Centre for Culture, Media &  Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi (CCMG, henceforth) in collaboration with Academic Staff College, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi conducts and organizes  every year the University Grants Commission Refresher Course  on Media Studies, Culture and Governance for the in-service faculty across the country. The first such RC was organized in February 2013.

The 2nd Refresher Course 2014 on Media Studies and Governance started on 14th January and will continue till 4th February, 2014.

Day 1/ 15 January 2014

 As per the RC programme, Professor Biswajit Das, Director of Centre for Culture, Media and Governance, delivered two lectures: “Interdisciplinarity in Communication” and “Communication Studies in India”. The third lecture of the day was delivered by Dr. Laura Stein, Fulbright Fellow at Centre for Culture, Media and Governance on “Communication Studies in the United States”.

1st  Lecture : Interdisciplinarity in Communication

Professor Das initiated the discussion by stating that “we are all  involved and experience Communication in our day to day life”. Such involvement does not necessarily make us to make analysis and exegesis of communication. Hence, most of our understanding is based on commonsense. There is a need to make sense of communication from the common sense. ???????????????????????????????Besides, Communication exists since time immemorial ever since the existence of society. However, theorizing and developing a perspective to understand communication is a recent one.

The history of Communication as interdisciplinary programme dates back to the two World wars. One of the pioneer Prof. Hutchins, Rector in Chicago University patronized studies in communication.  Interestingly, scholars like Robert Azra park studied on newspaper to forge community. Scholars like Shanon & Weaver and Norbert Weiner also contributed to understand Communication with the help of Information Theory. Weiner’s study on neuro pshychology, artificial intelligence, factory automation contributed significantly to understand communication. Weiner developed the idea of Entropy that remained for decades in the vocabulary of Communication Studies. Weiener’s study on probability with the help of studying anti aircraft fire  during the war is another significant contribution. The idea of feedback was the outcome of such research that dominated the major discourse of Communication till 7os. Weiner’s cybernetic theory is concerned with studying how messages are exchanged between two or more units. Cybernetics believes circular causalities.  Another significant contribution came from Douglas Waple, a specialist in Information Science. There were significant contributions during this time. Infact, Douglas Waple linked communication studies  to industry and contributed immensely to the growth of Communication.  Along with the end of the world wars, the purpose of the committee was lost . Although there were attempts to understand public opinion, Democracy during the postwar period. The first Press Committee was set in the name of Huthins which is still used as the mental signpost for studies and policy making on Freedom of Press.

The postwar witnessed a decline in interest and lack of enthusiasts to take up interdisciplinary concerns in Communication. ???????????????????????????????Prof. Wilbur Schramm filled the void by creating the discipline of Communication and taking up issues left and unaddressed by the earlier committee. Ever since Mass Communication institutions mushroomed across universities in US.

The middle class can use the technology and can decide and judge on its own.

A participant makes his point during the Q&A session

2nd Lecture : Communication Studies in India

In the second lecture on Communication Studies in India, Prof. Das spoke about the institutional history of communication and commented on the inability of existing pedagogies to address the larger questions posed by civil society and industry and policy makers. Prof. Das presented the status of publications in peer review by scholars and impact factors.  The data presented revealed that more needs to be done by scholars in the field.  Prof. Das concluded with the  following points:

1.  there is a lack of fit between the quantitative expansion of media courses and their ability to address the challenges posed by various actors (State, Industry and rest of the Civil society) in the expanding media scape in India.

2. Media growth has pushed the need for more specialized, practice oriented media related courses to suit the requirements of the industry. The discipline has thus become a capsule of various ‘mediums’ of the media – journalism, cinema, broadcasting etc – each demanding separate curriculum based on skills specific to the medium. This has resulted in fragmentation of knowledge and interdisciplinarity has also been a casualty.

3.  This fragmentation is also visible in the curriculum and pedagogy of Media and communication Studies in Central Universities, which is  expanding on a horizontal rather than a vertical axis. The growth is thus characterized  by specializations and proliferation of horizontal subfields.

