Our Search for Meaning in Changing Times: An Interview with Bill Ticehurst
The following is an edited transcript of an informal interview that took place between Steven Maras and G.W (Bill) Ticehurst on June 11, 2004. Questions were provided in advance, although the discussion ranged across a number of issues randomly, and not necessarily in the order suggested here. The interview was conducted in the course of researching an article that is published in the Australian Journal of Communication, 'Thinking About the History of ANZCA: An Australian Perspective' (31,2 2004). Ticehurst authored a short paper on the first ten years of the Australian Communication Association (ACA). As a dynamic past president of the ACA, Ticehurst worked to establish the association on a more international rather than local footing. He visited New Zealand--a trip that led to the establishment of the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA). He also went to the International Communication Association (ICA) conference in Miami, Florida in 1992 to make a substantive bid to have the ICA hold its annual conference in Australia, which led to a joint ANZCA-ICA conference in 1994. The interview focuses on Ticehurst's involvement with ANZCA. Bill Ticehurst retired as Associate Dean (Curriculum and Quality Enhancement) of the Faculty of Business Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney in April 2004. [Note 1]
Steven Maras: How did you find yourself in the area of communication studies? What was your slant, or field of expertise?
Bill Ticehurst: My location to the field of communication studies was really an evolutionary process rather than deliberative, and largely paralleled the emergence of the field in Australia. After completing a Masters degree in science education at Macquarie University, I became a lecturer at Balmain Teachers College in 1971, at the relatively young age of 27. Prior to this, I had become involved in multi-media methods of teaching Physics and Chemistry, such as time-lapse photography, but had no idea of communication studies and frankly, no exposure to studies in the affective domain, or the humanities. However, I had always been involved in progressive academic movements, especially curriculum movements challenging the established status quo. Then, at the behest of Harry Irwin, who was in the process of developing a communication studies department at Kuring-gai College of Advanced Education (CAE)--which was a struggle for resources against established disciplines--I moved into educational technology and then into communication studies. So I really came into communication studies through educational media.
I think it is worth noting here the contribution of Professor Bill Birkett, who passed away this year. Bill was an accounting Professor who had the responsibility for developing early business degrees at Kuring-gai CAE (c 1975). It was his insights and breadth of disciplinary vision which saw the inclusion of interpersonal and organisational communication skills and competencies, as an essential part of a business education. It was his inspiration which saw the genesis of communication studies at Kuring-gai.
Most of my own work was variable analytic type research, but I eventually wrote my PhD in the Faculty of Education at Macquarie University in the early eighties around the area of the construction of meaning in communication [The Construction of Meaning in Communication, 1987], where I had to look across all fields, including social psychology, phenomenology, linguistics, semiotics and so on. That accounts for why I am so personally focused on meaning as being a central theme of communication studies. There were, of course, not many senior professors available in the field (with the exception perhaps of Henry Mayer, who was a brilliant supporter of the ACA and also provided that linkage between the ACA and mass media studies) to supervise our doctorates. In fact there were really none in Australia at that stage. We knew that we had to do PhDs to further our academic careers and enhance our scholarship, but there were no PhDs to do. So we had to largely carve out the communication field and intellectual territory from existing areas, such as education, psychology, English and sociology.
SM: What was the atmosphere at Kuring-gai like at that time?
BT: I don't know if I can communicate what it was like working at Kuring-gai. It was exciting to get up and go to work every day and to be an academic. But we didn't quite know what we were involved in. It is easy to look back in retrospect as opposed to looking forward in prospect. The Kuring-gai campus was a beautiful place. It just so happened to be an institution on the North Shore of Sydney, in really lovely environment, in a terrific city, where a lot of young scholars in a whole lot of fields arrived, and who eventually went on to achieve in a range of fields, and contribute to other institutions. But it was the site also of a lot of early critical and feminist scholarship, and was a place in healthy intellectual ferment. This environment was a catalyst to the exceptional development of communication studies as a disciplinary field at Kuring-gai. In contrast, I think that the old New South Wales Institute of Technology (NSWIT), prior to its merger with Kuring-gai to form the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) was more characterised by journeyman training of accountants and engineers. Of course, an important exception to this observation was the development of the excellent School of Communication at NSWIT which was paralleling developments in at Kuring-gai, with the emergence of studies in the area of critical, cultural and mass media studies.
Kuring-gai was intellectually more like a university than other CAE's, but not confined by the bounds of traditional universities. Around the time of the merger with NSWIT, Harry Irwin, Virginia Nightingale, Glen Lewis and Michael Kaye all went to other institutions. The Kuring-gai culture got submerged in the old School of Communication at NSWIT and disappeared as an independent entity. The remaining Kuring-gai staff were partly dispersed into other faculties. In my view, this unfortunate situation arose from strategic mistakes by the UTS administrators and strategic planners, who failed to distinguish the complementary paradigms that broadly characterised these two leading Australian communication schools.
SM: You have been involved in the internationalisation of ANZCA and Australian Communication Studies, particularly at the ICA and through the Electronic Journal of Communication. Why was that important?
BT: In terms of the ACA, we were all aware that something was happening academically to the old disciplinary fields, and privileged to be involved in these change processes. We were actually aware of that, excited about it, and we thought what we were doing was right and important. Out of this I saw the need that we had to become international and not just local players, and needed to make our scholarship and ideas known to the rest of the world. The International Communication Association only goes overseas once every four years. We began to work on our profile with the ICA by organising panels at their conferences. To get the conference to Australia (and not Israel who were our competition) required a personal link with the ICA, so I had Bob Cox [Administrator] and Mary-Ann Fitzpatrick [then President] of the ICA out to Australia a couple of times. I had a video made about Australia and the development of the ACA. I was also approached by the Electronic Journal of Communication, through the ICA, to do a special issue on Australian communication studies.
In 1994 Warwick Blood, the ACA vice president was the main organiser of the actual joint ACA/ICA conference. It was too big for Bathurst, so it was organised at the University of Technology, Sydney and the Sydney Convention Centre. The time and place for all of this was right, for the ICA also needed to become more international and less North American. Around this time I was also involved in the International Federation of Communication Associations.
In terms of economy of scale it was also important that New Zealand be brought in to the association, acknowledging that people like Frank Sligo and Margaret MacLaren (a quite senior person) were already involved with ACA. I thought it was unreasonable for us to have the ACA, and not have New Zealand scholars recognised for their contribution in our structure and constitution. It could have been called the Australasian Communication Association, but in the ANZAC tradition, ANZCA seemed just right. Opposing the presence of the ACA in New Zealand was a quite strong New Zealand Business Communication association that filtered through from vocational training into the universities. The ACA is an academic association, and is appropriate to universities, and professionals who want to take a wider perspective on what they are doing. The Australian association needed to be larger in size, there was a need to legitimate the role that New Zealand scholars already had in the association, and it filled a need that New Zealand scholars had for a professionally-minded academic association. The relationship involves a balancing act. Given the population differences between Australia and New Zealand the ACA needed to be very considerate of their needs perhaps more than to ourselves--this also applied to institutions in smaller Australian cities (for example Warrnambool). It is perhaps time now that many of the different communication associations in both Australia and New Zealand be pulled back in under the one umbrella.
SM: You were involved with an early project on Australian Communications Resources Project. What were you seeking to achieve there?
BT: That was an attempt to develop a database looking at the resources available in communication studies at the time, for use as a teaching and research resource. It was probably a vision before its time, as database technologies were developing so fast.
SM: How was the field perceived?
