Field: Comm. Studies


I understand communication studies to be a field in the sense that there is no epistemic glue that holds the project together, but rather a multiplicity of ways to understand communication phenomenon. Developed during the interwar period out of sociological and psychological concerns over mass media, and evolved through the theoretical criticism of the Frankfurt School, Political Economy, and British/American Cultural Studies, the field has always been a bastion for those turned off by the rigid epistemic borders endemic of classic disciplines — like my own previous home, anthropology. Even the most dogmatic of the early sociologists, say Laswell and Lazarsfeld, sought to engage in philosophical questions from empirical directions, bridging the quantitative | qualitative chasm that divided sociology in their own time(s).

At UO, I have worked closely with Dr. Bish Sen to develop a similar unity between philosophical intrigue and empirical investigation. The department’s emphasis is on critical theory widely construed, uniting political economic approaches to international communication, Frankfurt school approaches to the process of mediation, and pragmatic understandings of interpersonal interactions of the communicative variety.

The writings in this section of the website reflect this emphasis, focusing primarily on the history of the field and the subfield of sound studies, but also engaging with the philosophical assumptions that underlie a core text in Philosophy of Communication: John Durham Peters’ Speaking into Air. The comprehensive exam question represents a mapping of the field – which I take to be a senseless task given the ways in which Communication Studies is not bound to the same historical process of ‘classic’ disciplines of political science, economics, and sociology that developed out of Political Economy in the 18th century nor does it carry the same colonial baggage as these disciplines. This is not to say, however, that an intellectual history is impossible; on the contrary, an intellectual history is the only way in which we can understand the interlinkage between quantitative and qualitative preoccupations with mediation that constitute the field – as responses to the increased mass mediation of sociopolitical phenomena. Finally, the sample syllabi contained herein reflect a range of courses – some I have taught, some I have assisted with, and some that I am eager to teach – that combine my in-class training with my own topical and methodological areas of expertise: Introduction to Media Studies; Mass Media Theory; Media, Modernity, & Globalization; and Historical Methodology in Media Studies.