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International Sociological Association
Research Committee on Sociology of Communication, Knowledge and Culture RC14
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Published in pdf ISA Bulletin number 44, year 1987
Prepared by Kurt Jonassohn
ISA Executive Secretary 1974-1982

l. SOCIOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE

Origins

At the IV World Congress of Sociology (Milano and Stressa, 1959) an additional session was held on Saturday morning, 12 September 1959, in order to discuss the formation of a Research Committee on Sociology of Knowledge.

The meeting was suggested by Tom Bottomore, then Executive Secretary of the ISA, who invited Kurt Wolff (USA) to organize and chair the session.

Lucien Goldmann, Talcott Parsons, Alexander von Schelting and Kurt Wolff requested the President of the ISA, T. H. Marshall, to authorize a day-long meeting at the V World Congress of Sociology (Washington, D.C. 1962).

Kurt Wolff chaired that session on the sociology of knowledge, at which 23 papers were presented by authors coming from: USA (7), France (4), USSR (2), Brazil (1), Czechoslovakia (1), GDR (1), India (1), Italy (1), Mexico (1), The Netherlands (1), Poland (1), Taiwan (1), UK (1).

In 1965 Kurt Wolff was asked by the ISA Executive Committee to organize a Research Committee on Sociology of Knowledge, to be formally constituted at the VI World Congress of Sociology (Evian 1966).

Executive and Members

The first and only president of the Research Committee was Kurt Wolff (USA). It is not known how many members the Committee had. The Board elected at the VI World Congress in Evian (1966) was:
President: Kurt H. Wolff (USA)
Secretary: V. Milic (Yugoslavia) - replaced by Jerzy Szacki (Poland) at the VI I World Congress, Varna 1970.

Activities

In Evian, September 1966, the Research Committee of Knowledge as such participated for the first time in a world congress: VI World Congress of Sociology. 19 papers were presented at its sessions and the authors came from 12 countries: USA (6), Argentina (2), France (2), Canada (1), Denmark (1), FRG (1), Hungary (1), Israel (1), Italy (1), Poland (1), and UK (1).

The second and last participation of this Research Committee in a world congress was in Varna (1970) at the VII World Congress of Sociology. The Committee held two scientific meetings on "Society and Consciousness" where 18 contributions from various countries were discussed: USA (4), Bulgaria (3), Canada (2), France (2), UK (2), Argentina (1), Denmark (1), Italy (1), The Netherlands (1) and Romania (1).

The Research Committee was discontinued by the Executive Committee of the ISA in April 1972, after a long period of inactivity and the resignation of its president, Kurt Wolff. In a letter dated February 21st, 1972, Kurt Wolff resigned stating that "the job has been, especially since Varna, far more a source of frustration than of gratification", and that it proved very difficult for him to communicate with members and to raise a relevant project of international activity.

Publications

  • Transactions of the IV World Congress of Sociology, London, 1961.

Vol. II: contains a report on the discussion written by Kurt H. Wolff
Vol. IV: "The Sociology of Knowledge" contains an editorial note by Kurt H. Wolff, 6 papers presented at the Congress, and the discussion.

  • Norman Birnbaum: Sociological Study of Ideology, in: Current Sociology, vol. IX, no. 2 (1960)
  • Transactions of the V World Congress of Sociology, Louvain, 1964.

Vol. IV: contains 3 papers, "Introduction" by Kurt H. Wolff, and the reports on the Committee's two sessions.

  • Alberto Izzo: The Sociology of Knowledge in Italy, Bologna, Riccardo Patron, 1966.
  • Kurt H. Wolff: The Sociology of Knowledge in the USA, in: Current Sociology, vol. XV, no. 1 (1967).
  • Transactions of the VII World Congress of Sociology, Sofia, 1973.

Vol. IV: contains 3 papers presented at the Congress.

II. SOCIOLOGY OF MASS COMMUNICATION

Origins

It seems that the first paper on mass communication problems ever presented at a world congress of sociology was Alphons Silbermann's "Sociological Aspects of Radio Music" submitted at the II World Congress of Sociology, Liege (Belgium), August 1953.