BT: As you mention in your paper, Harry Irwin makes the point that as a new field, communication studies did not initially face strong opposition from established interests and disciplines. It is not that it didn't face strong opposition within existing disciplines. What happened was that communication studies largely developed in intellectual spaces where the old disciplinary interests weren't established, and that disciplinary space was in the CAEs, where new disciplines such as Communication, Business, Tourism, Nursing, and Information Studies emerged in the 70s and 80s
In the older Australian universities, the last remnants of the disciplinary challenges posed by the emergence of communication studies were not finally reconciled with the old humanities until well into the 1990s, and the newer communication studies fields now flourish. In 2004 the battle is now well over. Communication studies could never have taken root at Sydney University in the 1970s or 80s because of the very well established School of English, and specialisations such as Linguistics. But this changed with time and the inevitable growth of the restructuring of knowledge, and disciplinary fields.
Reflecting this, the emergence of the ACA was evolutionary, not revolutionary in the sense that it didn't challenge the traditional English Schools. To go back to the point about opposition, I don't think there was an absence of animosity, just an avoidance.
SM: What was your own view of what Putnis has called the 'cross-currents', the influence of UK and US approaches, or other conflicts between different sub-areas, in the field?
BT: My view of the emergence of communication studies is that ‘communication studies' is an all-encompassing term. When it emerged it encompassed fields such as English, Speech, Public Relations, Technical Writing, Media, Linguistics, to some degree Cultural Studies in its interest in the development of meaning, and aspects of social psychology. In the New Zealand context, it needs to be recognised that New Zealand had a strongly established Business Communication area which developed before the ACA arrived on the scene. As a matter of fact, the New Zealand scholars who were becoming interested in the ACA, mainly from the University of Waikato, at Hamilton, were almost break-aways, and mavericks from the New Zealand main stream at the time. But like the Australian scholars, they saw the disciplinary need for something broader and more encompassing.
My view of the numerous references to European and North American ‘paradigms' that you make in your paper, is that the unique role of Australia in the world, geographically isolated from those two areas, but culturally growing out of them, provided an environment and context that was catalytic, and was the site of confluence between those competing paradigms. And we actually saw more grow from less, a synergy, stimulated by Australian culture, where those previously quite distinct and disparate fields that never crossed, started to meet in Australia.
You mention Peter Putnis's view that Australia is seen as being caught in a cross-current between Anglo and American influences, I disagree that it was caught in a cross-current. There were cross-currents, but surely out of that cross-current emerged a stream, that is still maturing and developing, that I would see as Australian communication studies. I guess it was a synergy that grew out of, and was catalysed by those cross-currents. Of course it was naturally multi-paradigmatic, but it all focused, ultimately, on the struggle to understand the personal and cultural determination of meaning, and the development of meaning. In terms of synergy, each paradigm, methodology, approach or world-view, had within it tools that were actually useful to the other paradigms. And yet in the isolated European and North American contexts, these scholars could never have met, and would never have become aware of the intellectual opportunities within these other competing paradigms. As you say in the paper, there are political overtones to this: If you are in cultural studies you are leftist, if you're in the North American tradition of communication scholarship you must be rightist. Australia as a site provided a scholarly site where those things could meet on non-antagonistic terms, in a way that we could all benefit from the tools that help us look at the same paradox of meaning.
SM: But some people do talk about antagonism, say in terms of cultural studies, for example.
BT: From my personal perspective, which could be seen as coming from a North American perspective--although I wouldn't perceive myself that way--our view was that we'd always welcome Cultural Studies into the field. They were naturally a part of communication studies. However, the Cultural Studies scholars always seemed to be in great flux and ferment: for example, conference organisation just never seemed to progress smoothly. I felt that some individuals were quite antagonised by the other mainstream fields of communication. Despite these minor inconveniences by the 1980s some excellent people like Gunther Kress, and John Fiske, among others were starting to think across the boundaries of cultural studies and communication studies, creating alternative perspectives on old issues.
In human organisational terms, our joint conferences and meetings were always a bit wanting organisationally, but in terms of intellectual and academic outcomes and productivity, were arguably some of the best. That is in very human terms, of course. In none of this is the antagonism deliberate I think; it was an outcome of circumstances.
SM: So you are talking about ACA conferences such as the 1983 conference at NSWIT, and the 1984 conference in Western Australia? I have read that that the 1984 conference was poorly attended ...
BT: One of the reasons it was poorly attended was that it was in Western Australia. In hard practical terms, a failing conference would mean that the organisation would be broke for the next conference. The ACA was a “ college of beggars ” of sorts. Money was always an issue for the journals and conferences. [Note 2] So the conference was also our main fundraising activity. And quite a few of the ACA's activities were characterised by quite domestic and mundane things that don't appear in the literature, such as when association funds tied up with the 1990 Melbourne conference, through no fault of the organisers, were caught up in the Pyramid Building Society bankruptcy. It took us four or five years to get our money back from that. Besides the paradigm issues, we have also been struggling with the practical issues of establishing and keeping an organisation and its executive going.
SM: Going back to an earlier point, in your view, was/is there such a thing as a distinctively Australian communication studies?
BT: I think that it is implicit that an Australian communication studies exists. But it is as difficult to define as Australian culture, in the broader sense, as being independent of English culture or American culture. We also need to approach the emergence of an Australian communication studies from the cultural outlook and perspectives of Australian scholars. I think one of the things, as in Australian culture, is an intellectual tolerance of ambiguity, which has enabled this confluence, which Irwin and Putnis have described, to emerge. I think it is more than a confluence, I think that we have got more out of the whole than in the component parts. I believe Australian communication and cultural studies were quite influential in the acceptance and development of cultural studies in the United States. So yes, there is certainly a distinctive Australian communication studies with a unique history, longer than quarter of a century.
It must be said that the development of the field in Australia was quite exciting and satisfying. It was all very friendly, and social, and in an Australian sense we were all good mates going off to conferences and carving out this new frontiers. Of course, there was a lot of earnest debate and conflict too. A characteristic of most of the people in it, like Roslyn Petelin and Bruce Molloy, is that they were all as brave as Ned Kelly, and weren't scared to have a go, to speak their mind, to challenge the establishment. So that is one characteristic of all the people forming the new association. Hardly any of them came from a communication studies background--well, that was almost impossible. At best, they may have come from being high school or TAFE English teachers. The rest, like me, came from all sorts of backgrounds.
Another defining characteristic is that these early scholars were prepared to think about the world, and to think about disciplines in new and refreshing ways. In this regard, I cannot speak too highly of the work of Robyn Penman and David Sless in contributing to the development of the field of Australia. They were active-- provocative in the best sense of the word, of provoking others to think and challenge. Great contributors, both of them.
It is noteworthy how little background in the field, even speech communication, these scholars had. Maybe this is why they could re-think the field: they hadn't been indoctrinated or trained in the traditional disciplines, and yet, there was a disciplinary need for this field to emerge. It is really about the re-structuring and re-organising of traditional disciplines which had become constipated, formalised, ritualised, and were providing no development or insight into this new area concerning the emergence of social, cultural and individual meaning. There were many fields that overlapped with it, but nothing that provided a focus: and that is what communication did. So there was a need there, and these disparate Australians filled that gap.
SM: Was there a nationalistic aspect to these developments?
BT: Yes, most certainly. Just as Australians take on the world in sport, fighting well above their weight, Australian communication scholars would go to the Speech Communication Association, or especially the International Communication Association, and punch above their weight. They were vociferous in debate and argument in plenary sessions, far beyond their numbers. I would argue that such typically Australian characteristics, organisationally, behaviourally, intellectually, and academically, all provide evidence of the emergence of a unique Australian communication studies. I feel that in the 1970s and 1980s we were intellectually leading the world in the emergence of this field.
