Communication Research in India: Trends and Perspectives
Prof. Biswajit Das
Prof. Biswajit Das unfolded the historical trajectories of communication research which provided the framework to understand the contemporary research in this field of enquiry. He started the lecture by posing some fundamental questions with respect to the purpose and methods of the communication research. Why does one take up the communication research? As a research scholar of communication studies one should be clear about her purpose of the research whether it is to legitimize State’s projects or Media Company or it is for the critical social reflection and contribution of the knowledge. The primary step of any research is to trace the trends of the research. This exercise is necessary to understand research gaps and not to be confined to the ‘event-oriented’ research.
Past research trends are not exclusive from the present trends and there are continuities, therefore, Prof Das described a broader outline of thematics of the communication since pre-communication days. We know comparatively less about pre-colonial research as documentation processes started in the colonial period. Post 1950s the village became one of the prominent sites of communication research all over the world. Village studies came up in the 1950s and one of the noted among them is D N Mujamdar’s work on Caste and Village Life. In the 1950s and 1960s, impact assessment of mass communication and opinion-research picked up. The methodological watersheds emerged with the usage of compilation and documentation as primary techniques.
Next phase of communication research largely came up through the state-led ‘community development programme’ which was largely sponsored by the Cornell University, USA. It is in this phase that ‘Communication’ turned into a category to be measured and it was considered as an external input for development. In the 1970s under the name of ‘extension’ research, the communication research covered the range of issues including agriculture, family planning and rural development. The terms like ‘development’, ‘technology’, ‘facility’ got the currency and these studies were conducted under statist control. Thus, the first generation of communication research kept several crucial research questions of communication and social structure formations out of its purview.
Post 1990s witnessed the arrival of new actors in producing and managing communication. The questions about ICT and Governance came to the centre-stage. According to Prof Das, the three rudiments of present era are right to communicate, discrepancy between human ability and need to communicate and right to privacy. Recent studies are dominated by the paradigms of mass communication and interpersonal communication.
Prof Das emphasised the need to historicise the communication research and approaching it from the history as a method perspective. Media-centric and sectoral approach misses out these historical details and therefore engagement with the archival methods forms a pre-requisite in the communication research. The proliferation of media technologies further deviated and narrowed its engagement with a ‘medium perspective’ without realizing the fact that these media are concerned with communication across society. He calls our attention to lack of philosophical and theoretical engagements with the communication scholarship and research in India. Though there are some efforts to bring ethnographic and historic methods to the communication studies, it is still under-theorized in social sciences and un-theorized in the realm of communication research.
History, Culture and Identity: A Communication Perspective
Prof. Shashi Bhushan Upadhyay
Prof. Shashi Bhushan Upadhyay, Professor of History with Indira Gandhi National Open University delivered a lecture on “History, Culture and Identity: A Communication Perspective”.
Revolving around the four fundamental terms “History, Culture, Identity and Communication”, Prof. Upadhyay provided a detailed account of the evolution of human societies from hunting and gathering to pastoral to agricultural to industrial and the patterns of communication during every stage. Communication, according to Prof. Upadhyay, can be physical and non-physical. Among the non-physical, the speaker mentioned the importance of voice-box and put forth examples showing how sounds can be joined to make words, and this mode of communication existed during the past. However, it is this communication that led to the formation of society. This became apparent when Prof. Upadhyay mentioned: “the more complex the communication, the more complex the society”. This ‘complex’ is further understood as the cultural development of society (macro) rather than the biological development of an individual (micro). This also apparently means that the development of society goes hand in hand with the development of communication system.
Prof. Upadhyay also shed light on the development of communication from oral-communication and transportation as a means of communication (using domestic animals and later ships for communication) in simple societies to the developed communication system (such as communication through print, communication through manual writing,) in the pre-modern societies to well developed communication system (through technological advancement) in the contemporary societies. Following this, the speaker briefed about the role of communication in changing societies. The formation of communities acts as the participatory spaces for its members to exchange information, participation being fundamental outcome of the community formation. It is through this participation that members of a community interact, inform and get informed, accumulate knowledge, make decisions and tackle their problems.
Lastly, the speaker offered details about the communication revolution post Second World War which predominantly surfaced out of the industrial revolution where Prof. Upadhyay mentioned the means of communication such as telegraph and radio and later telephone, cinema and railways.
Reviewing the Research Literature
Dr. Manisha Sethi
In the last session of the day, Dr. Manisha Sethi, Assistant Professor, Centre for Comparative Religions and Civilizations, Jamia Millia Islamia dealt with the following aspects on literature review:
I. Need of carrying out literature review
- To start writing down the research problem- the researcher should be aware of the kinds of materials available on the field under study. In present scenario, most of the works are interdisciplinary in nature, so the researcher needs to look for multiple sources for carrying out literature review.
- The Gap factor– By carrying out effective literature review, the researcher can assess the existing gap prevailing in the study. It also provides an opportunity to assess the weakness of the argument of earlier studies. In terms of adding knowledge to the discipline, one should be aware about the prevailing gap in the discipline.
- To be aware of the debates and the kinds of arguments within the field one should carry out literature review.
II. Various types of literature review
- Review of Arguments: The researcher should make reviews of various arguments that exist in the knowledge system for correlation purpose.
- Looking at the histories of genealogies of the concept: The whole genealogies to be traced and how the concept has emerged through the writings of various authors.
- Methodology Review: The researcher needs to assess what are the various methods by which such a conclusion arrived at.
- Theoretical orientation is needed on the topic, which the researcher is discussing.
III. Different ways of writing literature review
- Most of the students commits mistake by providing summary of the argument. Mere summary adds nothing. It should be a synthesis and well integrated approach of various kinds of elements, methodologies, theoretical frameworks and ideas that researcher employs in the research process. Reading helps in synthesizing various arguments of the authors.
- Taking down notes is also one of the important parts of literature review. It helps the researcher to note down the ideas that is being generated in his or her mind while reading the text. A researcher is generally advised to have a systematically prepared index of the literature to be reviewed as well as a diary to jot down her personal comments on the literature under review.