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Theorizing media, communication and social change: towards a processual approach

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journal contribution
posted on 2018-08-24, 10:40 authored by Sabina MiheljSabina Mihelj, James StanyerJames Stanyer
Debates about the role of media and communication in social change are central to our discipline, yet advances in this field are hampered by disciplinary fragmentation, a lack of shared conceptual language, and limited understanding of long-term shifts in the field. To address this, we first develop a typology that distinguishes between approaches that foreground the role of media and communication as an agent of change, and approaches that treat media and communication as an environment for change. We then use this typology to identify key trends in the field since 1951, including the sharp downturn in work focusing on economic aspects of change after 1985, the decline of grand narratives of social change since 2000, and the parallel return to media effects. We conclude by outlining the key traits of a processual approach to social change, which has the capacity to offer the basis for shared language in the field. This language can enable us to think of media, communication and social change across its varied temporal and social planes, and link together the processes involved in the reproduction of status quo with fundamental changes to social order.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies

Published in

Media, Culture and Society


MIHELJ, S. and STANYER, J., 2019. Theorizing media, communication and social change: towards a processual approach. Media, Culture & Society, 41(4), pp. 482-501.


© the Authors. Published by SAGE Publications


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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This paper was accepted for publication in the journal Media, Culture and Society and the definitive published version is available at https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443718810926




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