Quite a few leading scholars came to visit Australia and were a little gob-smacked, like Mary-Ann Fitzpatrick, Jesse Delia, Lee Thayer, Denis McQuail and Cal Downes, and many others. Australia was an exciting place to visit for international communication studies scholars. What they found was refreshment from a stagnating American North American communication studies--which in perhaps the late 1960s and 1970s when these scholars were at university, was still feeling the effects of the Macarthyist era and the Vietnam war--and a willingness to challenge the status quo.
SM: So there was something about the interdisciplinarity of Australian scholarship that was attractive?
BT: Yes, but we were forced to do it. We were relatively small and couldn't block ourselves in disciplinary areas. So you almost had to meet scholars from other fields. If you were in speech communication like Bill Crocker was, he had to meet media studies. I had to meet cultural studies. You'd sit down and have beers with them, carouse with them, and argue with them. If we were going to get a critical mass we had to become an Australian Communication Association. Either that, or we had to be part of the international scene and for our scholarship to go to the United States or go to Europe. If we were going to have a uniquely Australian communication studies we had to share: and that very sharing, being forced together as a small group, caused us to meet people who in other intellectual cultures would be an anathema. So in the United States, Speech Communication scholars wouldn't mix with Cultural Studies scholars. Here we had to, and so you get that fertilisation and synergy.
SM: Was a uniquely Australian communication studies an explicit objective or goal, or is that something that is constructed retrospectively?
BT: No, it wasn't deliberate. It was not so much a vision as a knowing, a feeling, perhaps an intuition. It was just where we were in terms of disciplines, of thinking about the world, and progressing. We set out to form an Australian Communication Association to pull together these emerging strands, or emergences, popping up here and there in the intellectual ferment--I'm thinking of bubbles popping up in the mud pools of Rotorua here. The ACA could almost be seen as an outcome of the reshaping of knowledge happening at the time, and a watershed development of that time. And these developments occurred in a context, with the emergence of the CAE system, and all sorts of other things like the Public Relations Association wanting to become more professional. The Public Relations Institute of Australia has never merged with the ACA but there has been an overlap of thinkers, and many of them would have done one of the early graduate diplomas in Communication Management at Kuring-gai, or at places such as the Queensland Institute of Technology [now QUT]. You keep seeing references at that time to the idea of ferment in the field, which I see as an intellectual restlessness in people's thinking that was shared by different scholars, who didn't know what the answer was, and they didn't even know what the questions were. The ferment has to do with these emergences I am speaking of. The notion of the ferment in the field was a North American construct where they had recognised that things had become stultified. They didn't know the answers. Some of the answers were emerging in Australia. Maybe I am being a bit extreme here, but I think not.
At the time, Australians were all concerned with media and effects research, attitude and behaviour research, credibility studies, Cultural Studies was concerned with issues of control and hegemony. Concurrently with all this was a key realisation or recognition, and this seems very simplistic now, that we share and construct, both at an individual and social level, meanings in our society. Through understanding how we construct these meanings you can then understand persuasion, interpersonal understanding, media control, political communication, and so on. This provided a unifying theme for us. This is the awareness that came bubbling up. A few maverick scholars like Berlo had started to write about this in the US, but it started to become firmly established in the ACA.
SM: Are notions such as discipline helpful in this context? There has been a long struggle with that term.
BT: I recall an excellent unpublished paper by Bill Birkett called 'Disciplines and Disciplinarity'! In my own view, a discipline is an artefact in time which reflects the structuring and organisation of particular knowledges, and sets of knowledges, that are useful in thinking about and understanding the world. So disciplines are temporal. They tend to take on an identity and an undeserved respect after a time, and scholars see themselves as lodged within those disciplines, and fight for their retention, long after their need has passed. Disciplines are organic, and are constantly being reshaped, restructured and reorganised. The emergence of communication studies is an example of the restructuring and reorganising of knowledges, to help us in understanding the world. And of course, going along with this was the development of satellite communication, the development of new media, and information technologies and so on. So that is my view of disciplines. Is communication studies one? In these terms, yes. It may well disappear in time, and be subsumed in other ways. The important goal is that it helps the human struggle for understanding. A discipline of communication studies is only useful insofar as it is productive in progressing along that pathway.
SM: By seeing communication studies unreservedly and unashamedly as a discipline you are going against the trend here. What do you make of practical problems with this idea such that the area of communication is so diverse that it is difficult to lock into a single discipline, especially since it is shared with other disciplines.
BT: Those people are confusing the methods and approaches with the central focus of the field. The central focus on the field is, as I've elaborated, is meaning, whether socially or personally constructed or determined. They are seeing it as diverse because they are looking at the tools: whether semiotic tools, or variable analytic tools, or critical tools. I see these as ranges of tools and philosophies, even world-views, but the central focus is still on meaning. All this is symptomatic of the tendency for people to get locked into their methodologies and approaches, rather than keep their eye on the central goal and central focus.
SM: What then should we make of say early statements by Bill Crocker that the ACA should primarily be about interpersonal communication?
BT: That was Bill speaking out of his world at the time. He was a thoughtful man who had been trained and brought up in the discipline of Speech Communication. And I suspect, knowing Bill, that there was a restlessness in him that knew more. But in the mid-1970s when he was prepared to take leadership and responsibility he couldn't know where we'd be today.
SM: And is it an issue that we now speak of Cultural Studies or Media Studies or New Media as separate disciplines?
BT: Not really. Within Business Studies we speak of Accounting, Marketing and Management. What it represents is the collective endeavours of individuals towards understanding, and the sharing of those activities as part of the journey.
SM: How does politics fit in here? Looking back, I can't but help and see, say around the 1983-1984 period an element of politics. Bruce Molloy has commented that in the post-1984 period the Cultural Studies people drifted away.
BT: Yes they did. It was political in the sense that the people who established the ACA had a very genuine willingness, not to overtake, but to encompass and share, Cultural Studies. Right from the start of the ACA the Cultural Studies tension was there. But Cultural Studies people (and here I am including people such as John Fiske, John Hartley, Gunther Kress, Helen Wilson, and of course the critical contribution of Bill Bonney [Note 3]) are not logical positivists, they don't organise and structure things (it is a way of thinking about the world), and it just so happened that the conferences they organised were well-intentioned and well-meaning, and good conferences intellectually, but not well-structured and formalised. They would also run hot and cold with the association. Their field was very exciting. They were flirting with the ACA but at the same time flirting internationally. And I don't want to see them as an isolated group, but that group is characterised by people who think outside the traditional establishment square. We can't separate intellectual interests and developments from social outcomes associated with the players. It's that simple.
SM: So, given your view, has the field lived up to its promise? And what about ANZCA's place in the field?
BT: Yes. Today the field is energetic, and relevant, and providing understanding, keeping in mind that a thirty-year time-span is very short in comparison with other areas. The amazing thing to me is how the study of communication, which is so fundamental to the human condition, has been overlooked for so long. Perhaps it is in the nature of things for the obvious to be so overlooked. The field is emerging now in traditional universities, and is being taught in schools. It is a relevant and sought after area for bright young scholars to enter.
We have had a difficulty of public perception, and the federal Department of Education, not differentiating between communication studies and communications. Communications is about messaging and messages, and is associated with information technology. While communication is a processual thing. It is like a health commission seeing doctors and all their work in hospitals being about medicines rather than about Medicine and the whole process of wellness and sickness and so on. So we had this problem of getting us defined as a unique area for DETYA funding. The bureaucrats had difficulty seeing a field of communication as separate from communications. But that issue has largely been addressed now.
