The communication discipline in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Hong Kong is strong and diverse. Although regional research clearly emerged from a strong US and British tradition, it has matured. This maturity is evident not only in the region’s contribution to evolving communication research, but also in identifying and analyzing significant trends as the region’s rapidly developing economies and changing political circumstances impact on technology use and cultural mores.
History and Institutions
In Hong Kong, communication studies began in 1965, when the Chinese University of Hong Kong developed a course in journalism. Since then, most universities have offered communication degrees, predominantly in journalism, public relations (PR) and advertising, and film and television, with most enrollments being in journalism, PR, and advertising. In Australia, communication courses emerged in the 1960s when speech training was developed into oral communication. In 1975, 12 journalism educators formed a journalism education association. Now, about three-quarters of Australia’s 40 universities offer degrees in communication (some specializing in specialist areas such as organizational and health communication), PR, journalism, and media.
In New Zealand, the first communication courses began in the late 1980s at what is now Auckland University of Technology, and Victoria University offered an MA. The first undergraduate degrees began at the University of Waikato in the 1990s. The Australian and New Zealand Communication Association, begun in 1980 as an Australian association, included New Zealand in 1994. Communication studies as a degree program began in Singapore in 1991 when the National University of Singapore established a Department of Mass Communication. In 1993, this department was transferred to Nanyang Technical University within the new School of Communication Studies. Nonetheless, NUS continues to offer courses in new media and public relations. Both NUS and NTU have strong research profiles. Singapore Management University and various other polytechnics now also offer corporate communication and PR programs (Kuo & Lee 2005).
The strongest sources of regional communication research are the Center for Communication Research at the City University of Hong Kong and the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre in Singapore. While Australia and New Zealand do not have centers of this significance, apart from the Institute of Creative Industries and Innovation at Queensland University of Technology, a considerable number of researchers have an international profile. Communication research in these two countries tends to be highly interdisciplinary with diverse theoretical sources. The US influence, although strong, is leavened by a strong British and European influence, so that critical, poststructuralist, and neo-Foucauldian research is relatively strong. Communication research in Hong Kong and Singapore has contributed significantly to a decentering of the Anglo-American bias, particularly with its comparative intra-Asian studies and analyses of the impact of media and ICTs within the momentously changing political and economic Asian landscape.
Although Australasian and Pacific Rim researchers appear in the major international journals, there are also local journals. This analysis considers 11 local, refereed journals for the period 2004 – 2006. Australian Journalism Review and the Australian Journal of Communication contain most articles. The content of the 195 articles for all journals was then categorized according to the International Communication Association’s 21 divisions and interest groups; as each article could incorporate multiple divisions, there was a total of 301 division occurrences. Apart from these divisions, six other emerging issues became evident: media ownership/control (11 instances); globalization (9); rural and regional issues (3); creative industries (7); corporate social responsibility (6); and capitalist and economic discourses (2).
In the discipline-specific public relations journals, the Asia-Pacific Public Relations Journal Prism and Asia Pacific Media Educator, the emerging issue was corporate social responsibility, media ownership/control, and creative industries. The articles in the other eight journals are spread across at least 9 divisions (i.e., interest groups and new emerging issues) up to a maximum of 17 in one journal, the Australian Journal of Communication. Other journals with a broad range of coverage across divisions are the Journal of International Communication which contains 28 articles spread across 16 divisions, Media International Australia with 26 articles across 13 divisions, and the Asian Journal of Communication which covered 9 divisions in 21 articles.
Of the eight journals with predominantly Australian and Asian-based editorial boards, the dominant issues are mass communication, political communication, and technology and communication. For example, mass communication and political communication dominated the Asian Journal of Communication. The Australian Journal of Communication published a large number of articles in the area of organizational communication in addition to articles relating to communication and technology, and Continuum displays an interest in the emerging issues of globalization and of mass communication. The content of the three journals with a stronger international focus is more eclectic. Most articles in Media International Australia (Australian and NZ board) are concerned with communications law and policy, while the Journal of Asia Pacific Communication (US and international board) is dominated by articles that deal with ethnicity and race in communication and language and social interaction. The Journal of International Communication (Australian and international board) has a relatively even spread of articles across divisions, with slightly greater numbers published in intercultural and development communication and philosophy of communication. Future research trends may well be indicated by the emerging issues listed above.
The nexus in the region between research and teaching as well as the academy and industry varies too much to simply categorize. Regional research in the eight areas below does reveal active and diverse research communities.
Dominant in psychology-oriented communication research are communication accommodation and social identity theories. This is evident in the work of leading researcher Cindy Gallois in intergroup and health communication. Leading work in social identity theory has been provided by Deborah Terry and Michael Hogg, which has influenced organizational communication studies. Victor Callan’s considerable research in corporate change communication has influenced, through collaborative research, more recent researchers (e.g., Paulsen et al. 2005).
