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This article briefly reviews theories of materiality emerging in communication technology studies and organizational communication and then suggests three ways that journalism scholars might apply these theories to studies of news production. How journalists work, how journalism is shaped within newsrooms, the ways the news industry is changing, and ultimately, the effects of digital transitions can all benefit from including a focus on the ‘objects of journalism’. First, objects, such as documents, help scholars describe the social settings where objects are found. Second, the objects of journalism help scholars uncover lines of authority, contexts of news routines, and richness and persistence of news practices. Third, studying the objects of journalism can help explain the persistence of so-called residual practices that might otherwise seem dysfunctional in digital news. Materiality theories can help journalism scholars explain the impact of the transition to digital news on the work and practices of journalists and the news industry as a whole.
Increasingly, communication researchers are issuing calls for attention to the role materiality plays in communication processes (e.g., Boczkowski, 2004; Boczkowski & Lievrouw, 2008; Leonardi & Barley, 2008; Leonardi, Nardi, & Kallinikos, 2013; Lievrouw, 2013). Resulting in part from the challenges of studying new communication and information technologies, this new focus on materiality offers opportunities for communication researchers to theorize beyond communication through, with, and, in some cases, without a medium to think about the material structures of mediation itself. In this chapter we propose a model for thinking through the communicative roles and functions of the materiality of everyday objects, by using one type of objects, documents, as an extended theoretical example of the importance of materiality for communication.
Neff, Gina, Brittany Fiore-Silfvast and Carrie Sturts Dossick. “Materiality: Challenges to Communication Theory,” International Communication Association Theme Book 2013: Challenging Communication Research. New York: Peter Lang, 2014. Pp 209-224.