We are at it again — with Chris Anderson, Daniel Kreiss, Dave Karpf, and Matt Powers, I’m organizing an ICA pre-conference on the role of normative theory in communication research. Conference website here. Call for papers below.
Call for Papers
Normative Theory in Communication Research Pre-conference
2017 International Communication Association Annual Conference
May 25, 2017 – 8:00am-4:30pm
Department of Communication, University of California, San Diego
Normative theories of democracy in communication research across its various subfields rarely receive explicit treatment. Often, researchers simply imply their normative standpoints through the research questions they ask about ‘participation,’ ‘civility,’ ‘two-sided information flows,’ ‘knowledgeable citizens,’ ‘rational debate and deliberation,’ ‘polarization and partisanship,’ ‘interactivity,’ and ‘quality information.’
The normative implications of many of these concepts rest on implicit assumptions about democracy, how it works, and more importantly, how it should work. When communication scholars explicitly discuss their normative models of democracy, they tend to be deliberative, following the guiding theorist of the field, Jurgen Habermas, and rich veins of deliberative research work by scholars such as James Fishkin. More common, however, is research that implicitly holds up rational debate among disinterested, non-partisan citizens premised on quality information as the normative ideal. Meanwhile, when scholars do not explicitly embrace deliberation, they tend to hold up an ill-defined, procedural idea of participation as the ultimate democratic value, often without any consideration of the ends towards which it is directed.
While deliberative theory and vague ideas of participation continue to hold significant appeal in communication research, are they the only models? And, indeed, should they be? In the past two decades there has been a tremendous flowering of normative work in other fields that casts new light on democracy itself. Social movement scholars have argued forcefully for the importance of contentious politics, emotion, identity, and culture to the practice and promise of democracy. Sociologists have argued that ‘civility’ often serves to cut-off critique and frankness should be valued as an alternative. Political theorists have embraced the normative importance of spectatorship in contrast to deliberation and participation, invoking communication research around media events. Others have worked to reclaim the value of partisanship in an era of extremist, single-issue civil society organizations. Meanwhile, some scholars have sought to re-establish the value of representation, while others have argued strongly for the value of agonism as the proper domain of the political.
With few exceptions, communication research has not explicitly engaged with its underlying normative models of democracy. In this pre-conference, we seek to bring communication scholars together to spark a conversation on the normative foundations of scholarship and move the field towards more sophisticated models of democracy. Through invited speakers, peer-reviewed papers, and critical discussants, we seek to make democracy and normative theories our object of analysis.
Confirmed participants include Cherian George (Hong Kong Baptist University), Claes de Vreese (University of Amsterdam), Michael Schudson (Columbia University), Jennifer Stromer-Galley (Syracuse University), Talia Stroud (UT Austin), Silvio Waisbord (George Washington University), and Barbie Zelizer (University of Pennsylvania).
Call for Extended Abstracts
We are looking for submissions that interrogate the democratic foundations of communication research across its various subfields. These can include articles on the history of normative models of democracy in the field, original theoretical papers that propose democratic frameworks or synthesize work in adjacent fields, or empirical papers that made a significant theoretical contribution to democratic theory in the field of communication.
Extended abstracts (up to 4,000 characters including spaces) should be submitted via the Normative Theory in Communication Research website by January 15, 2017.
The organizers – C.W. Anderson (CUNY), David Karpf (George Washington University), Daniel Kreiss (UNC-Chapel Hill), Rasmus Nielsen (Oxford University), and Matthew Powers (University of Washington) – will make decisions on accepted papers by February 15th. Full papers will be due in advance of the pre-conference on May 25, 2017.
There is no cost to attend this pre-conference and lunch and refreshments will be provided. Registration is required.
8:00 – 8:15am
Arrival and coffee
8:15 – 9:30am
PANEL 1: Reviewed Submissions, Paper Presentations
9:45 – 11:00am
PANEL 2: Reviewed submissions, Paper Presentations
11:15 – 12:30pm
PANEL 3: Reviewed Submissions, Paper Presentations
Lunchtime Journal Editors Panel on the Role of Normative Theory in Research
2:00 – 3:15pm
PANEL 4: Reviewed Submissions, Paper Presentations
Plenary Panel on Democratic Theory in Communication Research