Of course I associate the field with my own interest in meaning, and when I talk about meaning, it is almost like the association is concerned something like 'the meaning of life'. Maybe that is a weakness and that people are more committed to individual specialialites. But specialties are rarely viable in themselves. In the ideal situation ANZCA would be an umbrella organisation for a range of centres. But in terms of ANZCA's place in the field, it is diffcult for ANZCA to work as a hub because it is never the focus. The size of the organisation represents constraints, and there are many international organisations now. At the same time, ANZCA is today mainstream and well-known. The association has had a whole series of heroes and champions, like Harry Irwin, Robyn Penman, David Sless, Grant Noble, Ros Petelin, Bruce Molloy, Peter Putnis, and Warwick Blood, Henry Mayer--and they were all ready to step forward into the breach and take the Presidency in a non-assuming, non-power grabbing way. There was a great collegiality about it. The ACA has been a cradle, and if I go around the people I knew at Kuring-gai more than 60% of them would have reached associate professorial level or above, and 60% doctorates in the field. I don't know if the people are there today, I suspect there are.
1. The title of this piece comes from both the theme of the ACA conference organised by Bill, but also seemed to suit the fact that his own PhD was had to do with the study of meaning.
2. BT: Thus, when the Communication Research Institute of Australia gave the ACA a home it was incredibly welcome.
3. BT: The NSWIT School of Communication Studies was world-class for critical and communication studies. And of course in 1990 there was the amalgamation of the very successful Kuring-gai program with the UTS program, and the administrators unfortunately didn't understand the different approaches being taken here. I was the person that oversaw the demise of the Kuring-gai program.First Upload 6th June, 2005.
Thinking about the history of ANZCA: An Australian perspective
First published in the Australian Journal of Communication 31(2) 2004: 13-51.
This paper reflects on ways of approaching the historical development of the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA), from an Australian perspective. It is not in itself a history. Rather, it seeks to examine some of the questions that have been raised by prior work on ANZCA, and particular frameworks, problems, and issues that need to be taken into account. Formed in 1979, ANZCA is an organisation with a complex past and present, incorporating the Australian Communication Association (ACA), and operating across two countries. In this paper, I discuss four issues, among the many that could be looked at in detail: the question of an Australian communication studies, the situation of the field in Australian higher education, communication education, and the notion of the field itself.
In 2003, this journal published 'Presidentsreflect on ANZCA: Past and future' (Maras, 2003), which emerged out of asession at the 2002 annual conference of the Australian and New ZealandCommunication Association (ANZCA) held at Greenmount Resort, Coolangatta,Queensland. This session sought to bring together some of the past presidents ofANZCA to reflect on the organisation and their period of involvement. Assomeone curious about the history of communication studies in Australia, andknowing that in the last few years ANZCA had been re-energising itself, I tookan [Page 13 Ends] interest in bringing the session to publication--which hashappened thanks to the support of Mary Power and Roslyn Petelin. During thistime, I had also been working on 'An ANZCA Dossier', an information resourceabout ANZCA that is now accessible, thanks to Mary Power and Joanne Jacobs, on the ANZCA web page (http://www.anzca.net/dossier.htm). The two projects overlapto some extent. However, while they draw on historical documents andexperience, and contribute to an understanding of ANZCA's past, neither of theseprojects can qualify as a history of the association. Similarly, this paper isnot in itself a history [Note 1]. Rather, it seeks to examine some ofthe questions that have been raised by this earlier work on ANZCA, andparticular frameworks, problems, and issues that need to be taken into account.
There are risks in writing about any academic or professional field, especially as a relative newcomer to ANZCA. I am reminded here of Bourdieu's three types of field strategies available to aspirant entrants in a field: conservation, succession, and subversion (see Swartz, 1997, p. 125). Thankfully, I have encountered collegial generosity rather than gate keeping. As the past presidents' session reveals, one of the achievements of ANZCA is the way it was able to support the careers of now senior scholars at a particular time, and as such it isn't something to discuss lightly. At the same time, there are risks in not doing this kind of work. Issues to do with the specifics of local debates, as well as of institutional memory, continuity, and reproduction are at stake. In the past presidents' session discussion, Mary Power speaks of 'Young ANZCA', which implies the existence of an 'Old ANZCA'.
One of the difficulties of attempting to think about the history of ANZCA is how to keep the focus on ANZCA and not widen it to include the broader history of communication studies in Australia, or the state of the field in New Zealand. This is especially difficult since ANZCA emerged out of a set of specific conditions or background of activity. However, a narrow focus, restricted to just one stage or period of ANZCA's development, can be too restrictive. Thinking about the history of ANZCA thus involves a set of decisions about the scope and framing of the investigation. For example, the linkage between communication studies in Australia and ANZCA, especially in the period when ANZCA was formed as the Australian Communication Association (ACA), is very strong. However, given the trans-Tasman focus of the organisation, and the differences between the way the field was established in New Zealand and Australia, it is important that this link not dominate. My own limited experience of the New Zealand context means that I may not always be successful in this task. [Page 14 Ends] Indeed, in order to incorporate a New Zealand perspective into this piece, one would need to include the relatively untold story, to a large extent undocumented (except perhaps for Shirley Leitch's contribution to the past presidents' session), of, firstly, why New Zealand scholars joined ANZCA, and, secondly, the contribution they have made to the association, even before it became ANZCA [Note 2].
Separating the focus on ANZCA from the history of communication studies is complicated by my own tendency not to restrict the historical questions to the internal dynamics of ANZCA as an organisation. From this perspective, I am interested in the role ANZCA has played in articulating and stabilising the academic field of communication studies and also, through its journals and conferences, created an ongoing space for discussion. At the same time, it must be said that other actors and bodies have played their role in shaping the field. The activities of ANZCA are not identical to the activities of the entire field of communication, media, and cultural studies more broadly. In the introduction to the past presidents' session, I make the point that ANZCA has always been defined within a network of relations (between individuals, the executive, research centres, other associations, and the journals, for example), and at different periods this network has required maintenance, repair, and expansion (in relation to the ACA-ANZCA change, or the International Communication Association, for example) [Note 3].
These issues to one side, accounts of the development of communication studies in Australia (and New Zealand) are not that common, and those that exist have been done (for many good reasons) by senior figures. We are fortunate to have the overviews of the field that exist (many of them are listed in the dossier). In relation to communication studies in Australia, some provocative and thoughtful commentary and reflection exist, although not always presented as a form of historiography. The texts we do have frequently work in the genre of a discipline review, or overview of the field for an overseas audience, which introduces its own constraints. Nevertheless, these texts attempt to open up discussion of different problems or issues. Thinking about the history of ANZCA from an Australian perspective, several overlapping 'problems' or axes of investigation interject and need specific consideration. I want to discuss four of these: the question of an Australian communication studies, the situation of the field in Australian higher education, communication education, and the notion of the field itself. [Page 15 Ends]
An Australian communication studies?
While the question 'Is there an Australian communication studies?' is difficult to answer, the posing of the question has played a significant role in Australian debates, and also for ANZCA, especially during its ACA phase. Many individuals have raised the question (see Irwin & More, 1983, p. viii; Lewis, 1982, p. 14; Ticehurst, 1992, p. 7), but I suggest that it has been approached in at least three ways.
