The 2015 conference theme “Communication Across the Life Span” encourages academics to explore the various ways in which our discipline provides a lens for interpreting the evolving meanings, relationships, experiences, and critical crossroads of the life course. Technological evolution, economic changes, medical advancements, environmental turbulence, political movements, and other evolving circumstances not only influence our experiences across the life span, but also the development of social policies and ethical frameworks that shape societies. Across domains, life-span dynamics are inseparable from the communication processes surrounding them.
This year’s conference theme seeks to explore the multiple ways communication affects, reflects and directs life’s trajectory. As we grow up and grow old, embrace new experiences, try on new roles, and adopt new media technologies, our sense of time, space, connection, and identity are fundamentally explored through communication. The questions of why, how, with whom, and to what end humans communicate reflect and shape their ever-changing life-span position. And, while the “life span” can be conceived as a continuum, it is also one hinged by critical junctures and bound by cultural definitions that can be better understood through communication.
The theme “Communication Across the Life Span” recognizes that as humans transition through life, communication expectations shift, roles are redefined, media use patterns transform, and interaction patterns evolve. From a thematic perspective we might consider the ways in which norms for maintaining relationships through communication shift within and between life stages. From a methodological perspective, we might explore the need for life-stage variables and age-appropriate measures.
We encourage exploration of the conference theme from a variety of viewpoints. For example, “life span” can be considered as age-connected developmental factors. But it can also be viewed as a place from which to consider social roles and cultural contexts, irrespective of chronological age. Moreover, it is important to recognize that notions of “age,” “life stage,” and “life span” are socially, geographically, and historically constructed. For example, the ways in which cultures define “generations” may be rooted in the technology, politics, or economy of the time. The conventional construction of children as asexual may constrain conversations about sexual identity and sexual health in some communities. Additionally, “new” life stages are introduced as educational and economic realities shift (witness the relatively modern construction of “adolescence” and the current interest in “emerging adult” as a distinct time of life). Adding to the ways we imagine the life span is the information that is conveyed through media; for example, portrayals of characters and celebrities set up expectations of what to wear, how to talk, and how to behave. And rapidly developing media technologies have the potential to change life stage experiences by, for example, connecting or isolating individuals or groups. As we consider issues related to “Communication Across the Life Span,” it is necessary to explore the relevant theories and methodological challenges associated with the life-span communication approach.
With this broad definition, the conference theme “Communication Across the Life Span” aims to encourage ICA’s unique interdisciplinary perspective to investigate issues that are meaningful within and across divisions and interest groups. Such issues might include:
- Intergenerational communication across cultures
- Generational differences in the adoption of communication technologies
- Experiences of inequalities over the life span
- Interpersonal communication within and/or between life stages
- Social media use and identity development
- Cradle-to-grave” marketing and consumer identity
- Life stage considerations for health promotion campaign design
- The implications of changing age contours in the workforce
- Appropriate methods, both quantitative and qualitative, needed for capturing change across time
- Questioning the expectation in communication research that life span trajectories are singular and progressive
- Political interest, engagement and participation across the life span
- The social construction of “childhood,” “middle age” and “the elderly” in popular culture
- Abstract of the PanelMost of the research on journalism studies have implicitly assumed that journalists’ role conceptions matter for the news content the media produce, although several authors have made a call for research empirically assessing that link (Weaver & Wilhoit, 1996; Shoemaker & Reese, 2014). This panel addresses that link based on empirical findings of 11 countries. Specifically, we assess how journalistic roles manifest in content, examined in media systems across the world. The panel brings together local researchers from Asia, Europe, Latin America, and, the United States who are part of the Journalistic Role Performance around the Globe project—a comparative inquiry to shed light on empirical and theoretical challenges that come with a long tradition of studying journalistic professional roles by only conducting surveys and face-to-face interviews.
These new ways of approaching the study of professional roles help us to engage with some important issues regarding how research on professional roles is undertaken. First, by focusing on role conceptions, the way those roles eventually are enacted by journalists and performed in news content has not been the focus of empirical investigation, However, only most recently have scholars provided empirical results that question the overlap between role conception, role enactment, and role performance (Mellado, 2014; Mellado & Van Dalen, 2013; Tandoc, Hellmueller & Vos, 2013). By connecting the study of profesional roles and news production, scholarly interest has moved to the key concept of journalistic role performance, understood as the manifestation of professional roles in journalistic practice (Mellado, 2014).
Furthermore, we argue that research on how journalists’ conceive of their roles should take into consideration that the influence role conceptions have in shaping news content is compromised by journalistic routines, organizational culture, and cultural systems (Shoemaker & Vos, 2009). With the goal of integrating those theoretical conceptualizatons and empirical considerations, we conducted an elaborated content analysis on a representative sample of the national press in each of the participating countries. Following the content analysis, an online/ face-to-face survey was conducted with those journalists who produced the news pieces analyzed in our content analysis sample.
The panel will provide empirical findings from different cultural, political and societal perspectives, examining the presence of different role performances, the influence of journalist´ roles on their reporting styles and interaction with sources, as well as the relationship between professional role conception and role performance.