Simultaneous developments in big data, social media, and computational social science may change how we think about interpersonal and mass communication. I discuss five developments as “vectors” into the future of communication research: (1) Limitations of densely connected networks: Do dense, tightly connected networks yield the greatest social influence? (2) Factors and actors: Should models of behavior focus on the actors rather than the variables in the system? (3) Recommendation systems: Can we create “interpersonal clones’” to predict choice, decisions, and effective messages? (4) Narrowcasting vs. broadcasting: As distinctions between mass and interpersonal audiences disappear, are communicative choices (and errors) more consequential? (5) Online deliberation: Can new deliberative spaces where elites and citizens interact help to approach the Habermasian ideal? The cross-cutting issue is whether old questions (and methods) of interpersonal and mass communication suffice in the face of developments currently at the fringes of communication science.
Published in Volume 43, Issue 4, pages 545-558