One approach is defined by Peter Putnis, who opens his 1986 overview of the field with the question 'Can one speak of Communication Studies in Australia as a discipline in its own right or even as a single field of study?' (p. 144). Putnis's position is defined by a clear distinction between communication studies as an institutionalised field of study and an 'Australian paradigm of communication studies' (1986, p. 143). On the level of the paradigm, Putnis sees the field as caught in a cross-current between Anglo- and American influences [Note 4]. Building on work by Lewis (1982), Putnis presents this idea as pointing to an orthodoxy in the Australian scene. While this cross-current has a real effect on the level of teaching and research, Putnis is also attempting to show how this notion works as an 'idea', a 'framework' through which the field is constructed and through which different narratives about the field evolve. As such, he is interested not just in the competition between paradigms, but 'the use of the notion of competing paradigms' (Putnis, 1986, 148). This approach opens up a different way of engaging with the field, not simply as a place where overseas controversies are played out on Australian soil, but as an 'arena' where local conditions introduce differing trends 'between and within paradigms' (1986, p. 153). While the absence of any single dominant paradigm of Australian communication studies means that Putnis is not inclined to respond with a 'yes' to his question about the discipline, he nevertheless promotes the notion of an Australian communication studies as a counter-balance to what he perceives as an increased importation of cultural studies and British curriculum models without sufficient modification or adaptation for local contexts. Speaking against a backdrop of growth in Australian studies, Putnis is especially concerned with the risks of perpetuating the British influence on Australian social institutions [Note 5]. In later work, Putnis took up the issue of how the Australian perspective emerges in different local research (1993).
A second approach is represented by Harry Irwin. For Irwin, in contrast to the experience in the United States, for example, Australian scholars received the contrast or split between European and North American [Page 16 Ends] approaches not as a given but as a recognised problem (1984, p. 4). This produced an opportunity for defining a uniquely Australian approach, especially considering the fact that this new field, largely because of its emergence in the non-university tertiary institutions, did not face strong opposition from established interests (Irwin, 1984, p. 3). Irwin and More suggest that 'it is possible to develop approaches, uniquely Australian, which benefit from insights available from each of the major overseas approaches' (1983, p. viii). In a later version, Irwin's account is dominated by the theme of a lost opportunity, a possibility that was missed because of competition between different viewpoints about communication studies.
This competition, while offering the potential for Australian communication studies to choose the best of both worlds in determining its own direction, instead created confusion and animosity. Australians, who ignored the possibility of developing a unique standpoint, also ignored developments in communication studies provided by their Asian neighbours, along with the opportunity to take up issues relating to Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. (Irwin, 1993, p. 159)
In this account, a sense of an Australian communication studies emerges, but it is in relief, formed more out of pathways refused rather than pathways followed, and defined more by geography, and government policy, than a unique set of problems or questions. Indeed, in his earlier paper, Irwin refers to Australian communication studies as living in a state of 'colonisation' (Irwin, 1984, p. 13). This is not to suggest that Irwin fails to outline what an Australian communication studies should be interested in: he mentions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, and greater interest in Asian and Pacific communication (Irwin, 1984; see also Lewis & Osborne, 1993), as well as intercultural communication, business communication, and communication education (Irwin, 1998). Ironically, it could be said that fields such as cultural studies, media studies, Asian studies, and Australian studies have been more effective in making the most of the opportunities Irwin outlines, and in this sense Irwin's account is overshadowed by a sense of a field struggling with its multidisciplinarity and alienated from some of its key projects [Note 6].
A third way of answering the question is broached by Gunther Kress. He writes: [Page 17 Ends]
nothing gives me a greater sinking feeling that the idea of a 'uniquely Australian' version of this or any other discipline. It is a perversely inverted version of the 'cultural cringe'. Either we say interesting things about problems in communication--in which case we'll make an impact everywhere, or we don't--in which case we don't deserve to. (Kress, 1981, pp. 4-5)
For Kress, wariness of a distinctively Australian communication studies comes with a feeling that attempting to define what communication is or, work out what the discipline might be about, is a pointless exercise, only achievable through long term examination of problems in communication [Note 7].
Evoking a complex nationalism, the question of an Australian communication studies (an Australasian communication studies has never been mentioned, to my knowledge) is associated with a process of displacement and re-evaluation through which local conditions are used to write and re-write the map of communication studies, according to a unique or regional frame of reference, as well as the cultural outlook and perspectives of Australian scholars. If one approaches the question from the point of view of disciplines and paradigms, it is very difficult to answer in the affirmative. However, if one approaches the question from a socio-geographic perspective, and attempts to focus on key problems, it becomes possible to map out the outlines of an Australian communication studies, either real or ideal. Such a perspective resides in both Irwin's and Putnis's approaches, despite their different ways of answering the question. Both Irwin and Putnis maintain the importance of linking activities in the field to Australian social and policy traditions. This would need to be supplemented today with a critical account of the inter-relatedness and autonomy of the terms 'communication studies', 'media studies', and 'cultural studies' in Australia. Some of the interest or anxiety over Australian communication studies and what it might be has manifested itself in terms of an interest in working out an 'Australian research agenda' (see Norton, 1992) [Note 8]. However, this approach can sometimes have the effect of setting up UK and US approaches in a monolithic way. Even if one accepts that many staff appointed in the early days of communication studies in Australia came from the US or UK, this does not give us an insight into the inventiveness with which these migrants might have adapted and hybridised their research methodologies [Note 9].
At the 1981 ACA conference, in what Wilson has called 'the first Australian critical statement about communication studies' (2001, p. 2), Bill Bonney criticised the unity or coherence of the field of the area [Page 18 Ends] of communication, and drew a distinction between two approaches to communication, one interested in a general study of culture and cultural production, and the other invested in an a-historical and a-social account of the process of communication. Wilson has noted how Bonney's intervention led to a certain orthodoxy, and has also highlighted the binary character of Bonney's intervention. Building on this binarism, in a Letter to the Editor of the Australian Communication Review (ACR) regarding the 1981 conference, Kress mentions 'two quite distinct paradigms', the British/European and American, operating in 'unreconciled conflict' at the conference (Kress, 1981, p. 4). From a historiographical perspective, what we can call 'paradigm-talk' presents a problem. Space does not allow us a detailed methodological discussion, but history presents a problem for paradigm-talk if only for the reason that, while realms of 'normal practice' might exist, practices do not stand still. From this perspective, the notion of paradigm is a concept well suited to explaining the absence of change in a field, and blindness to developments resulting in a paradigm shift. Putnis's strategy of charting the use of the notion of competing paradigms becomes useful to overcome this problem, although his own use of the term 'paradigm' possibly complicates the analysis. What becomes apparent is that some accounts of Australian communication studies draw on a very loose, and shifting definition of the paradigm that in some ways distorts earlier attempts by Kress (1981), Lewis (1982), and Irwin and More (1983) to chart differing perspectives in the Australian context [Note 10]. From a historiographical perspective, caricaturing the Australian scene in terms of a divide between two paradigms risks obscuring attempts to come to terms with the 'divide' and understand differences (see, e.g., Hodge, 1982; Irwin, 1985). If paradigm-talk has two dimensions, a sense-making side and a territory-making side, then we can suggest that, despite attempts to show how the notion of the paradigm works to make sense of the Australian context, the geography of the divide has won out.
