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The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Radhika Parameswaran, Erica Scharrer, Vicki Mayer, Sharon Mazzarella, Kelly Gates, John Nerone, Angharad N. Valdivia

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26

The Chicago School of Sociology and Mass Communication Research

Rise, Rejection, Incorporation, and Rediscovery

Karin Wahl-Jorgensen

ABSTRACT

While the Chicago School has subtly but profoundly shaped and influenced the direction of scholarship on mass media, the history of its engagement with mass communication researchers is also a history of missed connections and opportunities. At least two different stories can be told in tracing the legacies of the Chicago School on work in media studies. One is a tale of triumph: The Chicago School has had a significant impact on scholarship in the field, in its normative assessment of the media's role in society and its empirical work in understanding it. Another is a tale of loss and marginalization, witnessed by the decline of the socially engaged and often qualitative approach of the school and its diminishing presence within the collective conscience of the discipline today. Both of these stories are true. The Chicago School arose out of a particular moment, with its companion preoccupations and anxieties, but its contributions subsequently fell to the wayside in the face of profound epistemological shifts. The Chicago School gave voice to the idea that media and communication have a central role to play in shaping individual and collective lives, and in cementing identities and communities. This idea has helped to justify and solidify the notion that we cannot understand society without understanding how we communicate with each ...

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