्छा विहगावलोकन है। इनका व्वियस्थित सरणीकरण भी आपने किया है। इस कड़ी में कुछ मीडिया सिद्धांतों का विवरण और व्याख्याएं भी आपकी ओर से आयेंगी, ऐसी उम्मीद है।

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