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Leadership has fascinated people from antiquity and has been studied extensively by academics for many decades. A variety of theoretical perspectives have taken hold—most notably that of transformational leadership—and have sought to explore the processes whereby leaders influence followers, to delineate the factors that put limits on such influence, and to determine the interrelationship between the attributes that leaders bring to their role and the contexts in which they find themselves. There has also been a growing interest in followership and how the behaviors, cognitions, and emotions of followers both contribute to organizational and group outcomes and help to shape leader behavior. The issue of followership, however, remains very much a nascent area of inquiry within the broader field of leadership studies. Recently, explicitly communication perspectives have been brought more frequently to bear on leadership studies. This has assumed two main forms. First, “discursive leadership” has looked at both the linguistic mechanisms by which leader action and effects take place and how larger frames of leadership discourse can be said to constitute both broader leader–follower dynamics and our understanding of them. Associated with this, some complexity leadership theorists have stressed the “relational” dynamics implicit to leadership processes as a means of countering what they see as an excessive focus on the traits and actions of individual leaders. These approaches emphasize the importance of context and the relational dynamics between leaders and followers embedded in such contexts. Second, some communication scholars influenced by process theories of organization have begun to sketch out the means whereby communication is central to how organizational actors make, refuse, and enact claims to leadership agency, particularly in contexts where such claims may be contested by many. The role of follower dissent and power relations more generally is viewed as a crucial area of inquiry. Accordingly, communication approaches to leadership have adopted a variety of theoretical perspectives. Many scholars from communication backgrounds have researched communication processes whereby leaders influence others. More recently, critically oriented communication scholars have explored the often conflicted dynamics between leaders and followers, focusing on such issues as power, domination, and control and their implications for leadership theory. Both explicitly and implicitly, these have therefore challenged dominant leadership perspectives, particularly but not exclusively that of transformational leadership.

Article

“News ecology” and “news ecosystems” are two terms often used in journalism studies. They are, however, different concepts that draw from different lines of research and are used by different groups of scholars rarely connected to one another. The notion of “news ecology” stems from media ecology, a branch of media theory that aims at understanding the effects that mediated technologies have on communication and social interactions. Media ecology has challenged traditional media research by focusing on how communicative technologies impact media consumption on a daily basis. Specifically it argues that communicative technologies encompass a set of implicit rules that affect how humans see, understand, and think about the contents that are being mediated. Building on these principles, “news ecology” is a relevant notion to reflect on how citizens get acquainted with the news as well as the diversity of technologies involved in news use. The notion aims at capturing the fact that news products exist in a diversity of formats, are consumed in diverse manners, and take place on different sites and platforms. Out of all the economic, social and technological changes of the last decades, the popularization of the Internet is often seen as the keystone of this change. However, most recent reception studies mention the terms “news ecology” without relating it to media ecology. The use of the “news ecosystem” metaphor in journalism studies is more recent and focuses on the diversity of actors involved in news production and diffusion. If some scholars use a restricted definition of ecosystems (i.e., the ecosystems of blogs, websites, or social networking sites), others give it a more organic and composite meaning (i.e., the ecosystems of actors, technologies, and contents produced in a specific area or regarding a specific topic). Using the first definition, one can analyze the configuration of news ecosystems online, the diversity of actors involved in news production and their relationships, as well as how news circulates through diverse technologies. Using the second definition forces researchers to consider news as a complex social practice in which a diversity of actors competes to influence the news narrative through mediated and unmediated practices. The two research traditions rarely intersect, as media and news ecology focus more on the reception side of news (i.e., the impact of mediums on people) and the study of news ecosystems has so far paid more attention to the production and diffusion of news. However, they share similarities—such as the facts that they both analyze media as dynamic processes are not normative in nature, or focus on complexity and change more than structure and stability—and could inspire one another in an effort to break the production/reception dichotomy in journalism studies.

Article

Actor-network theory (ANT) is a sociological approach to the world that treats social phenomena as network effects. This approach focuses on the evolution of interactions within networks over time and is useful for studying situations of change, unsettled groups, and evolving practices such as current developments in the world of journalism. Journalism is a messy and complex social practice involving various actors, institutions, and technologies, some of which are in a state of crisis or are undergoing rapid change due to digitization. ANT has gained momentum in journalism studies among researchers analyzing journalists’ relationships with the diverse agents they in contact with on a daily basis (e.g., technologies, institutions, audiences, other news producers) and the relationships between news production, circulation, and usage. ANT practitioners use a set of simple concepts referred to as an infra-language, which allows them to exchange ideas and compare interpretations while letting the actors they are studying develop their own range of concepts (i.e., to speak in their own words). These concepts include actants, actor networks, obligatory passage points, and translation. ANT also proposes a set of principles for researchers to follow. These include considering all entities as participants in a phenomenon (e.g., people can make other people do things, and objects, such as computers or institutions, can as well) and following actors as they trace associations with others. Therefore, journalism scholars who use this approach conduct qualitative studies focusing on the place of a particular technology within a network or situation by following who and what is involved and how entities connect. They collect data such as the content produced, direct observations of news production, or statements from interviews during or after the case is over. Using ANT, journalism scholars have extended their comprehension of news production by highlighting technology’s role in journalistic networks. Although journalists naturalize technologies through daily use (e.g., search engines, content management systems, cell phones, cameras, email), these tools still influence journalistic practices and outputs. ANT practitioners also consider the diversity of agents participating in news production and circulation: professional journalists, politicians, activists, and diverse commercial and noncommercial organizations. If this diversity is becoming more active and connected in this networked environment, it seems that legacy media is still an obligatory passage point for anyone willing to bring information to the general public. Recent societal changes, such as the generalization of news consumption on smartphones and the rise of platform journalism on multiple apps, indicate that ANT may be useful in the collective endeavor to provide a clear picture of what journalism is and what it will become.