The UW Department of Communication houses world-class research initiatives run by faculty members and students. Here are the research areas explored and supported by the Department.
The research area of Communication and Difference centers on the study of marginalized communities through the lens of social justice. The faculty associated with Communication and Difference draw from a range of humanistic and qualitative methods to understand how difference is created, perpetuated, and resisted through a wide range of communication channels such as media, images, text, speeches, and in-person dialog. Faculty in this area engage in dialogue to think critically about race in conjunction with gender, sexuality, nationality, ability and other intersectional social categories, to interrupt privilege, and ultimately to change the structures of power around us.
The Center for Communication, Difference, and Equity (CCDE) strives to be a space where our community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni gather to promote greater equity. Through research collaborations, networking opportunities, action-oriented classes, mentorship programs, and community events we engage in dialogue to think critically about race and its intersections, to interrupt privilege, and ultimately to change the structures of power around us.
Both new and old communication technologies have transformed modern culture. Research in this area explores how media technologies, particularly digital, networked media, change the way we build relationships, form communities, exchange information, organize, govern ourselves and do business.
The Community Data Science Collective (CDSC) is an interdisciplinary research group made up of faculty and students at the UW Department of Communication as well as participants from elsewhere in academia and industry. The CDSC’s research is particularly focused on how the design of communication and information technologies shape fundamental social outcomes with broad theoretical and practical implications—like an individual’s decision to join a community, contribute to a public good, or a group’s ability to make decisions democratically. The research is deeply interdisciplinary, most frequently consists of “big data” quantitative analyses, and lies at the intersection of communication, sociology, and human-computer interaction.
Interpersonal communication is the primary building block of people’s individual social selves and of their relationships to others and the larger world. To study interpersonal communication is to focus on interactional processes, some of which allow people to hate and to love, to move apart and to join together, to disagree and to agree, and to harm and to support one another. As interpersonal scholars, we center on the precursors, processes, and power dynamics, as well as the lived experiences and outcomes, of interpersonal communication that occurs face to face and through mediated channels. We engage multiple methods aligned with the normative social science, interpretive, and critical paradigms. Of particular interest is communication in families and in everyday social contexts, paying attention to the cultural conditions in which such communication arises. We look at how people use language and nonverbal communication to navigate their social worlds and we concern ourselves with the consequentiality of such communication for individuals and for society more broadly.
The Family Communication and Relationships Lab is a social science lab at the University of Washington and Michigan State University, which houses a collection of researchers and students invested in understanding the complex dynamics of family communication in a variety of contexts. They collaborate with researchers across the globe to conduct and disseminate cutting-edge family communication research that explores family disruptions and processes that can make a difference in the everyday lives of families.
Journalism Studies examines research and theories on the production and distribution of news and information. The concentration includes a critical analysis of the history, functions, and structures of media organizations in America and globally. This field examines the professional, organizational, economic, social, legal, and technological forces shaping news and information, along with the people responsible for deciding what becomes news. A particular focus is on the roles that news media play in society and politics, particularly with the rise of new modes of information production and distribution that are challenging traditional definitions of news and journalism. Faculty explore these topics across different temporal and geographic contexts and from a variety of methodological and epistemological stances.
The Center for Journalism, Media, and Democracy (CJMD): The CJMD’s mission is to advance understanding of the role journalism and media play in democratic societies. Through research, teaching, and public engagement, the Center explores connections between public institutions, the press, and digital platforms with the aim of identifying the threats and opportunities to quality information, robust engagement, government accountability, and core democratic values.
The field of rhetoric analyzes the persuasive and constitutive power of communication. Through a humanities-based process of criticism and theorizing, scholars of rhetoric investigate the ways people are influenced through specific words, images, sounds, and material objects. Faculty in this area specialize in the rhetoric of science, queer feminist rhetorics of health and medicine, the rhetoric of popular culture and consumer capitalism, the intersection of race and gender in Asian American media, and rhetorical pedagogy.
The UW Center for Speech and Debate helps the UW community refine its dynamic speaking and arguing abilities. Through on-campus events, consultations, and coaching, the Center advances the mission of the Department of Communication to nurture socially responsible, literate citizens who can interpret and evaluate the images and messages they create and receive. Debates and events like the Jody Deering Nyquist Speech Contest allow the Center to showcase excellent speakers and debaters. Trained Center consultants provide hundreds of one-on-one speech coaching sessions to undergraduates each quarter. Consultants are also available for workshops and classroom visits.
Organizing is a complex communicative process that underlies every aspect of societal functioning, at multiple levels and across many kinds of difference. UW Communication faculty are recognized leaders in scholarship on community organizing, collective action, social networks and organizing processes, the collaborative production and governance of public goods, interorganizational communication, cross-sector collaboration, and social movements.
The Community Data Science Collective is an interdisciplinary research group made up of faculty and students at the UW Department of Communication as well as participants from elsewhere in academia and industry. The CDSC’s research is particularly focused on how the design of communication and information technologies shape fundamental social outcomes with broad theoretical and practical implications—like an individual’s decision to join a community, contribute to a public good, or a group’s ability to make decisions democratically. The research is deeply interdisciplinary, most frequently consists of “big data” quantitative analyses, and lies at the intersection of communication, sociology, and human-computer interaction.
One of the primary purposes of communication in representative political systems is to exchange ideas and opinions about how to govern ourselves. Research in the political communication area concentration examines how citizens and communities talk among themselves, how public officials make decisions together, and how citizens and officeholders talk to each other. Some research also explores the role of communication in autocratic political regimes.