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Article

Epistemology and Journalism  

Mats Ekström and Oscar Westlund

Epistemology is a central issue in journalism research. Journalism is among the most influential knowledge-producing institutions in modern society, associated with high claims of providing relevant, accurate, and verified public knowledge on a daily basis. More specifically, epistemology is the study of how, in this case, journalists and news organizations know what they know and how the knowledge claims are articulated and justified. Practices related to justification have been studied in (a) text and discourse; (b) journalist practices, norms, and routines within and outside the newsroom; and (c) audience assessment of news items and acceptance or rejection of the knowledge claims of journalism. Epistemology also includes the study of news and journalism as particular forms of knowledge. In journalism research, sociological approaches on epistemology have been developed to understand the institutionalized norms and practices in the processing of information and in socially shared and variable standards of justification, as well as in the authority of journalism in providing exclusive forms of knowledge in society. In recent years, epistemology has received increased scholarly interest in response to transformations within journalism: digitalization, emerging forms of data journalism, the acceleration of the news cycle, diminished human resources and financial pressure, and forms of audience participation.

Article

Communication Technology and Knowledge Management  

Jeffrey Treem

In recent years, organizations have greatly increased their use of communication technologies to support knowledge management initiatives. These technologies, commonly referred to as knowledge management systems, are adopted in the hope that they will bolster organizations’ access to, and utilization of, knowledge resources. Yet the relationship between communication technology and knowledge management is complicated by ambiguity regarding whether knowledge can be validly captured, stored, and transmitted in an explicit form (as an object) or only exists in applications (as an action). Many scholars argue that reliance on communication technologies for knowledge management aids the ability of organizations to process information, but it has limited benefits for helping individuals gain situated knowledge regarding how best to accomplish work. An alternative view explores the potential of communication technologies to facilitate interaction among knowledgeable actors, which can support ongoing organizational learning. In practice, the use of communication technologies enacts a duality whereby knowledge operates both as an object that organizations and individuals have, and as an applied action that is used to solve situated problems. Numerous theoretical frameworks have been applied to study the relationship between communication technologies and knowledge management, with three of the most prominent being public goods theory, communities of practice, and transactive memory systems theory. Extant research recognizes the diverse ways that communication technologies can support knowledge management practices aimed at either improving the utilization of information in organizations or bolstering opportunities for interpersonal knowledge sharing. Regardless of the position taken regarding the most appropriate and effective ways that communication technology can support knowledge management, organizations hoping to implement knowledge management systems face numerous challenges related to spurring the creation of organizational knowledge, motivating individuals to share knowledge, transferring knowledge among groups, and storing knowledge to allow future retrieval. Furthermore, the breadth and diversity of communication technologies used for knowledge management will continue to expand as organizations explore the potential applications of social media technologies and seek to gain value from increases in available data regarding individuals’ communication and behaviors.

Article

Harold Innis’s Concept of Bias: Its Intellectual Origins and Misused Legacy  

Edward Comor

Harold Innis is one of the foundational theorists of media and communications studies. In the mid-20th century, he developed his concept of media bias (also called the bias of communication). It remains Innis’s most cited concept, but it is also significantly misunderstood. For example, since his death in 1952, bias has often been applied in ways that are akin to a form of technological or media determinism. This has been an ongoing problem despite the fact that Innis developed his concept as a means of compelling analysts to reject such mechanistic formulations. Indeed, his goal was to promote more self-reflective modes of scholarship and, by extension, a recognition that such intellectual capacities—which he believed were essential for civilization’s survival—would be lost if they were not recognized and defended. More generally, Innis contextualized his work regarding media bias in terms of interrelated historical conditions involving political economic dynamics. Through his application of the concept to over 4000 years of history, he sought to provide his contemporaries with the reflective perspective needed to comprehend the underpinnings of modern biases that stressed present-mindedness and spatial control to the neglect of creativity and duration. Bias was derived from Innis’s studies on Canadian economic development involving the exploitation of its resources (an approach to history called the staples thesis). Several of the insights he garnered in those studies need to be recognized if we are to fully understand his subsequent communications research. Also, tracing the origins of his concept of bias enables us to fully assess the nature of Innis’s supposed media determinism. Typical uses of bias today focus on the spatial or temporal orientations that many assume are compelled through the use of a specific medium or set of media technologies. This misreading, inspired mainly by Marshall McLuhan’s representations of Innis, has led to assumptions regarding Innis’s determinism and a general neglect of the complexity of his original work. To repeat, Innis developed bias in order to redress the mechanistic and unreflective thinking of his day and always conceptualized it in terms of factors that are salient to the place and time being examined. Moreover, he applied bias alongside now largely forgotten concepts ranging from unused capacity to classic power–knowledge dialectics. Lastly, he situated the development and implications of a particular medium in relation to both old and new media (not just technologies, but organizations and institutions also). In sum, to comprehend Innis’s concept of bias, its intellectual and political underpinnings need to be acknowledged, the political economic dynamics of its development and application understood, and the implications of McLuhan’s influence recognized.