Six years later, during the IV World Congress of Sociology (Milano and Stressa, 1959), a section was devoted to "Application of Sociological Knowledge to Mass Communication".

It is not known exactly how many papers were delivered at the meeting, but the publication Transactions of the IV World Congress of Sociology, vol. III, contains the introductory paper of the session chairman, Morris Janowitz, and Robert Schulze.

There are also 7 abstracts written by scholars coming from: USA (3), UK (1), FRG (1), Norway (1) and Yugoslavia (1). The report of the discussion included 5 other references to papers submitted at the Congress.

At the end of the Congress, the ISA Executive Committee approved the establishment of the Research Committee on Mass Communication.

Executive and Members

In 1959 the Committee had 15 members coming from France (4), USA (4), Italy (2), UK (2), Belgium (1), FRG (1) and Poland (1). Its first president was George Friedmann (France), and since 1961 the secretary was Edgar Morin (France). There were no substantial changes in the national composition of the Committee during its first years of existence.

The Board elected at the VII World Congress of Sociology (Varna, September 1970) was as follows:
President: Edgar Morin (France) - Alternate to the Research Council
Vice-Presidents: Elihu Katz (Israel) and Igor Petrov (USSR)
Secretary: José Vidal-Beneyto (Spain) - Delegate to the Research Council
Newsletter Editor: Alfred Willener (Switzerland)

The ISA data indicate that in August 1974 the Committee's membership was 24 persons from 14 countries: USA (6), Canada (3), Belgium (2), Italy (2), Switzerland (2), Denmark (1), Finland (1), Ghana (1), Hungary (1), Korea (1), México (1), The Netherlands (1), Sweden (1) and Yugoslavia (1).

At the business meeting held on August 21, 1974, in Toronto, a new board was elected for the term 1974-1978:
President: José Vidal Beneyto (Spain) - Delegate to the Research Council
Secretaries: Marino Livolsi (Italy) and Thelma McCormack (Canada) who resigned in 1975
Members: Elihu Katz (Israel), Gerald Kline (USA), Kurt Lang  (USA), Lawrence H. Streicher (USA), Tamas Szecsko (Hungary), France Vreg (Yugoslavia), Kazimierz Zygulski (Poland )

At a board meeting held in Paris on December 6, 1976, it was agreed to promote contacts and initiatives with similar bodies that might be interested in fostering studies and research in the area.

At the same time the board considered advantageous to widen the Committee's interests to the spheres of the Sociology of Culture and Knowledge.

In Paris, en November 25, 1977, the board decided to set up links between the Research Committee and all those working in the field of culture and knowledge.

It was agreed with the representatives of the International Association for the Sociology of Knowledge to prepare a joint presentation for the session on "Knowledge and Communication" chaired by the president of the Research Committee at the IX World Congress of Sociology in Uppsala (1978).

Depending on the outcome of the experience, the creation of a joint committee was to be considered.

First contact with the International Society for Sociology of Knowledge was initiated by its participation in the VIII World Congress of Sociology (Toronto, 1974). Under its sponsorship there was organized a session on "Sociology of Knowledge" coordinated by Juan Corradi (Argentina) and Harriet Friedmann (Canada).

Moreover, Alexander Gella chaired a special roundtable on "Toward the Sociology of the Intelligentsia".

At the IX World Congress of Sociology (Uppsala 1978) the following board was elected for the period 1978-1982:
President: José Vidal Beneyto (Spain)
Vice-Presidents: Kurt Lang (USA), Jacques Leenhardt (France), Denis McQuail (The Netherlands), Tamas Szecsko (Hungary), Alfred Willener (Switzerland)
Secretary: Marino Livolsi (Italy)

In June 1978, the Research Committee's president, José Vidal Beneyto, asked ISA for a permission to expand Committee's thematic area to "Sociology of Culture and Knowledge".

At that time the Committee had almost 100 members from 24 countries: Austria, Canada, Chile, France, FRG, GDR, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Norway, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA, USSR, Venezuela, Yugoslavia.

