For public (and recontextualized) sociology: The promises and perils of public engagement in an age of mediated communication

Attenborough, F. (2018) For public (and recontextualized) sociology: The promises and perils of public engagement in an age of mediated communication. The Communication Review, 21 (3). pp. 228-251. ISSN 1071-4421

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This article argues for the analysis of public engagement as an essentially mediated activity. Although recent studies note that academic knowledge is increasingly available for consumption by nonacademic audiences, they tell us little about how it gets recontextualized while passing through the hands of media professionals on its way toward such audiences. In Burawoy’s (2005) influential call for the rebirth of public sociology, as in the debates his work provoked, the media is treated solely as a means for the transportation of knowledge. But as this article demonstrates, the media does not simply transport knowledge; it also, and at the same time, translates that knowledge in various, rhetorically consequential ways. Focusing on the mediated trajectory of an attempt by a group of academics to connect with audiences beyond academia, their initial contribution is compared to its subsequent translation(s) across various British newspapers. A discursive analysis reveals the techniques via which a classic form of public sociology came to be recontextualized such that, remarkably, these authors were left appearing to voice nothing but their own petty prejudices. The article concludes by noting that where public engagement involves mediation, public sociology should pay more attention to the recontextualizing affordances of media discourse.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2018 Taylor & Francis. This is an author accepted manuscript of a paper subsequently published in The Communication Review. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Divisions: School of Humanities
Depositing User: Dr Frederick Attenborough
Date Deposited: 17 Sep 2018 11:17
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2020 07:30

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