Article

Collective Knowledge for Industrial Disaster Prevention  

Sarah Maslen

Since the 1990s there has been an increasing interest in knowledge, knowledge management, and the knowledge economy due to recognition of its economic value. Processes of globalization and developments in information and communications technologies have triggered transformations in the ways in which knowledge is shared, produced, and used to the extent that the 21st century was forecasted to be the knowledge century. Organizational learning has also been accepted as critical for organizational performance. A key question that has emerged is how knowledge can be “captured” by organizations. This focus on knowledge and learning demands an engagement with what knowledge means, where it comes from, and how it is affected by and used in different contexts. An inclusive definition is to say that knowledge is acquired theoretical, practical, embodied, and intuitive understandings of a situation. Knowledge is also located socially, geographically, organizationally, and it is specialized; so it is important to examine knowledge in less abstract terms. The specific case engaged with in this article is knowledge in hazardous industry and its role in industrial disaster prevention. In hazardous industries such as oil and gas production, learning and expertise are identified as critical ingredients for disaster prevention. Conversely, a lack of expertise or failure to learn has been implicated in disaster causation. The knowledge needs for major accident risk management are unique. Trial-and-error learning is dangerously inefficient because disasters must be prevented before they occur. The temporal, geographical, and social scale of decisions in complex sociotechnical systems means that this cannot only be a question of an individual’s expertise, but major accident risk management requires that knowledge is shared across a much larger group of people. Put another way, in this context knowledge needs to be collective. Incident reporting systems are a common solution, and organizations and industries as a whole put substantial effort into gathering information about past small failures and their causes in an attempt to learn how to prevent more serious events. However, these systems often fall short of their stated goals. This is because knowledge is not collective by virtue of being collected and stored. Rather, collective knowing is done in the context of social groups and it relies on processes of sensemaking.

Article

Deaf or Hard of Hearing Message Recipient Sociodemographic Characteristics  

Michael McKee

Hearing loss is common, with approximately 17% of the population reporting some degree of a hearing deficit. Hearing loss has profound impacts on health literacy, health information accessibility, and learning. Much of existing health information is inaccessible. This is largely due to the lack of focus on tailoring the messages to the needs of deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) individuals with hearing loss. DHH individuals struggle with a variety of health knowledge gaps and health disparities. This demonstrates the importance of providing tailored and accessible health information for this population. While hearing loss is heterogeneous, there are still overlapping principles that can benefit everyone. Through adaptation, DHH individuals become visual learners, thus increasing the demand for appropriate visual medical aids. The development of health information and materials suitable for visual learners will likely impact not only DHH individuals, but will also be applicable for the general population. The principles of social justice and universal design behoove health message designers to ensure that their health information is not only accessible, but also equitable. Wise application of technology, health literacy, and information learning principles, along with creative use of social media, peer exchanges, and community health workers, can help mitigate much of the health information gaps that exist among DHH individuals.