It is interesting to look at the deployment of the idea of the paradigm and its different articulations. In Putnis's account of two conferences in Britain (Putnis, 1984), each of them inhabiting a paradigm, the differences are framed in terms of a tension between 'the production and reproduction of culture' and the 'teaching of communication skills'. Conflicts between British and 'American' methodologies form a largely background aspect of the account, with the cultural studies conference looking towards 'European Marxist thought' and the skilling conference to 'the Americans'. In later work by Putnis (1985), however, the paradigms take on a more fully national identity: the [Page 19 Ends] tension is between Anglo-European and American paradigms. In 1986, Putnis notes the lack of emergence of an 'Australian paradigm of communication studies'. Tackling the issue of cultural dependence, Putnis uses the term 'cross-current' to modify the idea of two mutually exclusive 'paradigms', US and UK, in his work, but nonetheless mentions 'American versus British/European paradigms' (Putnis, 1986, p. 146). Putnis goes on to point out, in the form of a metacommentary, that the paradigms idea has 'become the dominant way of situating teaching and research in Australia'. 'The use of the notion of competing paradigms as a way of making sense of communication studies is predominant not only in discussions of the field as a whole but also in the way research in particular branches such as interpersonal communication or media studies is represented' (Putnis, 1986, p. 148). Here, the sense-making side appears in the analysis, but falls back into the topography of a divided terrain. What is interesting about Putnis's 1984 account is that it shows the two paradigms in operation in Britain. A careful reading of the American context, from Adorno's criticism of Lazarsfeld (echoing critical versus empirical arguments) to James Carey's research (Carey, 1989), would have to be done to prove the existence of the two paradigms--or more, for there is a strong pragmatic tradition to be accounted for--in the US context [Note 11]. Furthermore, closer attention to cultural studies reveals distinct camps and differing views (see Turner, 1989, p. 2). The point is that, while the tendency exists to define the paradigms along mutually exclusive colonial/imperial lines, it is also possible to trace differences in the pedagogic and content focus of the 'paradigms' that do not follow colonial/imperial lines, or operate within colonial/imperial domains. As Irwin notes in one paper, the equation of philosophic differences with geographic ones is not a straightforward task (1985, p. 3).
From Lewis (1982) to Irwin and More (1983) to Bonney (1983) to Curthoys (1983) to King and Muecke (1984), the two paradigms argument finds an inconsistent line of development that has still yet to be mapped out and fully unpacked [Note 12]. An indication of the inconsistency is that Lewis does not speak of paradigms but attempts an overview of the growth of communication education in the US and UK as a way of charting Anglo-American influence on Australian communication education. For Lewis, the US perspective is characterised by the systematic study of communication processes, with mass communication and interpersonal communication the main focus. British approaches are characterised by scepticism towards psychology, a rejection of compartmentalisation of communication into categories of interpersonal, small group, and organisational, [Page 20 Ends] and a preference for a macro-sociological perspective. Irwin and More do not speak of paradigms, but differing perspectives. The US approach is process based, and linked to separate contexts of mass communication, interpersonal, small group, and organisational communication, while the European approach is structure based, influenced by structuralism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis, and critical of empiricism--with a local tension existing between developing theory and developing communication skills and strategies more relevant to industry and organisations. Bonney highlights a tension that he calls an 'independent discipline approach', which holds that the study of the human communication process is specific to it, and independent of other disciplines, and a 'cultural studies approach' that holds 'that there is no a-historical, a-social object as the human communication process and hence no possibility as communication theory (Bonney, 1983, p. 1) [Note 13]. For Curthoys, the tension is between American social psychology and mass communication. For King and Muecke, who suggest that paradigm talk is reductive and over-schematic, and call for a more complex account of the emergence of communication studies, the tension is between quantitative content analysis and a psychological account of non-verbal and interpersonal communication versus a British-European paradigm based on linguistic and semiotic analysis with greater investment in Marxism.
As a rhetorical trope, the 'two paradigms' motif has helped make sense of a field in conflict or ferment (more on this metaphor below), but it has also arguably polarised discussion to an unnecessary degree and obscured understanding of the tensions and differences at stake. What it has also obscured are attempts at bridge building between the different 'paradigms', what Irwin, drawing on management literature, calls 'boundary spanning' (Irwin, 1985).
It can be suggested that the Australian context represents a case that proves the inadequacy of 'paradigm' talk to characterise debates rather than the dominance of two undisputed paradigms. From this perspective, paradigm-talk would lack the flexibility to account for the different levels and speeds of debate. In this context, it is worth noting Molloy's point in the past presidents' session that, in the early days of the association, ideological conflict was often masked, or misrecognised, as interpersonal conflict: 'we didn't realise we were part of an emerging, ideological struggle, contesting who should have the right to name and appropriate different theoretical perspectives' (Maras, 2003, p. 5). Leaving aside the point that few communication studies contexts are without vigorous dispute, the inadequacy of paradigm-talk could be [Page 21 Ends] seen in terms of 'teething problems' for an emerging intellectual milieu that was trying to find a footing in the 'cross-currents' swirling around it. Or it can be seen in terms of an extraordinary confluence of forces coming together in terms of the cultural prominence of communication issues, the Australian communication studies project, and a soon-to-be-internationalised cultural studies project, with significant academic horsepower that was highly theoreticist and at times dismissive of 'pragmatic-functional' perspectives (see Turner, 1989). In terms of the history of ANZCA, I would suggest that it is always useful to keep in mind the way departmental level issues and tensions articulate on the level of the association (a point that I take up below). Or it can be seen in terms of the influence of specific institutional, departmental, and work contexts rather than colonial/imperial ones. Some scholars still work with a very short-hand version of the 'two paradigms' argument, identifying a tension between interpersonal and mass media approaches that is present in the ACA's first Newsletters (see Crocker, 1979), or alternately a tension between different realms of application, supported by either management/business or humanities perspectives. In the past presidents' session, in a special use of the term, 'pragmatic'-functional perspectives are cast in opposition to cultural studies.
Looking back over this ground, although it is speculation, it seems that the tension between human and media communication is not so prominent, and that the issue of the compartmentalisation of the field in terms of organisational, group, media, and human communication is also not so insistent (see Irwin, 1985). Demands for a consistently unified field have given way to an appreciation of diversity. At the same time, in Turner's words, cultural studies has 'burrowed under the empiricist fence' to blur the methodological boundaries and found its 'applied' forms (e.g., cultural policy) that merge with aspects of applied communications (Turner, 1989, p. 3). And communications has become a key focus of interest instead of communication, although the productive if heated examination of the nature of communication that once characterised ACA debates seems to be missing.
The situation of communication studies in Australian higher education
In Irwin's accounts of communication studies, the shape of the field is linked to changes in the higher education sector (covering a period through the 1980s and 1990s). Communication studies is a relatively recent introduction to the higher education landscape in Australia. Emergent in the early 1970s during the period of expansion that [Page 22 Ends] saw the establishment of Institutes of Technology and Colleges of Advanced Education (CAEs), as well as non-sandstone universities such as Murdoch, Macquarie, and Griffith, communication studies was seen as an area of academic and vocational merit offering contemporary relevance (Irwin, 1993, p. 158). Defined during the period of the so-called 'binary' system of higher education that offered mass education but channelled research funding primarily to universities, the area is considered to have undergone roughly two major phases of development (see Irwin, 1993; 1998) before the current configuration:
i) 1970-1987 was a period of slow expansion and consolidation of majors within other degrees and courses (e.g., the program in communication studies initiated at The University of Queensland in 1984); the creation of the ACA (formed in 1979) and its link to the journals that continue to form important scholarly forums for the field (the Australian Journal of Communication--formerly Australian SCAN: Journal of Human Communication (est. 1976), and Media Information Australia (est. 1976)--now Media International Australia, incorporating Culture and Policy). A characteristic of this period was a broadening of the interests of the ACA beyond speech education and human communication, and engagement with concepts of culture and cultural studies approaches as a live issue for the field, as demonstrated by the sponsorship of the Australian Journal of Cultural Studies (formed in 1983) in this period.
