Message from the Dean

Dean Michael X. Delli Carpini Portrait Smiling in Front of College Hall University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication Walter H. Annenberg Dean

Take a moment and think of any human activity. It can be modest or ambitious, public or private, local, national or global, social, cultural, economic or political. No matter what it is, one thing is guaranteed – that communication is central to it. Even the seemingly isolated act of thinking is steeped in communication processes, from the various external sources of mediated information that influence what we think about, to the interplay of internal cognitive and affective information that influences how we think about it. 

It is the ubiquity of communication that makes it such an important and exciting area of study. It is also what makes it so complex. At the Annenberg School for Communication we embrace this complexity through an approach that is trans-disciplinary, methodologically ecumenical, and collaborative. While communication theory and methods are always at the core of our teaching and research, we draw regularly on the insights and approaches of sister disciplines in the humanities, social sciences and sciences. Many of our faculty members have degrees in these disciplines, and Annenberg has formal relationships (co-sponsored grants, workshops and conferences, cross-listed courses, dual degree programs, jointly appointed faculty, etc.) with nine of Penn’s other 11 schools. Our students are encouraged to supplement their communication coursework with those offered through the many highly regarded departments in these schools. Formal and informal research collaboration, both within the Annenberg School and with other Penn faculty and students, are common. 

The result is a dynamic environment where students and faculty explore a wide range of communication-centered research questions from a variety of methodological and theoretical perspectives. How do institutions and communication systems – from the design of public spaces, to the political economy of increasingly globalized media industries, to the public or private ownership of news outlets, to the structure of online social networks – influence the content, distribution and use of information? Does the medium of communication – from print, to film, to radio and television, to computers, the internet and mobile phones – matter, and if so how and for whom? What forms and contents of mediated messages are most likely to encourage learning or persuade recipients to think or act differently on topics from health to politics? Can we learn more about these educational or persuasive effects by studying the neural activity occurring in our brains? Is the impact of an image different than that of words or sound? How has the relationship between information producers and consumers changed in the interactive world of digital media? Does the nature and meaning of key concepts such as “community,” “journalism,” or “politics” change as media environments do? Would the “Arab Spring” or “Occupy Wall Street” movements have occurred without social media? Would they have looked different? These are only some of the questions motivating research and teaching at the Annenberg School today.

Michael X. Delli Carpini, Ph.D.
Walter H. Annenberg Dean
Professor of Communication