Article

Michel Foucault and Communication Studies  

Catherine Chaput

Michel Foucault, who was born in 1926 into an upper-middle-class family, came of age in post-World War II Paris, studied with Louis Althusser, and rose to intellectual prominence in the 1970s, died on June 25, 1984. The near celebrity status that he acquired during his lifetime has multiplied since his death as the Foucault of disciplinary power has been supplemented with the Foucault of neoliberalism, biopolitics, aesthetics of the self, and the ontology of the present. These different forms of Foucauldian analysis are often grouped into three phases of scholarship that include the archeological, the genealogical, and the ethical. The first period, produced throughout the 1960s, focuses on the relationship between discourse and knowledge; the second period, developed throughout the 1970s, zeroes in on diverse structures of historically evolving power relations; and, the Foucault that emerged in the 1980s explores technologies of the self or the work of the self on the self. This well-recognized periodization highlights the triangulated structure of associations among knowledge, power, and subjectivity that animated his work. Because a number of decentered relations, something he called governmentality, are woven through everyday experience, Foucault questioned the assumption that communication takes place between autonomous, self-aware individuals who use language to negotiate and organize community formation and argued instead that this web of discourse practices and power relations produces subjects differentially suited to the contingencies of particular historical epochs. Although a critical consensus has endorsed this three-part taxonomy of Foucault’s scholarship, the interpretation of these periods varies. Some view them through a linear progression in which the failures of one moment lay the groundwork for the superseding moment: his discursive emphasis in the archeological phase gave way to his emphasis on power in the genealogical phase which, in turn, gave way to his focus on subjectivity in the ethical phase. Others, such as Jeffrey Nealon, understand the shifts as “intensifications” (p. 5) wherein each phase tightens his theoretical grip, triangulating knowledge, power, and subjectivity ever more densely. Still others suggest that the technologies of the self that undergird Foucault’s ethical period displace the leftist orientation of his early work with a latent conservatism. Regardless of where one lands on this debate, Foucault’s three intellectual phases cohere around an ongoing analysis of the relationships among knowledge, power, and subjectivity—associations at the heart of communication studies. Focused on how different subjects experience the established “regime of truth,” Foucault’s historical investigations, while obviously diverse, maintain a similar methodology, one he labeled the history of thought and contrasted with the history of ideas. As he conceives it, the history of ideas attempts to determine the origin and evolution of a particular concept through an uninterrupted teleology. He distinguishes his method, the history of thought, through its focus on historical problematization. This approach explores “the way institutions, practices, habits, and behavior become a problem for people who have certain types of habits, who engage in certain kinds of practices, and who put to work specific kinds of institutions.” In short, he studies how people and society deal with a phenomenon that has become a problem for them. This approach transforms the narrative of human progress into a history broken by concrete political, economic, and cultural problems whose resolution requires reconstituting the prevailing knowledge–power–subject dynamics. Put differently, Foucault illuminates historical breaks and the shifts required for their repair. Whereas the history of ideas erases the discontinuity among events, he highlights those differences and studies the process by which they dissolve within a singular historical narrative. Glossing his entire oeuvre, he suggests that his method can address myriad concerns, including “for example, about madness, about crime, about sex, about themselves, or about truth.” An overarching approach that intervenes into dominant narratives in order to demonstrate their silencing effects, the history of thought undergirds all three of Foucault’s externally imposed periods. Each period explores knowledge, power, and subjectivity while stressing one nodal point of the relationship: archeology stresses knowledge formation; genealogy emphasizes power formation; and the ethical period highlights subject formation. This strikingly original critical approach has left its mark on a wide range of theorists, including such notable thinkers as Gilles Deleuze, Giorgio Agamben, Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, Donna Haraway, and Judith Butler, and has influenced critical communication scholars such as Raymie McKerrow, Ronald Greene, Kendell Phillips, Jeremy Packer, and Laurie Ouellete.

Article

Power and Control in Communication Studies  

Mohan Jyoti Dutta

Power constitutes discourse and is in turn, constituted by discourse. Power mediates the relationship between economics and discourse, working through discourse to reproduce the extractive interests of capital. It is on hand, embedded in economic structures; on the other hand, it is often enacted through discursive processes, discursive spaces, and discursive tactics. A conceptual framework for theorizing power is offered in this overview in order to understand the various approaches to power in communication studies, the divergences between these approaches and the convergences between them. A Marxist analysis of power as rooted in economic structures and exerted in oppression is positioned in relationship with post-structuralist reading of power as fragmented and multi-sited. Reading power and control through a framework of intersectionality foregrounds the intersections between class, race, gender, caste, and colonial formations. The various sites of workings of power are examined, from interpersonal relationships, to groups, to organizations and communities, to mediated spaces. The roles of communication strategy, communicative inversions, and communicative erasure are articulated in the context of power, depicting the ways in which power plays out through communication. These concepts then grapple with the contemporary context of power and communication in the realm of the digital, and outline potential anchors for communication scholarship seeking to explain & resist power amid the digital turn in the neoliberal transformation of the globe. Attention is paid to the extractive industries, poor working conditions, big data industries driving behavior change, and digital development markets that are continually consolidating new forms of capitalist profiteering.