The new board elected in Uppsala was enlarged in order to reflect better the Committee's extended interests and broader international representation:
President: José Vidal Beneyto (Spain)
Vice-Presidents: Kurt Lang (USA) Delegate to the Research Council, Jacques Leenhardt (France), Denis McQuail (The Netherlands), Tamas Szecsko (Hungary), and Alfred Willener (Switzerland)
General Secretary: Marino Livolsi (Italy)
Members: Claudio Aguirre-Bianchi (Chile), Lothar Bisky (GDR), Juan Corradi (Argentina), M. Essayas (Ethiopia), Elihu Katz (Israel), Antonina Kloskowska (Poland), Valery Korobeinikov (USSR), William Phelan (Canada), Dieter Prokop (FRG), France Vreg (Yugoslavia).

At the X World Congress of Sociology, Mexico 1982, the following members were elected on the Board for 1982-1986:
President: José Vidal Beneyto (Spain)
Vice-Presidents: Kurt Lang (USA), Jacques Leenhardt (France), Marino Livolsi (Italy), Denis McQuail (The Netherlands), and France Vreg (Yugoslavia)
General Secretariat: Claudio Aguirre Bianchi and Peter Dahlgren (Sweden), Cécile Rougier (France)

Activities

In June 1962 a colloquium on "Film Hero" was organized in Sestri-Levante, Italy. George Friedmann, chairman of the Research Committee, presided the meeting and Edgar Morin, secretary of the Committee, with C. Bremond were scientific directors of the colloquium.

14 participants came from: France (6), Italy (2), Czechoslovakia (1), India (1), Poland (1), Portugal (1), USA (1) and Yugoslavia (1).

At least four papers were presented at the session on Mass Communication held during the V World Congress of Sociology (Washington, September 1962).

On May 12-13, 1963, in the Centre Culturel de Royaumont, French members of the Committee with the assistance of the Centre d'Etudes des Communication de Masse, organized a colloquium on "Culture supérieure et culture de masse". Approximately 15 specialists were present at the meeting, among them Paul Lazarsfeld.

At the VI World Congress of Sociology (Evian, September 1966), 13 papers were presented by scholars coming from: USA (4), Belgium (2), Czechoslovakia (1), FRG (1), France (1), Hungary (1), Italy (1), Poland (1) and The Netherlands (1).

At the business meeting of the Research Committee, the board decided to concentrate the Committee's activities on an international research project on "Youth and Mass Communication".

In 1967 a joint program for this project was elaborated by a wide group of scholars, in particular the Italian team chaired by Francesco Alberoni, then Secretary General of the Committee, and the French team chaired by Edgar Morin, then President of the Committee.

In the same year, the French team prepared a specific program to study the current situation, problems and conditions in France.

Although the international research project had a very good start, it could not be continued due to the lack of funds. Many national teams had to renounce for financial reasons, other teams pursued with partial research projects and the results were presented at the VII World Congress of Sociology (Varna 1970).

In 1969 the Committee modified radically its way of working. There was developed a minimal program of basic activities (soliciting participation of scientists and institutions, publication of a bulletin, focusing on major research in the field of sociology of mass communication) which would lead to the development of more complex projects.

At the VII World Congress of Sociology (Varna, September 1970l, more than 15 papers were delivered at the Committee's sessions:
Sessions 1 & 2: Research on Future Mass Communication
Sessions 3 & 4: Youth Culture
The authors of these papers came from 8 countries: USA (5), France (2), Poland (1), Romania (1), The Netherlands (1), UK (1) and Yugoslavia (1).

The Committee organized 5 sessions at the VIII World Congress of Sociology (Toronto, August 1974):
Session 1: Epistemology and Theory of Communication
Session 2: Communication and Social Issues
Session 3: International Communication
Session 4: New Trends in Communication Research

Authors came from 10 countries: USA (6), Bulgaria (2), Canada (2), The Netherlands (2), Iran (1), Mexico (1), Switzerland (1), UK (1), USSR (1) and Yugoslavia (1).