ii) 1987-1995 was a period that saw the breaking down of the binary system of education under the so-called Dawkins reforms and the creation of a 'unified national system' (Putnis et al., 2002, p. 6); the harnessing of higher education to 'national priority' areas related to economic growth that often excluded the humanities (Hunter et al., 1991); the entry of communication studies into newly formed or consolidated institutions comprising the former CAEs (e.g., the University of Western Sydney, Edith Cowan University, La Trobe University), Institutes of Technology, and Agricultural colleges; a burgeoning number of postgraduates in the area, and the establishment of Media and Communication Studies as an Australian Research Council category (circa 1990). Another characteristic was a questioning of the situation of the field within the humanities and social sciences (with business studies as a possible alternative location), derived primarily from the difficulty of adequately funding specialised vocational courses in media and journalism. [Page 23 Ends]
A third period could be identified, roughly from 1995 to the present, which is represented by the introduction of courses in media and communications in older universities such as the University of Sydney, University of Melbourne, and the University of New South Wales, under funding and institutional conditions very different from the expansion of the area in the 1970s and 1980s, leading to smaller schools or targeted programs sometimes enabled by the teaching efforts of staff from a number of schools. These post-1995 developments tend not to occur under the banner of 'communication studies' per se but rather under 'communications and media', and explicitly engage with developments in communications and new media, as they were among the first programs to be set up following the popularisation of the World Wide Web and the application of personal computing to the creation of multi-media. In this period, the global revolution in information and communication technology (ICT) becomes a key policy consideration, forcing the field to re-link to national priority areas, and articulate itself to innovation (Galvin 2002; Putnis et al., 2002, pp. 11-19). When Wilson draws attention to the implications of a shift from 'critique' to 'design' in Kress's work, she raises an important problem in this third period of communications studies (2001, p. 6). Her point also forms a nice linkage to a background phenomenon: while communication studies has always had complex links to social sciences, humanities, and commerce, in this period the discipline(s) of design (influential in creative industries discussions) emerges as a major factor for many departments undergoing merger or restructure, with 'convergence' looming large as a factor in curriculum design (e.g., at RMIT and UWS).
Whether or not the recent Nelson reforms to higher education result in a fourth period of development remains to be seen. Given the possibility of a return to a 'binary' system or 'league ladder' of teaching versus teaching and research universities, and also a desire to increase diversity in the field (Putnis & Axford, 2002), one wonders whether the new reforms will precipitate staff movement towards particular universities or a fewer number of departments in an attempt to increase diversification in the area and define niche or specialised identities. This would be despite Putnis and Axford's warning that 'supporting a few elite institutions on the assumption that they are always in the best position to respond to emerging research demands, changing labour-market demands, or student needs and interests does not fit with the evidence in this field' (2002, p. 18). [Page 24 Ends]
This periodisation of the development of communication studies through policy regimes has helped provide accepted narratives about the development of the field. Irwin suggests:
The conservatism of the old universities was not conducive to the development of a new field of study, especially when its social relevance and intrinsic interest threatened to attract students away from longer established academic fields. The new institutions … were more responsive to the needs and interests of students and employers, and more innovative in course developments. It is in these advanced education sector institutions, which eventually grew to hold more students than the universities, that communication studies was introduced and developed. (1989, p. 44)
As well as providing an account of originary contexts, the articulation of different policy regimes has provided a very useful framework for mapping the shifting contours of the field and the changing rules of the game. It has given important insight into the context and climate in which teaching and research is carried out. However, one possible drawback is that it runs the risk of promoting a mechanistic link between policy (cause) and courses (effects) [Note 14]. The issues surrounding recognition of the field of communication studies as a research field, as opposed to communications as a discipline of messaging and telecommunications (now confused by the trend to refer to most courses as 'communications'), would require a different kind of narrative [Note 15]. Necessarily, I think, Irwin takes a broad view of the phenomenon of 'mass education' and the linking of higher education to national priorities and new populations: the demand for 'skills' (however they may be defined), and not just in the information technology sector, is one particular area that is worth greater attention. It is interesting to consider the emergence of communication studies not just in terms of the development of a field, but as part of a much broader process of engagement with the priorities of the new economy that comes with the knowledge society and service industries. In other words, there is value in seeing the emergence of communication studies in relation to a broader societal engagement with 'communications'. Indeed, it is noteworthy that the study of telecommunications and issues of 'communication, technology and control' pre-dates the ACA and many courses in communication studies [Note 16].
This leads to a possible second problem with the periodisation, which is that it potentially closes off other possible readings of the field as an extension of social and cultural history. My personal intuition is that [Page 25 Ends] there is more to say about the link between the rise of media studies and the fusion of entertainment, politics, and media, post-1970s. I would also include here discussion of Australian society's engagement with the televisual, particularly in the post-Vietnam period. A careful study of the emergence of communication studies in Australia in relation to the 1960s and 1970s as a 'period of Australian cultural self-assertion' (Putnis, 1986, p. 144), and intensified nationalistic discourse (especially against the background of Bicentennial celebrations), could yield interesting results (see Putnis, 1993a).
A third concern regarding the periodisation of the development of communication studies in Australia in relation to policy frameworks should be mentioned: namely, that by focusing on opportunities and risks, it highlights impacts on the field but does not always place equal weight on the responsibilities of the area, and fails to promote what I would describe as the social contract obligations of the field. Irwin is careful to stress the need for theory and practice to go together, and also inter-connectedness with the humanities and social sciences. However, communication and media studies is, seen in the context of massive changes to higher education in the last 40 years, part of a significant change in priorities in the curriculum and the purposes of education. In some respects, it has been a doorway for increased focus on utility in the context of an arts and humanities education, and has as a result transformed the expectations surrounding that education. Read in this way, it could be argued that, in return for its place in the arts curriculum, communication and media studies has a social contract obligation to pursue critical perspectives on pedagogy, professional, and policy practice, to argue the case for new, democratic communication futures, and to promote the need for critical media and communication literacies to support this future (for an important statement of the responsibilities of communication scholars, see Putnis, 1993b).
It has been argued that the lack of sustained focus on communication pedagogy in Australian communication studies forms a gap in the area (Irwin, 1998, p. 281). And yet it has also been suggested that 'communication studies emerged in Australia as essentially a curriculum idea' (Putnis, 1993a). I am increasingly of the view that thinking about the history of ANZCA involves thinking about communication education more broadly. Communication education is not only at the centre of many debates that have peppered ANZCA's history, but is [Page 26 Ends] also a key term through which that history can be made relevant to the present. As such, we need to think about the definition and place of communication in the curriculum and the way it works on a pedagogic level. While different snapshots of curriculum have been provided at different times (see, e.g., Lewis, 1982; Putnis, 1986, p. 149; Putnis, 1988), and form an aspect of the reports of the field (Molloy & Lennie, 1990; Putnis et al., 2002), this kind of curriculum history is not very common and is awkward to approach. Nevertheless, two points spring to mind.
First, there is the issue of how departmental tensions and aspirations articulated themselves on the level of the association. The size of the Australian scene in particular meant that few scholars could avoid talking to, or even working alongside, scholars from different camps. Certainly, the complex topography in which the CAEs and Institutes of Technologies worked increased the attractiveness of the ACA as a kind of focus point for activity or as a representative body. Many of the currents eddying through the ACA derived from 'the institutionalisation in particular circumstances of sets of pedagogical values and practices' (Galvin, 1990, p. 164). While different sets of theory and methodologies from the US and the UK were available, there was arguably no paradigm of pedagogy ready at hand to do the job required for the emerging field of undergraduate study in Australia [Note 17]. A 1983 article by Kress forms a useful illustration here. Promoting the 'questions and problems surrounding both the production and consumption of meaning' as a key problem area for communication studies, Kress seeks to define a new problem area at a time when 'traditional disciplines' are not adequate, and the raison d'être of the CAE sector of tertiary education was recognised as 'the provision of vocationally/professionally oriented education and responsiveness to community need' (Kress, 1983, p. 4). As well as the relation of communication courses to work and industry, the 'implications for our own practices as educators, and the effect on teaching methodologies, and learning strategies and environments' form a key focus for Kress. The inter-relationship between cultural studies and communication studies is also interesting from this perspective, where most cultural studies practitioners worked in degrees with the name 'communication'. As such, communication could be described as a contested terrain of sorts, which was at the same time attractive to students and important to employers. While paradigm-talk could exaggerate the tensions here--scholars with an industry focus could celebrate practical and professional relevance and theoreticians could take the intellectual high ground--on the level of the student experience the mixture of instrumentalism and [Page 27 Ends] theory made for a richer if at times uneven educational experience. It is at the level of communication education that ANZCA has done important work in serving as a clearing house for local and international perspectives on critical communication, and ideas about what a communication degree should look like, and the significance of applied communication and professional contexts--see, for example, Irwin & Knight (1985), which presented findings of the 'Applied Communication Course Development Project'. While it is inaccurate to say that ANZCA served the role of, say, the Public Relations Institute of Australia or the Journalism Education Association, papers at ANZCA conferences, the meeting of teachers from different backgrounds, and the fact that ANZCA was a forum in which highly academic and professional issues could be raised helped focus discussion on what training for the professions might mean [Note 18].