Article

Feminist Organizational Communication  

Colleen E. Arendt and Patrice M. Buzzanell

Feminist organizational communication scholarship can be framed in four ways. The four frames display how feminisms encourage: (a) questioning gender difference; (b) performing/queering organizing; (c) disrupting online and offline organizations and their alternatives; and (d) challenging macro-Discourses and structures of gender inequality. In discussing discourses and structures, it is important to include how feminist organizational communication scholars generate knowledge(s) within and across particularities and unities, engage contradiction, and unveil neoliberalism, especially meritocracy and ideal worker norms. In discussing feminist organizational communication, the emerging trends in discovery, learning, and engagement focus on: (a) contradiction, (b) context, (c) difference, and (d) resistance through and by human and nonhuman agents.

Article

Fact-Checking as Idea and Practice in Journalism  

Lucas Graves and Michelle A. Amazeen

Fact-checking has a traditional meaning in journalism that relates to internal procedures for verifying facts prior to publication, as well as a newer sense denoting stories that publicly evaluate the truth of statements from politicians, journalists, or other public figures. Internal fact-checking first emerged as a distinct role in U.S. newsmagazines in the 1920s and 1930s, decades in which the objectivity norm became established among American journalists. While newspapers have not typically employed dedicated fact-checkers, the term also refers more broadly to verification routines and the professional concern with factual accuracy. Both scholars and journalists have been concerned with a decline of internal fact-checking resources and routines in the face of accelerated publishing cycles and the economic crisis faced by news organizations in many parts of the world. External fact-checking consists of publishing an evidence-based analysis of the accuracy of a political claim, news report, or other public text. Organizations specializing in such “political” fact-checking have been established in scores of countries around the world since the first sites appeared in the United States in the early 2000s. These outlets may be based in established news organizations but also “good government” groups, universities, and other areas of civil society; practitioners generally share the broad goals of helping people become better informed and promoting fact-based public discourse. A burgeoning area of research has tried to measure the effectiveness of various kinds of external fact-checking interventions in countering misinformation and promoting accurate beliefs. This literature generally finds that fact-checking can be effective in experimental settings, though the influence of corrections is limited by the familiar mechanisms of motivated reasoning.

Article

Scientific Uncertainty in Health and Risk Messaging  

Stephen Zehr

Expressions of scientific uncertainty are normal features of scientific articles and professional presentations. Journal articles typically include research questions at the beginning, probabilistic accounts of findings in the middle, and new research questions at the end. These uncertainty claims are used to construct clear boundaries between uncertain and certain scientific knowledge. Interesting questions emerge, however, when scientific uncertainty is communicated in occasions for public science (e.g., newspaper accounts of science, scientific expertise in political deliberations, science in stakeholder claims directed to the public, and so forth). Scientific uncertainty is especially important in the communication of environmental and health risks where public action is expected despite uncertain knowledge. Public science contexts are made more complex by the presence of multiple actors such as citizen-scientists, journalists, stakeholders, social movement actors, politicians, and so on who perform important functions in the communication and interpretation of scientific information and bring in diverse norms and values. A past assumption among researchers was that scientists would deemphasize or ignore uncertainties in these situations to better match their claims with a public perception of science as an objective, truth-building institution. However, more recent research indicates variability in the likelihood that scientists communicate uncertainties and in the public reception and use of uncertainty claims. Many scientists still believe that scientific uncertainty will be misunderstood by the public and misused by interest groups involved with an issue, while others recognize a need to clearly translate what is known and not known. Much social science analysis of scientific uncertainty in public science views it as a socially constructed phenomenon, where it depends less upon a particular state of scientific research (what scientists are certain and uncertain of) and more upon contextual factors, the actors involved, and the meanings attached to scientific claims. Scientific uncertainty is often emergent in public science, both in the sense that the boundary between what is certain and uncertain can be managed and manipulated by powerful actors and in the sense that as scientific knowledge confronts diverse public norms, values, local knowledges, and interests new areas of uncertainty emerge. Scientific uncertainty may emerge as a consequence of social conflict rather than being its cause. In public science scientific uncertainty can be interpreted as a normal state of affairs and, in the long run, may not be that detrimental to solving societal problems if it opens up new avenues and pathways for thinking about solutions. Of course, the presence of scientific uncertainty can also be used to legitimate inaction.

