A Dictionary of Communication and Media Studies (Second Edition)

James Watson

Anne Hill

According to the authors of what the book jacket describes as "this highly-acclaimed dictionary," preparation of a second edition was a daunting experience. As their own reading in the area expanded, and media research and scholarship grew in the five years since the first edition, they "were besieged by some 200 prospective entries pressing for admission" (p. 1).

Their response was to jettison entries on architecture, art, theatre and music, which they felt were covered adequately else-where, and to concentrate on material they consider "will more directly relate to the interests of communication and media studies students and the requirements of their course programmes" (p. 1). To do so, the authors have revised, cut and/or updated many first edition entries, added several communication models, and "expanded the number of entries on interpersonal communication, public address, information technology, communication theory; and we have attempted to flesh out coverage of sociological perspectives" (p. 1).

A sampling of the dictionary's content reveals that the authors have had fairly good, but mixed results in realizing their intentions. (I defy anyone to "read" this or any such "book" from cover-to-cover and still maintain his or her sanity!) The range and coverage of the entries would appear to be very extensive. The diagrammatic communication models are particularly welcome (possibly a reflection of this writer's personal bias) and graphically break up the columnar blandness of the rest of the text. The entries examined would also seem to be fairly accurate and are written in a manner that should be accessible for the student readership at which the dictionary is aimed primarily.

There are several facets of this dictionary that make it rather "user friendly" (another feature that recommends it for a student audience): Source references are included within each entry rather than at the end in the form of a bibliography. At the end of some entries, an asterisk () denotes a book or books "of special interest or value for further reading on the topic" (p.1). Entries are well cross-referenced, with related terms being included within, or placed at the end of an entry, and printed in capital letters. In addition to the individual entries, there are 14 collective ones (e.g., broadcasting, communication models, technology of the media, violence and the media, etc.) "to help the reader pursue research beyond individual entries, and to establish links between entries" (p. 1). And the list of entries themselves is preceded by four pages of "selected useful abbreviations" (although the emphasis is dominantly British).

This dictionary is not without its shortcomings, of course. Many will find names and terms they consider significant to be given short shrift or excluded altogether. None of the following, for example, were listed in the dictionary: administrative and critical research, symbolic interactionism, phenomenology, Lazarsfeld, Ellul, Habermas, Chomsky, postmodernism. Canadian communication scholars may be particularly perplexed to discover that, although Marshall McLuhan receives a sizeable entry, Harold Innis is ignored altogether. (There is not even a recognition of BIAS OF COMMUNICATION in the Bias entry.)

Another shortcoming relates to the culturally specific nature of many of the entries. The British emphasis of the dictionary is particularly noticeable in the areas of broadcasting, policy and popular culture: e.g., Ullswater Committee Report on Broadcasting 1936, Third Programme, video-nasties, Zircon affair, folk devils, Loony Leftism, etc. (Viewed positively in this regard, the dictionary might be seen as a cross-cultural or intercultural key to British communication and media studies.)

For all its shortcomings, this volume should have some utility for all "students" in the communication field, no matter what their level of sophistication. But it is significant to bear in mind that the book is designated as a, rather than the dictionary of communication and media studies (and perhaps unwittingly sagacious of Watson and Hill to have done so). Given the importance of a lexicon for defining the purview of a field of study, perhaps someone should undertake the task of producing "The Canadian Dictionary of Communication and Media Studies" (or would it be "The Dictionary of Canadian Communication and Media Studies"?) to supplement Watson and Hill's. Or we could simply take them up on their offer to drop them a line to identify neglected or unclear entries, making their task of preparing a third edition an even more difficult, if not impossible one.



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We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.

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