A noteworthy trend is critical discursive psychology. Social psychologists Martha Augoustinos and Amanda Le Couteur, combining discursive psychology, social constructionism, and feminist social theory, have analysed racist discourse in Australia. This critical perspective is also evident in the work of Iain Walker and Mark Rapley. Much discursive psychological research in gender and sexuality is conducted from a feminist social constructionist perspective. Ann Weatherall, who incorporates a social constructionist approach, researches in communication technologies and sexuality education (Potts et al. 2004). Critical feminist scholars Virginia Braun and Nicola Gavey examine the relationship of bodies, sexuality and health, and their impact on public health policy and practice, as well as discourses of sexuality, including rape narratives.
Linguistic-oriented research output is considerable. Perhaps the strongest influence has been M. A. K. Halliday’s systemic functional linguistics. Following in this tradition has been the substantial work of Jim Martin and Christian Matthiessen (Halliday & Matthiessen 1999). Although applied largely to literacy education, SFL has impacted on other communication research, including Gunther Kress, now based in the UK, and Theo van Leeuwen, who analyze visual text and multimodality. The work of linguist Michael Clyne has also been prominent, particularly in cross-cultural studies and bilingualism. Leading applied linguist Chris Candlin has contributed significantly in research on languages for specific purposes, and in intercultural, health, and legal communication (Candlin & Gotti 2004), using discourse, sociolinguistic, and pragmatic analysis. His editorial board membership on major journals, including the new Journal of Applied Linguistics ensures his continued influence. Anna Wierzbicka has been influential with her analysis of the relationship between language and culture.
Critical Discourse Analysis
The impetus for critical discourse analysis in Australia and New Zealand has been driven by critical educational theorists such as Allan Luke in the 1980s and 1990s. However, its application is now very diverse, particularly in organizational and management research. Cynthia Hardy, perhaps the most prolific critical discourse researcher (Grant et al. 2004), looks at organizational power and politics in organizations, identity, and strategic change. Phil Graham has an eclectic reach including the political economy of new media, discourse analysis, and the social changes wrought by the knowledge economy. His board membership of New Media and Society and Discourse and Society and co-founding of Critical Discourse Studies is indicative of the emerging international presence of antipodean critical theorists. Bronwyn Davies has provided leadership in narrative discourse and interdisciplinary research assessing the impact of neo-liberal management processes on intellectual work, youth, and labor market subjectivity, especially from a feminist perspective (Gannon & Davies 2006). Although not essentially a critical methodology, ethnomethodology and conversation analysis are now lifting their profiles, particularly in race, gender, and disability issues. For example, Alec McHoul and Mark Rapley’s work has examined the interactional and rhetorical production of intellectually disabled people and of indigenous Australians. Richard Fitzgerald has applied conversation analysis to radio talkback and news.
Research in organizational communication is particularly strong in Australia and New Zealand. Indeed, Jones et al. (2004) provide a comprehensive set of challenges for future OC studies. Ted Zorn has influenced a wide range of communication areas including communication management, change, and PR. Much of his work is co-written with such people as Mary Simpson, Judy Motion, and Juliet Roper, extending his influence in multiple areas. David Grant’s discourse research has been primarily related to change (Putnam et al. 2005). Like Cynthia Hardy, he has significant international links, is published in journals such as Academy of Management Review and Human Relations, and recently co-edited the Sage handbook of organizational discourse (2004). Other researchers have taken OC into new directions. Rick Iedema conducts discourse analytical and ethnographic investigations into organizations and healthcare provision. In Discourses of post-bureaucratic organization, Iedema analyzes how people position themselves in changing organizational environments. Prashant Bordia researches issues of organizational rumor and the impact of uncertainty in organizations. Colleen Mills applies Gioia and Weick’s sense-making theories to discourse theory in studying change and intercultural issues. Feminist analyses have been provided by Deborah Jones and Janet Holmes, who are involved in the Language in the Workplace Project at Victoria University of Wellington. Jones draws on feminist and postcolonial theory to consider issues of communication and representation. Holmes adopts a critical sociolinguistic perspective to analyze the gendered role of language in the workplace (Holmes & Stubbe 2003). Little research is conducted on professional communication (e.g., English for specific purposes (ESP), or English for academic purposes (EAP)), apart from the work of Vijay Bhatia, who is also part of a larger project on legal discourse in multilingual and multicultural contexts directed from the City University of Hong Kong.
