Amy B. Jordan, Ph.D., associate director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, took office as president of the International Communication Association, the leading international organization dedicated to scholarship in the field of communication, at the end of the organization's 65th annual conference last weekend in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Dr. Jordan, who is also an adjunct professor of communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, has been active in ICA as chair of its Children, Adolescents, and Media division. Before taking office, she spoke about ICA, its challenges, and future.
Q: What are the issues facing ICA today?
A: We have worked hard over the past 10 years to emphasize the “I” in International Communication Association. The good news is that we’ve been very successful. Our members come from over 80 countries, and our association’s annual meetings are held all over the world. This has led to tremendous growth in our membership, which now stands at over 4,200, and in attendance at our annual meeting. But this growth has also meant that our acceptance rate for competitive paper and panel presentations for our conferences has dropped precipitously. About 42 percent of our members are based outside the U.S., and we’re working to further develop our international presence with regional conferences – one will be in Denmark, and we’re in the planning stages for another in Africa. Another major challenge for the organization will be a search for a new executive director, following the news that Michael Haley would be retiring next year. He has been at the helm of ICA for nearly 17 years, and during this time ICA has grown and flourished. It will be a challenge to find someone as experienced, level-headed, and good-natured as Michael.
Q: What are your hopes for the organization?
A: I believe that the ICA plays a vital role in communication scholarship. Not only does the annual meeting offer a place for like-minded scholars from around the world to gather and exchange ideas, its journals provide a tremendous resource for members and non-members alike. The discipline of communication is unlike many other disciplines, however, in that while our work is relevant and timely for many pressing social issues, journalists don’t always know how to find our experts. Going forward, we will be working to increase the visibility of our research and our members to have a greater presence in public discourse through greater outreach to the press and more public events.
Q: In what other areas does ICA play an important role?
A: Another area in which I believe ICA can make a difference is in the professional development and mentorship of our graduate students and early career scholars. In the past year, each division and interest group of ICA has appointed a graduate student liaison. At our annual meetings, we have more professional development workshops than ever before. We also have more panels of communication professionals who are doing interesting research outside of the academy. ICA is often the first academic association graduate students in the field of communication join, and we strive to make them lifelong members. I say this in part because my own experience joining ICA was as a graduate student at the Annenberg School for Communication, back in 1986, and I quickly found that it provided me with opportunities to get feedback on my research, make connections with students at other universities doing similar research (many of whom are still dear colleagues), and network with those “intimidating faculty” whom I had been reading in my classes.
Q: There’s a word cloud on the ICA website taken from session and paper titles that includes terms such as mobile and digital and Facebook and technology. How does changing technology affect communication studies today?
A: I suppose the answer to that question depends on who you ask and what they are studying. In some ways technology simply extends and enhances basic human communication but in other ways it has completely transformed it. What is interesting about the word cloud is that new media technologies encourage us to think about whether, how, and in what ways “communication” has changed. Or hasn’t.
Q: What are some of the most exciting areas of research in communication scholarship today?
A: I personally am very excited about work that is being done in cognitive neuroscience – particularly when we can extend our understanding of reception from the individual to the group, to the population, on issues such as the impact of health communication messages and the effects of exposure to violence in media. I am also intrigued by the growing movement to focus not just on the “negative” of media effects, but to give equal attention to the positive – for example, the ways in which social media may be creating new forms of connections that we are just beginning to have the tools to measure. And I am also fascinated by the new ethical issues that have arisen as the communication environment has become more global, more immediate, and more accessible. My list of “exciting areas” could go on for pages, but I hope that folks will check out ICA’s journals to get a first look at cutting-edge research within our discipline.