Qualitative Communication Research


Communication is both an area of study in its own right and a generic resource for studying most other social practices. In and through communication, people share different representations and interpretations of reality in signs and symbols, and researchers restate and reinterpret these expressions to better understand human beings and their social interactions. Contemporary communication research examines the universal practice whereby social realities are produced and shared through signs and symbols. This entry, first, reviews classic and recent qualitative studies of communication, from the traditions of rhetoric, hermeneutics, and semiotics, to current work on social media and online communication. Next, key qualitative approaches—interviewing, observation, and textual and discourse analysis—are described as instances of communication and exemplified with reference to studies of media organizations, media texts, and media users. Finally, the entry considers the ways in which digital technologies are changing the conditions under which qualitative communication research will be undertaken in the future. Increasingly, people communicate not just into the air and through media but into systems that accumulate both data and metadata, which lend themselves to commercial as well as scholarly applications.

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