An international conference on "Ideology and Structure of the Criticism in the Mass Media" was held in Barcelona (Spain) on June 30 - July 3, 1976. It was co-sponsored by the Research Committee and the Spanish Association ANCHE. Two main subjects were discussed: (1) The influence of personal and group ideology on critical practice; (2) Analysis of structures in journalistic practice.

Members of the Committee actively participated in the X General Assembly and Scientific Conference on "Mass Media and Man's View of Society" which was organized by the International Association for Mass Communication Research (IAMCR) on August 30 - September 4, 1976, in Leicester (UK).

On October 20-22, 1977, a preparatory meeting for the IX World Congress of Sociology was held in Trento (Italy). Two subjects were dealt with: (1) Inventory and prospects in mass media research, (2) Organization and creativity in mass communication. The meeting was attended by over 40 scholars from various, mainly European, countries.

An international conference on "Popular Alternatives to the Mass Media" was held on May 24-29, 1978, in Cambrils and Barcelona (Spain).

The meeting was cosponsored by the Research Committee and three Spanish institutions: Facultad de Ciencias de la Informacion de la Universidad de Madrid, Facultad de Ciencias de la Informacion de la Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona, Centro de Investigaciones Sociologicas de Madrid.

The conference was attended by over 80 scholars, 30 of them Spaniards. 44 papers were presented within three main topics: (1) Radical or critical social sciences and popular communication, (2) Resistance/ dissidence and popular communication, (3) Basic movements / new social practices and popular communication.

During the IX World Congress of Sociology, Uppsala 1978, the Research Committee was engaged in the following activities:

  • A symposium on "Mass Media and Social Change" where 21 papers were presented by authors coming from: USA (5), Canada (3), UK (2), USSR (2), Finland (1), France (1), FRG (1), Ghana (1), Hungary (1), India (1), Iran (1), Norway (1) and Sweden (1).
  • Session 1: Public Opinion organized in collaboration with the World Association of Public Opinion Research (WAPOR). 3 papers were presented by authors coming from Israel, Nigeria and Yugoslavia.
  • Session 2: Knowledge and Communication – conducted in cooperation with the International Society for Sociology of Knowledge. 5 papers were presented by authors coming from USA (3), Canada (1) and France (1).
  • Session 3: Inventory and Prospects in Mass Media Research - follow-up of the Trento (1977) meeting. 4 papers were presented by authors coming from FRG, The Netherlands, USA and USSR.
  • One working group session on "Counter-Culture Creativity" where 9 papers were presented by authors coming from: Canada (2), France (1), Hungary (1), Palestine (1), Sweden (1), USA (1) and USSR (1).

At the business meeting held during the Congress it was decided to establish 12 working groups:
1. Public Opinion and Communication (Coordinator: Gladys Lang)
2. Mass Media and Terrorism (Coordinators: Giovonni Bechelloni & Caria Marletti)
3. Communication and Literature (Coordinator: Jacques Leenhardt)
4. Counter-Culture and Communication (Coordinator: Alfred Willener)
5. Social Communication Networks (Coordinator: Peter Josza)
6. Comparative Analysis of Media Products (Coordinator: Russell Neuman)
7. Sociology of the Cinema (Coordinators: Ignacio Ramonet, Andras Szekfu, Oieter Prokop)
8. Alternatives to Traditional Media (Coordinator: Leonard Henny)
9. Social Production of Images (Coordinator: Claudio Aguirre)
10. Le gaspillage de I 'information (Coordinator: Michele Mattelart)
11. International Media Concentration (Coordinator: Oieter Prokop)
12. Production and Oistribution of Cultural Obiects (Coordinators: Juan Corradi, W. Phelan, and José Vidal Beneyto).

The International Society for the Sociology of Knowledge also sponsored a series of sessions on Sociology of Knowledge during the IX World Congress of Sociology.

