Mediated Communication and the Evolving Science System

Andres Gregor Zelman
Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), The University of Amsterdam
September, 2001
 

Abstract


"Mediated Communication and the Evolving Science System:
Mapping the Network Architecture of Knowledge Production"



The advent of electronic media into the academic environment has forever changed the way that academics communicate, perform their research, and contribute to the production of knowledge. To address this problematic a range of distinct theoretical literatures were reviewed, drawing from both symbolic and modelling approaches; each of these addressed the complexities between media difference and their implied modes of knowledge production. The central arguments were then integrated with a variety of metric approaches to mapping human communication from the fields of Science & Technology Studies and Communication Science. Medium Theory was reviewed to provide the theoretical grounding of the research project. Structuralism, Poststructuralism, and Structuration Theory were reviewed as symbolic approaches to the problematic of mediated human communication. Finally, Actor Network Theory and Second Order Cybernetics were reviewed as modelling approaches.



In juxtaposition to these theoretical approaches, several dominant metric techniques used to map human communication were surveyed, including bibliometrics, scientometrics, and cybermetrics. The metric analyses situated the study, and were introduced as the means through which the problematic of media overlap and its impact upon processes of knowledge production could be addressed. The theoretical and empirical approaches were woven into a unique methodology for the analysis.



The communications of the Self Organization of the European Information Society (SOEIS) research project selected for the case study were divided into four discrete domains for analyses: print communication, electronic communication, publication behaviour, and mailing list dynamics. The analysis of the print revealed patterns of codification of scientific information, networks of cognitive orientation, and the systemic dimensions of print word distribution. It was found that print increasingly biased function-oriented words, in contrast to the electronic which exhibited an increasing frequency of words that contributed to the activity of the project; emails were thereby found to supplement project activity. The SOEIS print communications proved to be heavily codified and aggregative, whereas the electronic appeared resistant to codification. The analysis of journal publication revealed a bias toward Policy and Informatics oriented journals as shown by the predominance of Scientometrics and Research Policy. The SOIES group cited Research Policy articles in an effort to authenticate the policy relevance of scientometric research; it was in turn cited by journals published in Scientometrics. The analysis of the mailing list environment revealed that email did foster unique network relations between researchers, and that email served to supplement (not supplant) print communications. In closing, the challenges associated with integrating symbolic and modelling approaches were addressed, and suggestions for future researchers provided by means of a proposed software toolbox for the study of media difference: the Media Analysis Toolbox (MAT).


The overriding research question was thereby addressed and answered: "do print and electronic media foster unique types of media environment, and are different modes of knowledge production and meaningful exchange thereby implied with each medium and its use?" Yes, print and electronic media do foster distinct types of knowledge production, and it is in the context of their interrelation that the general import of media, and of media difference, becomes clear.



(Dissertation available for download at http://www.rozenbergps.com/files/zelman.pdf)
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