May Colloquia: Silvio Waisbord, Ph.D. | George Washington University

May 11, 2017 | 3:30 – 5:00 PM | CMU 126

The State of Communication Scholarship

SYNOPSIS: Long-standing hopes for communication to become a cohesive field of knowledge are yet to be met. A combination of factors drive intellectual balkanization, namely, ontological and disciplinary traditions, the constant drive to thematic hyper-specialization, and academic dispersion. Additionally, the “communication of everything,” intensified by the encroachment of digital technologies in every corner of social life, exacerbates the lack of intellectual cohesion. Also, questions about communication issues clearly overflow the conventional boundaries and the analytical corpus of communication studies as they are found across the social sciences and the humanities.

These forces have turned communication into a post-discipline that is not bounded by shared commitment to a common subject of study, body of knowledge, theoretical questions, and debates that characterize disciplines and fields. What essentially brings communication studies together is an institutional architecture of academic units, professional associations, and journals. In light of this situation, Dr. Waisbord argues, communication studies needs to embrace its post-disciplinary status and draw various threads of research around the study of specific social problems. Resolving multiple divides through theoretical or methodological synthesis is unlikely to deliver wide-ranging results. It would not counter strong tendencies to hyper-specialization. Theoretical, epistemological and ontological ecumenism is unlikely. A more productive path is to recognize pluralism and dispersion, and engage with real-world problems that need to be approached by integrating multiple communication perspectives.

BIO: Silvio Waisbord is Professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. His books include Media Sociology: A Reappraisal (editor, Polity, 2014), Reinventing Professionalism: Journalism and News in Global Perspective (Polity, 2013) and the co-edited compilation Global Health Communication (Wiley, 2012). He is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Communication and former editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Press/Politics. Dr. Waisbord has published articles on news and politics, journalism, global health communication, communication and social change, and media policy. He has lectured and worked in more than 30 countries, has written or edited 10 books, and published more than 100 journal articles, book chapters, and newspaper columns. He holds a Licenciatura in sociology from the Universidad de Buenos Aires, and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, San Diego.