The Asian Context and Cross-Cultural Research
China’s massive industrialization process and Asia’s growing economic strength have provided an impetus to cross-cultural research, the impact of new media technologies, and Western cultural influences. For example, John Flowerdew analyzes the impact of globalization on Hong Kong by looking at how the city discursively constructs itself. Jian Hua Zhu considers the effect of the nternet, in particular the implications of China becoming the second largest Internet-user market in the world. Chin-Chuan Lee, Director of the Center for Communication Research at City University of Hong Kong, is particularly interested in the social and political effects of a globalized media in China (C.-C. Lee 2003). Similarly, Joseph Man Chan of Chinese University of Hong Kong has extensively researched the impact of the Internet and globalized media on national identity (Chan & McIntyre 2002). John Erni’s (Erni & Chua 2005) extensive work over 20 years has focused on queer and gendered subjects in Asia. The work of Lee Chun Wah on the cultural effects of advertising and Katherine Frith on depictions of Asian women in advertising provide useful leadership in more critical analysis of advertising in a local context.
Given the ethnic diversity of the region, cross-cultural research is a prominent research area. It has tended to be a distinctly critical, emancipatory, and democratic orientation as suggested by Simpson and Zorn (2004). James Liu has researched the impact of regional ethnic identities. Yoshi Kashima uses narrative in social psychology to consider cultural cognitions. Yunxia Zhu, extensively published in such journals as Text and Discourse Studies, and Bertha Du-Babcock consider the effect of different cultures in business contexts. This area of research importantly moves intercultural studies to consider intra-Asian relations.
Knowledge Economy, New Media, and Creative Industries
Communication is now intricately linked to knowledge economy and knowledge management theory. David Rooney and Greg Hearn have contributed strongly in this area, particularly raising questions about the nature of knowledge. The related area of creative industries is strongly influenced by Queensland University of Technology’s Creative Industries Faculty led by John Hartley and Stuart Cunningham. Its emerging researchers such as Terry Flew focus on multimodalities of communication and the impact of such industries on postindustrial economies. In other domains, researchers such as Virginia Nightingale research the impact of new media technologies.
Much Singaporean communication scholarship has been concerned with media effects, the social and legal impact of the Internet, news reporting, and cultural aspects of advertising and PR. Vivian Chen discusses the impact of popular culture on national cultures and how technology changes communication behaviors, while Stella Chia considers media effects particularly on adolescents’ risky behaviors. Internet research includes the effect of globalization on cultural identity. Brenda Chan, Alfred Choi, and Lee Chun Wah study youth use of the Internet. Marko Skoric’s research analyzes the social and political impact of new communication technologies. Outside Singapore, there is considerable analysis by such researchers as John Sinclair and A. O. Thomas on the cultural impact of globalized media.
Journalism and Media Studies
Characterizing regional journalism and media research is difficult because no single area dominates and because some research tends towards cultural studies, which is outside the scope of this article. Australian and New Zealand research, while looking at general issues such as the nature of contemporary journalism, or investigative journalism and ethics, covers a wide range of other issues. Local and regional politics catalyzed research into reporting of asylum seekers, terrorism, and the Iraq war. The legal aspects of journalism such as FOI and defamation is another active area. Cross-disciplinary research, such as media portrayals of mental illness conducted by Warwick Blood and others, is strong.
Singaporean and Hong Kong research tends to show more interest in the democratic function of the media in the changing political landscape and also in Internet journalism. Peng Hwa Ang researches copyright, self-regulation, and free speech issues of media law and policy related to the Internet. Typical of the extensive research on news reporting in an Asian context is Cherian George, who looks at how Internet journalism opposes state influence on media in the region. Xiaoge Xu identifies the idea of Asian values in journalism, demystifies its movement, and makes recommendations on how to further journalism theory development in Asia. Politically oriented research, primarily from Hong Kong, is diverse. It ranges from analyses of South Korean and Taiwanese presidential debates to the Chinese and Vietnamese governments’ response to SARS, China’s political (in)tolerance, and Hong Kong’s incorporation. However, Lee and Chan (2004) point out that Western research can tend to categorize Hong Kong research as “regional studies” thereby diminishing their theoretical contributions, whereas they have contributed not only to such hypotheses as spiral of silence, but also to analysis of phenomena such as Internet and politics.
Public relations research, although often criticized for being underresearched, is well covered regionally. In fact, Botan and Hazleton’s Public relations theory II (2006) identifies Australia and New Zealand as leading PR research centres. Outside Singapore, David McKie and Debashish Munshi’s (2004) article and their forthcoming book, Reconfiguring public relations: Ecology, equity, and enterprise, are contributing strongly to the theory debate. Methodological issues have been raised by cross-cultural theorist Niranjala Weerakkody.
Another prominent research center is Singapore, where Krishnamurthy Sriramesh, in particular, is influential. He is widely published and, through his editorial board membership of such journals as the Journal of Public Relations Research, has contributed to studies of public relations in an Asian context. His 2002 critique asserts that the PR body of knowledge is extremely ethnocentric and that PR practice and pedagogy must incorporate more diversity. His two books, The global public relations handbook: Theory, research, and practice and Public relations in Asia: An anthology, have attempted to remedy this ethnocentricity.
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