The XI Congress of t e International Association for Mass Communication Research (IAMCR) was held in September 1978 in Warsaw (Poland). The conference was attended by nearly 500 participants; the Committee was represented by its Vice-President Denis McQuail.

Discussions were organized around the theme "Mass Media and National Cultures" and dealt with: the possibility of maintaining an autonomous national culture in the face of a growing international mass media culture; the potential conflict within a society between a traditional and socially valued culture and a commercial or popular culture of the media; the imbalance of cultural 'strength' between the third world and industrialized 'exporter' countries; the general problem of formulating an appropriate national or international communication policy.

Two international comparative studies were launched by the Committee in 1978: (1) "Prestige Press, Ideology and Public Opinion" involving France, United Kingdom, German Federal Republic, Italy and Spain; (2) "Sociology of Sociological Knowledge".

A Symposium was held in Burgos (Spain) on July 3-7, 1979, on Culture Industries and Society Models". At the same time the Committee met to discuss its current affairs.

Joint meetings were held on the same occasion with IAMCR representatives, with Gilles Pronovost, Executive Secretary of the ISA Research Committee of Leisure, Everet Rogers, President of the International Communication Association (ICA) and Ivon Vitanyi, promoter of a new research committee on Sociology of Expressive Culture.

The Research Committee co-sponsored with the Research Committee on Sociology of Leisure an international conference on "Popular Culture" held on April 23-25, 1980 in Trois-Rivieres, Québec (Canada). The Committee was responsible for organizing two working groups: "National Cultures and Popular Cultures" and "Popular and Counter-Culture".

The Board and many members of the Committee took part in the World Congress of the International Association of Mass Communication Research (IAMCR), during the last days of August 1980, in Caracas (Venezuela), on the theme "New Structures of International Comunication? The Role of Research".

In 1981 the Committee launched a project on "Press and Public Opinion". It gave an incentive to a symposium on "Ideology, Mass Media and the Production of Reality" organized by the Committee at the X World Congress of Sociology (Mexico 1982).

In the same year, 1981, the Committee coordinated a project on "TV News and Production of Reality" which involved working teams from 16 countries: Canada, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Israel, Morocco, Mexico, The Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Tunisia, UK, USA, and Yugoslavia. The results of this study were presented during the International Festival of TV Information, October 1984.

For the X World Congress of Sociology, Mexico 1962, the following sessions were coordinated by Tamas Szecsko (Hungary) and José Vidal Beneyto (Spain):

  • Session 1: The New World Information and Communication Order
  • Session 2 in collaboration with the International Society for the Sociology of Knowledge: Changing Function of Intellectuals
  • Session 3: Media Events
  • Session 4: Communication and Culture in the Developing Nations
  • Session 5: Communication and Citizenship
  • Session 6 jointly with WAPOR: Public Opinion and the Media News
  • Session 7 in collaboration with the International Society for the Sociology of Knowledge: Third World Intellectuals
  • Session 8: Ideological and Cultural Discourse Analysis
  • Session 9 jointly with the Research Sociology of Leisure: Popular Culture
  • Session 10 jointly with the Research Committee on Sociology of Arts: The Meaning of Culture in Sociology

The average attendance was high; this was due partly to the participation of a good number of Latin American researchers as Spanish was also being used as a working language. Altogether over 90 papers were presented and discussed.

The Symposium on "Ideology, Mass Media and the Production of Reality" which the Committee organized at the Congress, created a lot of interest among participants. It was based on two international comparative researches that the Committee is carrying on in 18 countries on press and TV news. Around 200 persons attended the Symposium.

A new working group on Political Communication was launched at the World Congress of International Political Science Association in 1982, during the sessions dedicated to the topic of communication which were attended by many members of the Research Committee. This has been followed up in Mexico, and as a consequence so me national groups on political communication have been created in several countries.

In cooperation with UNESCO, Claudio Aguirre-Bianchi (Sweden), co-secretary of the Committee, launched in 1983 an international study on "The New World Information and Communication Order (NOMIC)". Seven working teams were set to analyze 20 special cases described in 250 newspapers in 49 countries.