4.  Despite the tremendous growth of the field, media courses in Central Universities are faced with a knowledge problem, caught between the practitioners and the disciplinarians, lacking theoretical engagement and reflexivity; and in an intrinsic sense fully satisfying the demands and challenges of neither the practitioner nor the disciplinarian.

5.  These disciplines have not addressed common questions regarding media and society, which are basic to challenge traditional notions surrounding the relevance of the role of media in society. Its emphasis on teaching has become a function of the dynamics of demand and supply in the media industry, instead of commenting on industry practices, organizations for innovations, and indeed, the organic influences of society on personnel, practices and organizations of media.

6.   A related issue is ghettoisation in the field. Media studies rarely cited from inside and is rarely cited by other disciplines. There is a glaring intellectual capacity and transactional deficit. So much of understanding of media and communication studies  and gains of research are therefore wasted due to the lack of porosity and increasing cubicalization of knowledge in the field. ???????????????????????????????

Participants of the RC listen to the lecture

7.   Media scholars are less familiar and less willing to engage with significant theoretical and methodological developments outside their niche. This insularity is further depriving the creation of new knowledge.

8. Despite an overwhelming set of developments in media policy and regulation, media courses do not typically engage with the thematic. They are devoid of critiques of the new policy milieu and its implications on society.

9.   The faculty members recruited in these institutions are groomed in sectoral set up addressing specific medium in question. And are, however, unable to address and link to larger questions of Communication.

10.  Despite an overwhelming set of developments in media policy and regulation, media courses do not typically engage with the thematic. They are devoid of critiques of the new policy milieu and its implications on society.

11.  The trajectory of Media Studies speaks of a particular fascination with technological objects and artefacts, indulging in technophilic discourses about society, without taking into account its social construction and consumption.

12.   The state of research within the university departments needs further attention. While many of the departments are new, but even among the older ones, the number of doctoral programmes and research projects is rather limited and the scope of research is also narrow.

13.   Lack of scholarly writings is due to lack of Research Training and ability to undertake empirical research in the field. Most of the institutions have little or no research endeavors that engage the students and require them to do a more in-depth study of issues. The lack of rigour and intensity in research efforts further calcifies the general perception of inadequacy and superficiality.

14.   Although Communications studies is a growing field and embodies many of the institutional professional trappings of an academic discipline, but its core, its intellectual focus has not yet coalesced, and remains radically heterogeneous and largely derivative.

15. Media Institutions  through their pedagogical traditions need to fruitfully address contemporary developments and live up to their role as public institutions, and role models for innovations in emerging fields of knowledge.  This is an important concern in view of the fact that pioneering efforts towards strengthening pedagogy, research and creation of a body of new knowledge is essentially a public good and privately funded educational institutions with their focus on short term benefits of employment in the media industry cannot be expected to invest time, effort or financial resources for such public purposes.

16.    These centres of learning, particularly those in the public system and universities specifically, need to dedicate more energy to ‘basic’ research, theoretical self-reflection and critical engagement.

3 rd Lecture: Communication Studies in the United States

The third lecture was delivered by Dr. Laura Stein, in which she discussed the Communication Studies in the US. She said that communication is at the centre of everything. Communication is access to media. Conversation is about to define the boundaries of communication.???????????????????????????????

Dr. Laura Stein speaking at the RC

In the United States, there are critical scholarship, administrative scholarship, interdisciplinary scholarship and fans vs. critics but they all focus on the same subject. Study of communication began in 1940s during World War II to enhance effectiveness in military training.

There are different aspects of communication studies and is grouped variedly with social sciences, humanities and natural sciences. To construct theorectical bridges from one to another, interdisciplinarity is a strength. She illustrated this with the  example of Environmental Communication, where one studies destructive relationship of humans with environment, environmental  rhetoric discourse, advocacy, green marketing, etc.

It is a mosaic, in the interdiscipline all the methods of different disciplines are employed but not the discipline.