Constructing the Self in a Mediated World

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Edited by: Debra Grodin & Thomas R. Lindlof

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  • Inquiries in Social Construction

    Series Editors

    Kenneth J. Gergen and John Shotter

    Inquiries in Social Construction is designed to facilitate across disciplinary and national boundaries, a revolutionary dialogue within the social sciences and humanities. Central to this dialogue is the idea that all presumptions of the real and the good are constructed within relations among people. This dialogue gives voice to a new range of topics, including the social construction of the person, rhetoric and narrative in the construction of reality, the role of power in making meanings, postmodernist culture and thought, discursive practices, the social constitution of the mental, dialogic process, reflexivity in theory and method, and many more. The series explores the problems and prospects generated by this new relational consciousness, and its implications for science and social life.

    Also in this series

    • The Social Construction of Lesbianism

      Celia Kitzinger

    • Rhetoric in the Human Sciences

      edited by Herbert W. Simons

    • Texts of Identity

      edited by John Shotter and Kenneth J. Gergen

    • Collective Remembering

      edited by David Middleton and Derek Edwards

    • Everyday Understanding: Social and Scientific Implications

      edited by Gün R. Semin and Kenneth J. Gergen

    • Research and Reflexivity

      edited by Frederick Steier

    • Constructing Knowledge: Authority and Critique in Social Science

      edited by Lorraine Nencel and Peter Pels

    • Discursive Psychology

      Derek Edwards and Jonathan Potter

    • Therapy as Social Construction

      edited by Sheila McNamee and Kenneth J. Gergen

    • Psychology and Postmodernism

      edited by Steinar Kvale

    • Constructing the Social

      edited by Theodore R. Sorbin and John I. Kitsuse

    • Conversational Realities: Constructing Life Through Language

      John Shotter

    • Power/Gender: Social Relations in Theory and Practice

      edited by H. Lorraine Ratke and Henderikus J. Stam

    • After Postmodernism: Reconstructing Ideology Critique

      edited by Herbert W. Simons and Michael Billig

    • The Social Self

      edited by David Bakhurst and Christine Sypnowich

    Copyright

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    Preface

    Several years ago, when we began this project on self and media, we did so with enthusiasm for this promising area of interdisciplinary investigation. As communication researchers, we observed how our mediated world has challenged assumptions about the self, both academically and in the popular imagination. That's what led to the development of this book. A tip-off for us about the saliency of a project on self and media came by way of nonscholarly responses to our topic. The mention of this book to friends and others who were not academics was met with uniform enthusiasm, indicating to us that issues of self and media need more articulation, not only in scholarly circles but in the culture “outside” of the academy.

    Notions of the self as highly contained and stable have historically dominated research approaches in the social sciences, including the study of media. This means that many studies about the human experience of media decontextualize the self and do not emphasize socially constructed aspects of identity and experience. Over the past 20 years, the socially constructed nature of the self has been the premise of many important research projects, but during that time relatively little attention has been given to the relationship between self and media.

    Although there has been some significant theoretical work in the area of self and mediated communication, there are still few actual research projects, particularly those involving research participants. This volume is a first attempt to bring together some of the original research that is currently being done in this area. In addition, several chapters are theoretical. In working together as editors, we found ourselves deepening our interests in the topic of self and media, and also recognizing how far-reaching a topic it is. For example, during this project, we both developed a strong interest in issues of mediated communication and community. Many of the pieces we've collected for this volume are not just about the self but about self in relation to others, and in context.

    A number of people contributed their expertise toward the development and completion of this book. Conversations with Mick Presnell, Nina Gregg, Andrea Press, and Kelly Coyle helped with the initial development of the project. Autumn Grubb-Swetnam was a sounding board along the way. The University of Louisville (Debra Grodin's academic home when the project began) supported a leave that enabled work on this book, and the Northwest Center for Research on Women at the University of Washington offered an academic affiliation.

    Pulling together an edited volume is a social experience. The book evolved as a result of our contributors, and we are grateful for their interest in the project.

    Sophy Craze, our editor at Sage, has been a calm and encouraging voice during the course of the project, steering us efficiently and thoughtfully and deeply understanding our purposes. We also thank Astrid Virding at Sage for her guidance during the production process. Our series editor, Ken Gergen, provided needed critiques in the beginning and later phases of our work.

