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The Individual in Communication Research: Part IV

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This is the fourth part of a series that traces the history of how the idea of the "individual" has been understood in the history of media research. In a way, this part recounts American social science reaching some form of theoretical climax. The theories born in this particularly fecund period of positivist social science research, have grown to become some of the best known and established theories in the literature, with an enduring legacy of widespread application.

Read part 1 here.
Read part 2 here.
Read part 3 here.


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The Individual in Dominant Media Theories

Following the criticisms raised against the “minimal effects” era, there was renewed enthusiasm about finding “not so minimal effects” of media. Shanto Iyengar and colleagues for example, did precisely that. They conducted experimental studies to assess the impact of television programs on individuals and found evidence of how “profoundly” individuals were affected by what they saw (Iyengar, Peters, & Kinder…

The Individual in Communication Research: Part III

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This is the third part of a series I'm writing, tracing the history of how the idea of the "individual" has been understood in the history of media research. The first two parts dealt with how the conception of the individual moved from one that assumed passive acceptance of media messages, to one that more deeply considered the role of human agency in how they interpreted the message. In this part, I trace how the thinking continued along those lines and how the period following the active audience era  became synonymous with the future positivism of American social science research.

Read part 1 here.
Read part 2 here.

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More Power to the Individual

Joseph Klapper (1960) sums up the problem of the individual in communication research by highlighting the hitherto lack of social context. He writes, that “if the influence of mass communication is to be described in socially meaningful terms, research must […] inquire into the relative prevalence of the conditions u…

The Individual in Communication Research: Part II

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This is the second part of a series I'm writing, tracing the history of how the idea of the "individual" has been understood in the history of media research. The first part dealt with how the "individual" was theorized in the very early days of social science research, and how it evolved with the socio-political changes that occurred during the between the world wars. This section highlights the paradigmatic changes that followed in the scholarship after the second world war.

Read part 1 here.

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The Active Audience

The role of the individual in media effects research became more prominent as the field of communication progressed. The persuasion theories of propaganda research, the “magic bullet” model, though fanciful, failed to live up to the empirical evidence that social science research continued to uncover.

In a seminal albeit controversial work, Angus Campbell, Philip Converse, and others in the University of Michigan wrote a book called The American …

The "Individual" in Communication Research: Part I

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This is the first part of a series I'm writing, tracing the history of how the idea of the "individual" has been understood in the history of media research. The primary reason why I'm doing it is personal: that tracing the history of a scientific discipline, is to me is an important, if often overlooked aspect of studying that discipline, because it helps consolidate the various ways in which researchers and theorists have thought about something in the past. However, if you do chance upon this series online, and find it relevant for your needs, I hope it'll help you to understand the field better as well.

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In the fourth century BC, the “newest” technology of communication was not very new. It was that of the written word, and it had been “invented” nearly three millennia ago. And much like how scholars today debate the manner in which communication technologies affect us and shape our lives, Socrates was engaging in a similar debate with the Athenian aristo…