In 1983 Peter Dahlgren, co-secretary of the Committee, with J. M. Barbero, L. Henny and A. Lamberti initiated a research project on TV serials/"soap operas". In January 1984 the Committee organized in Madrid (Spain) a methodological seminar on "Etude des Feuilletons Télévisés: DalIas" which was attended by 27 participants from 10 countries.

An international meeting on "Communication and Life Styles" initiated by the Committee was organized in Ljubljana (Yugoslavia) in November 1985, by the Section for Communication and Public Opinion of the Yugoslav Sociological Association together with the Faculty of Sociology, Political Sciences and Journalism of Edvard Kardelj University, and the city of Liubljana. Chairperson of the Organizing Committee was France Vreg, and Slavko Splichal was its Coordinator.

The program of the Committee for the XI World Congress of Sociology (New Delhi 1986) included 13 sessions and over 80 papers:


Session 1: The Reception of Media: the audience experience

Session 2: Information and Communication Technologies: Third World Perspectives

Session 3 jointly with RC on Sociology of Youth: Youth Culture and Mass Media

Session 4: Military Culture and the Media

Session 5: Participation, Movement and Media

Session 6 jointly with RC on Sociology of Sport: Sport and the Media

Session 7: New Directions in the Study of Language and Ideology

Session 8: TV Discourse: between Information and Culture

Session 9: Press and Public Opinion

Session 10: Popular Music and Society

Session 11 jointly with RC on Sociology of Arts: Myth and Images in the Media Age

Session 12: TV Serials and Narrativity

Session 13 jointly with RC on Sociology of Arts: Consumption and Cultural Practices

Publications

  • Newsletter: started in December 1976, edited by the secretariat of the Research Committee.
  • Transactions of the IV World Congress of Sociology, 1961. Vol. III contains an introductory paper to the Committee's sessions, 7 abstracts and a report on the discussion.
  • Transactions of the V World Congress of Sociology, 1964. Vol. IV contains a paper and 2 reports from the Committee's sessions
  • Transactions of the VI World Congress of Sociology, 1970. Vol. IV contains two papers presented at the Committee's sessions
  • Transactions of the VII World Congress of Sociology, 1973. Vol. IV contains 3 papers delivered at the Committee's sessions
  • Alphons Silbermann: La Sociologie des Communications de Masse, in: Current Sociology, Vol. XVIII, No.3, 1973
  • Alexander Gélla (ed): The Intelligentsia and the Intellectuals. Theory, Method and Case Study. Sage Studies in International Sociology, vol. 5, Sage Publications, Beverly Hills, 1976. Contains papers presented at the VIII World Congress of Sociology.
  • George H. Lewis: The Sociology of Popular Culture, in: Current Sociology, vol. XXVI, No.3 (1978).
  • José Vidal Beneyto (ed): Alternativas Populares a las Comunicaciones de Masa, Centro de Investigaciones Sociologicas: 1979. Contains papers presented at the conference held in Barcelona, May 1978.
  • Elihu Katz and Tomas Szecsko: Mass Media and Social Change, Sage Studies in International Sociology, vol.22, SAGE London, 1981.

In 1982 the Committee launched publication of a series Documents de Travail du CKC. So far the following volumes have appeared:

  • Nº 1 (June 1982): Telediarios y Produccion de la Realidad / Journaux Télévisés et Production du Réel (multilingual version).
  • Nº 2 (June 1982): Produccion de la Realidad y Diarios de Referencia Dominante / Dominant Reference Papers and the Production of Reality (multilingual version)
  • Nº 3 (June 1984): G. Lewis (ed): Symbols of Significance. Working Papers in the Study of Culture. Collection of papers presented at the Committee's sessions during the X World Congress of Sociology (Mexico 1982).
  • Nº 4-8 are devoted to the international research on "Ideology, Mass Media and Production of Reality" launched by the Research Committee in 1981.
  • Nº 9 includes papers presented at the RC conference on "Etude des Feuilletons Télévises Dallas" held in Madrid, January 1984.

 

 
2014-03-05
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