    We also want to thank our partners. Bill Mowat provided unstinting support for the project, including computer assistance in difficult moments and a genuine interest in the topic. Joanne Popa Lindlof, as always, gave wonderful advice and encouragement and helped secure the moments and places in which the work got done. We are grateful for their help.

  • About the Authors

    James A. Anderson is Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication at the University of Utah. His research interests are in the epistemological foundations of communication theory and the application of social action approaches to the study of communication. His most recent book is Communication Theory: Epistemological Foundations.

    Mary Ellen Brown is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Her research interests are in the cultural analysis of television audience reading practices, particularly in relation to gender politics. She is the author of Soap Opera and Women's Talk: The Pleasure of Resistance and has edited Television and Women's Culture: The Politics of Pleasure.

    Donal Carbaugh is Professor of Communication and Faculty Affiliate in American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His current research involves cultural analyses and comparative studies of American, American Indian, Finnish, and Russian communication systems. His research has been published in over a dozen academic journals and includes the books Situating Selves, Talking American: Cultural Discourses on Donahue and the edited book Cultural Communication and Intercultural Contact.

    Kenneth J. Gergen is the Mustin Professor of Psychology, Swarthmore College. He is the author of Toward Transformation in Social Knowledge, The Saturated Self and Realities and Relationships: Soundings in Social Construction. He is a central exponent of social constructionism in the social sciences.

    Debra Grodin is Visiting Scholar at the University of Washington, Northwest Center for Research on Women, and formerly a faculty member of the Department of Communication at the University of Louisville. Her research has been published in Critical Studies in Mass Communication, Text and Performance Quarterly, and the Journal of Communication. Her current research interest is in how self and community are experienced in the context of mediated culture.

    Autumn Grubb-Swetnam received her Ph.D. in communications at the University of Kentucky in 1994. Her research interests include media and cultural studies, social change, and feminist theory. Currently, she administers the internal and external video communication needs of Morehead State University.

    Thomas R. Lindlof is Associate Professor of Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is the editor of Natural Audiences: Qualitative Research of Media Uses and Effects and author of Qualitative Communication Research Methods. He has published extensively on mediated communication processes, audience theory, and qualitative research methodology.

    Sheila McNamee is Associate Professor and Chair of Communication at the University of New Hampshire. She has published several articles exploring conceptualizations of research as social intervention. She has also written on social constructionist approaches to family therapy.

    Patricia J. Priest received her Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of Georgia in 1992. In the summer of 1993, she traveled through Argentina on a Fulbright-Hays grant to study women's issues, particularly women's efforts to effect social change. She is currently a freelance writer who has published in the Washington Post and Electronic Media. She is the author of Public Intimacies: Talk Show Participants and Tell-All TV.

    Gerard T. Schoening is Assistant Professor of Communication at LaSalle University. His current interest is in the relationship between social action and visual communication. Recent theoretical research on social action theory in mass media has been published in Communication Theory (along with James Anderson) and The Electronic Journal of Communication.

    Wendy Simonds is Assistant Professor in the Institute of the Liberal Arts at Emory University. She is author of Abortion at Work: Ideology and Practice in a Feminist Clinic, Women and Self-Help Culture: Reading Between the Lines, and coauthor (with Barbara Katz Rothman) of Centuries of Solace: Expressions of Maternal Grief in Popular Literature.

    Timothy A. Simpson is a doctoral student in communication and cultural studies at the University of South Florida. His dissertation research examines the discourses of historical preservation, cultural memory, identity, and community that surround Ybor City, Florida, a national historic landmark district located in Tampa, Florida.

    Sherry Turkle is Professor of the Sociology of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She holds a joint doctorate in sociology and personality psychology from Harvard University and is a licensed clinical psychologist. She is the author of Psychoanalytic Politics: Jacques Lacan and Freud's French Revolution; The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit; and Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet.

    Suzanna Danuta Walters is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University and is the author of two books, Lives Together/Worlds Apart: Mothers and Daughters in Popular Culture and Material Girls: Making Sense of Feminist Cultural Theory. She has lectured and written extensively on feminist theory and popular culture, and is currently working on a study of contemporary representations of lesbians and gays.


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