Article

The Politics of Scientific Knowledge  

Elizabeth Suhay

This article discusses the various ways in which political concerns among government officials, scientists, journalists, and the public influence the production, communication, and reception of scientific knowledge. In so doing, the article covers a wide variety of topics, mainly with a focus on the U.S. context. The article begins by defining key terms under discussion and explaining why science is so susceptible to political influence. The article then proceeds to discuss: the government’s current and historical role as a funder, manager, and consumer of scientific knowledge; how the personal interests and ideologies of scientists can influence their research; the susceptibility of scientific communication to politicization and the concomitant political impact on audiences; the role of the public’s political values, identities, and interests in their understanding of science; and, finally, the role of the public, mainly through interest groups and think tanks, in shaping the production and public discussion of scientific knowledge. While the article’s primary goal is to provide an empirical description of these influences, a secondary, normative, goal is to clarify when political values and interests are or are not appropriate influences on the creation and dissemination of scientific knowledge in a democratic context.

Article

Health and Risk Policymaking, the Precautionary Principle, and Policy Advocacy  

Roxanne L. Parrott

Health and risk policymaking focuses on decisions made and actions undertaken to set standards and pass laws to promote healthcare and public health quality, while achieving global health security. Policymakers in governments and institutions deliberate for the purposes of achieving effective and efficient policies, revealing both acceptance and rejection of evidence from health and risk, prevention, and economic sciences, as well as gaps in these domains. Health and risk communicators function implicitly within the boundaries of these decisions and actions, while contributing to prevention science related to strategic messaging and information dissemination. Policymakers face barriers to their efforts residing in the sheer volume of health and risk sciences research; the lack of evidence demonstrating that policies lead to intended outcomes (often, because a policy has not been trialed/implemented); and the absence of economic analyses associated with costs of interventions proposed and undertaken. The precautionary principle (PP) based on adopting caution when evidence is absent, uncertain, or ambiguous regarding possible harm to humans or the environment may function as a guide in some situations. Advocates may draw attention to particular issues in other cases. Policies may be stalled owing to the policy context, including election cycles, legislative and institutional bureaucracies, competing agendas, and fragmented systems of healthcare. Health and risk communicators may collaborate with policymakers and work to translate evidence into useful formats to facilitate the application of evidence to policymaking decisions and actions.

Article

Communication From a Latin American Indigenous Perspective  

Claudia Magallanes-Blanco

Indigenous peoples from Latin America understand and use communication from an Indigenous perspective. Communication is a key aspect of their ongoing struggles for self-determination and autonomy, and the ways they understand and use communication embodies ancestral knowledge as well as technological appropriations. Communication is the main vehicle for self-representation, which is materialized in various practices, media, and messages that circulate within communities, between villages, or toward the population of metropolitan society. Communication attests to the capacity of Indigenous peoples to produce new knowledge and different culturally grounded responses to diverse times and historic contradictions. Indigenous peoples throughout Latin America use communication to serve several purposes. It reproduces worldviews deeply rooted in identity, territoriality, languages, spirituality, autonomy, and sovereignty. It is also a mechanism for community (self) reflexivity. It is a political strategy. It is a basic right. And it is a set of practices and processes that give rise to specific media products. Hence, from these purposes it is possible to recognize five dimensions of communication from a Latin American Indigenous perspective: (a) communication as cosmogony, (b) communication for community self-reflexivity, (c) communication as a political strategy (d) communication as a right, and (e) communication as a medium. These dimensions exemplify the capacity of Indigenous peoples from Latin America to produce new knowledge embedded in ancestral knowledge and to fight for self-determination, autonomy, and cognitive justice via communication.