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Studying Community Attachment & Communication

Oxford_University_Press_early_logoAn entry on Community Attachment that I wrote for the Oxford Bibliographies, edited by Patricia Moy, just went live this week. The bibliographies are a really great resource — I often recommend them to students as a starting point for their research projects. Many eminent scholars (across many disciplines) have contributed to the resource and I am pleased to be a part it as well. My entry can be found in the Communication section — which is gated, so the link above may not work. In the entry, I provide an overview of the conceptualization of community attachment, an exploration of its historical roots, and an introduction to its study within Communication. If you do have access to the Oxford Bibliographies via your institution/library, you can check out my whole entry. If not, here’s the first paragraph. Out of respect to the publisher, I won’t be posting the whole entry here…

Community attachment may be thought of as the extent to which residents of a place possess cognitive or affective ties to each other and to that place. Interest in the concept can be traced to the rise of urbanization and industrialization in the 19th century. As new immigrants flooded into rapidly developing cities, the social, economic, and political systems under which agrarian societies and their communities had long been organized were disrupted. How would these new cities, and the residents that had left their families and homes behind, fare? In 1887, pioneering sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies theorized about this transition in Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, catalyzing a generation of scholarly concern about the rootlessness of new urban residents. In the mid-20th century, Morris Janowitz brought the interests in cities and communication shown at the School of Sociology at the University of Chicago (Chicago School) to a study of the community press. The modern study of the relationship between community attachment and mass media stems from this work. When Janowitz published his seminal study, the population of American cities had stabilized, but it was dominated by enclaves with ethnic roots. If the study of community attachment was driven initially by concern about the integration of immigrants into cities, interest in the interplay between these enclaves and the larger community spurred post–World War II studies of community attachment. As the 20th century progressed, the decline of American cities, the rise of suburbs, and the increasing mobility of the workforce prompted a renewed focus on community attachment as places of residence grew less fixed. What prompts residents of a community to stay, to engage civically and politically within that community, and to feel a sense of connection and responsibility to that community? Today, as individuals turn from geographically proximate mass media toward interest-based niche information sources, the question of community attachment remains a salient one.

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