Slavko Splichal and Peter Dahlgren
Media and communication research is often believed to represent one of the youngest research areas in the social sciences, but the first essays discussing the nature and social functions of newspapers were written long before the birth of the modern social sciences. The great variety in forms of communication is also reflected in the diversity of research approaches and methods. This chapter deals with these differences and diversities in a broader perspective to demonstrate that it is not methodology itself that determines the differences in approaches but, rather, differences in methodologies that reflect more substantial (theoretical, epistemological, ideological) differences. The chapter begins with a conceptual discussion about academic fields and paradigms. It then discusses the somewhat ambiguous intellectual history of the field and its loose organizing logics. It sketches the contours of the dominant paradigm and its two main challengers over the past decades – the interpretivist and the critical paradigms – and considers some key challenges and controversies that shaped the field's earlier years. Finally, it explores a possible new matrix for structuring research in the field.
Communication as a generic human activity is characterized by an ever greater diversity of its forms, methods, and strategies from simple vernacular languages to highly formalized ...