Society for the Social Study of Mobile Communications

The Society for the Social Study of Mobile Communication (SSSMC) is intended to facilitate the international advancement of cross-disciplinary mobile communication studies. It is intended to serve as a resource and to support a network of scholarly research as to the social consequences of mobile communication.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

CFP: Special Issue Submissions Future of Mass Communication Theory and Research in a Changing Communication Environment

Deadline Extended for Submissions to Special Issue of Mass Communication & Society

Mass Communication & Society
Deadline Extended to Oct. 1, 2014 for Special Issue Submissions Future of Mass Communication Theory and Research in a Changing Communication Environment 
Guest Editor: L. W. Jeffres, Cleveland State University

Many of the key mass communication theories mined by scholars today emerged when what constitutes mass media was clear and relatively unambiguous.  Thus, relationships between mass and interpersonal communication were often central themes-in diffusion of innovations, the spiral of silence, the knowledge gap, two-step flow, and agenda-setting.  Similarly, it was fairly straight forward to link uses and gratifications or the cultivation of audience perceptions to media patterns.  And while research programs have advanced our knowledge following these traditions in the past couple decades, the communication environment has changed dramatically.  The premise of this special issue is that our concepts, conceptualizations, and theories need to be re-examined as the boundaries between forms of communication have become less clear.  Technology has blurred the boundaries not only between mass and interpersonal communication but also complicated relationships among forms of media and key concepts important to our theories. Making all forms of communication mobile and shifting control from encoders (media organizations) to decoders (audiences) through social media and the Internet challenges notions of social control and our models of persuasion and media effects.  Nevertheless, the one concept that has not "changed" is "communication," here taken to refer to symbolic activity-encoding and decoding of messages-regardless of whether that occurs via legacy media, websites, blogs, twitter, skyping, the cell phone or in public forums or conversations, one to one, one to many, in groups, organizations or communities. Remembering that our concepts should capture reality, how should we define "mass media" today-does a "mix of attributes" approach work?  If Chaffee and Metzger were right about the end of "mass communication," how should we/media scholars conceptualize media effects?  Can we still talk about the functions of media in society with shifting control! A noted scholar said that the one concept unique to communication was "message," which was located in the clothes-line definition of communication next to channel, between sending/encoding and receiving/decoding processes, and before feedback.  How do we conceptualize this important concept of communication and the others in this traditional definition when we have concepts that include: news, entertainment, information, content, email newsletters, websites, blogs, twitter, platform, interaction, networks, news aggregators, RSS feeds, platforms, social media, and so forth?  Unfortunately, our language has not caught up with these changes, and both popular pundits and sometimes researchers treat technology as media, mix up modes and platforms and content and messages such that our theoretical advances are muddled.  In the era of Web 3.0 and G4, this is an ideal time to stand back and see if we can provide more conceptual clarity for our theory construction and empirical advancement.

Can we develop new concepts and new theories that realistically describe the current environment or must we proceed piecemeal with our empirical studies, focusing on each new technology and each new wrinkle in how communication organizations and activity are organized?  Can the key theories mentioned above be applied to the current environment by examining key assumptions and making revisions? If so, how do the blurring boundaries among forms of communication argue for shifting our theories up to the community level and focusing on communication systems?  Philosophers of science argue that parsimony is to be valued in theory construction.  This might be an excellent time for theory integration through theory construction that integrates the past with the present. 

Mass Communication & Society invites submissions for a special issue devoted to a symposium on the future of mass communication theory and research in a rapidly changing communication environment.  A wide range of manuscripts is welcome, including conceptual essays, examinations of specific mass communication theories with attention to the issues raised here, efforts to integrate sets of mass communication theories as suggested above, empirical studies that bear on the issues, theory construction efforts, and concept explications that clarify the literature.

Deadline for submissions:  Manuscripts are to be submitted by Oct. 1, 2014, via the Mass Communication & Society online system at following the standard journal submission procedures.  Authors should note in their cover letters that the submission is for the special issue devoted to the "Future of Mass Communication Theory and Research in a Changing Communication Environment."  Final publication will be in Volume 18 (2015).  In addition to the electronic submission process, please send one hard copy to: Leo Jeffres, School of Communication, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH 44115.  Any questions concerning this call for papers or the symposium can be directed to Leo W. Jeffres,, tel: 216-687-5088 (office).