Kress's observations about the vocational focus of CAEs raises another point, which is that the pre-history of ANZCA, or more specifically the ACA, may be worth looking into in more detail. In the ANZCA Dossier, I have tried to flag the existence of a number of associations in existence, or mooted, before the ACA came into being, as well as the emergence of communication as a section of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS). The ACA, on one level, can be seen as but one expression of a broader drive or push for association. What would make the history of the ACA/ANZCA unique in this context is the way it became a durable entity, when so many other associations fell by the wayside. The relationship between these other associations and the ACA could reward further study, especially the roles played by William Crocker and Rod Miller. On a related point, there is an issue in the history of ANZCA that is of interest. Namely, what role did speech education play in shaping the association? Irwin in particular has been careful to acknowledge the importance of Crocker's role as foundation president. However, the link between what speech educators were concerned and passionate about, and how this influenced the association and the field more widely, is under-analysed on the one hand, and too easily boxed into issues of 'interpersonal communication' on the other. A cursory look at some of the pedagogic aspirations of speech education shows that they contributed to interest in the Australian accent, an emphasis on skills and expression, an awareness of literacy and problems with the pedagogy itself, an awareness of the needs of occupations, as well as a shift away from correct/incorrect approaches to speech towards ideas of effective communication (Crocker, 1970). It is possible to see these interests restrictively in terms of speech training (although [Page 28 Ends] this would be to ignore the moves to rethink speech training in terms of communication in the area). More broadly, these interests raise conceptual issues relating to the professional training, nationalism, cultural capital, and an awareness of appropriate pedagogy that are still with us today, and underpin our understandings of communication education.
A thorough look at communication education would need to draw on more information about the teaching and learning contexts of the CAEs and Institutes of Technology. The amount of control held by 'Higher Education Boards' involved in centralised planning of curriculum was significant. There is a trope in accounts of Australian communication studies that goes: 'communication studies started at the periphery (CAEs) and moved into the centre (Universities)'. The Dawkins reforms to higher education that dismantled the so-called 'binary' system of post-war funding are the obvious catalyst here. But this narrative puts communication studies into the university (and into a realm of legitimacy) very quickly. I wonder (and this is obviously a question from someone who entered the area after Dawkins), if there are any enduring effects of a CAE 'mentality', and, if there are, what are they? The fact that at times different programs have been quite idiosyncratically built around staff interests might be one legacy. The keenness with which communications programs seek to meet student and employer needs might be another. Another might be the tension between two images of communication as an area that can do 'service teaching' for other disciplines versus an area with its own disciplinary identity. The distinction between Bachelor of Communication degrees and Bachelor of Arts (Communication) degrees might be interesting here. One area of interest is in debates around the humanities, and especially the new humanities (see Ruthven 1992). To what extent has the relationship between communication studies and the humanities been conditioned by this history? It is noteworthy that it was cultural studies and not communication studies that was the key disciplinary site for much of the early thinking about the new humanities. While the focus on the humanities is of interest, the links between communication studies and particularly psychology and business studies are also worth considering here.
A conventional intellectual history focuses on key figures as representatives of intellectual formations--formations that in turn have links to social debates and political ideologies (different thinkers thus [Page 29 Ends] become emblematic of the left or the right of politics, progressive or conservative) [Note 19]. The conventional approach to history relies on a fairly well established map of the field and different interests, and indeed an account of ANZCA focusing on the factional interaction of Irwinians and Fiskians, or modernists and post-modernists, or pragmatic-functionalists and semiotic-culturalists for example, might be possible. If there is an over-reliance on stereotypes or caricatures of intellectual formations, of organisational, management, interpersonal communication, and cultural studies, in accounts of the field so far, then I suspect that it is due in part to this approach to history, and the modes of interpretation it encourages [Note 20].
While conventional intellectual history would seek to define and evaluate the scholarly contribution of particular individuals, this has not been a strong feature of the Australian context. This is not to say that it would not be possible to do so (see Putnis, 1993a). The contributions of Grant Noble and Henry Mayer as models of scholastic engagement, and Robyn Penman and David Sless as applied theorists, in addition to other figures already mentioned in the discussion (as well as the life members of ANZCA), could be looked at in this way [Note 21]. Individual presidents' addresses (see the 'ANZCA Dossier') often form significant interventions into particular debates, such as issues to do with ANZCA's public role (as do those by external keynote speakers at conferences) [Note 22]. I suspect that one reason for this style of history built around individual contributions not being so common in the Australian context is that, to use a theatre metaphor, the stage upon which their contribution could be judged and evaluated is still unstable. To shift metaphors, the field is either inadequately framed, or its framing is still a source of contention.
A 'formations' approach to historiography frequently draws on a singular and unified conception of 'the field', and, leaving aside the point that different perceptions of the field can be contested, there are practical difficulties to do with writing the history of this 'field'. Two immediate issues arise here. The first is that, in terms of writing about higher education, there needs to be more awareness of how changes to higher education in the post-war period have transformed our understanding of what a discipline or field might be. At the same time that post-modernism has challenged the disciplinary organisation of knowledge, relatively 'new' professionally oriented disciplines have been established in the university, among which we can include business, nursing, etc. (see Clarke, 1996). Communication studies is a [Page 30 Ends] new area in this sense, although it needs to be said that it has reached a degree of institutional stability and maturity, and that today perhaps areas such as public relations are in the space communication studies was 20 years ago, in relation to finding appropriate theoretical and philosophical frameworks for pedagogic practice, and negotiating the demands of disciplinarity in an academic context (see Motion & Leitch, 1999) [Note 23]. The status of communication studies as a new discipline, and the desire for scholarly legitimation from its practitioners, has, I think, marked ANZCA in particular ways. Its current activities seem guided by practitioners in the higher education sector (and to a lesser extent communication professionals), but not those involved in technical and further education, corporate training, or secondary schools.
The second issue that arises in relation to the field is that as well as being a new, professionally oriented 'discipline' or multidiscipline, it has been in 'ferment' for a long time. In 1980, Rod Miller addressed the argument put by Nicholas Garnham that '"communication studies is not a discipline. It is not even a coherent field of study. It is an illusion based upon the poly-semic nature of the word communication ..."' (Miller, 1980, p. 6). A special issue of the American Journal of Communication that carried the theme 'Ferment in the Field' was published in 1983. In simplistic terms, this issue grappled with changes to the institutionalised structure of 'communication research'--an approach organised around the key names Lazarsfeld, Lasswell, Lewin, and Hovland (all of whom had come to the study of communication from other disciplines), focused around prominent research centres, and strong distinctions between interpersonal and media communication, and group, interpersonal, mass, and political communication. Rogers and Chaffee, for example, worry over the task of finding a balance between academic study and professional training in communication skills, while delineating a new sense of the 'theoretical center of communication' (1983, p. 23). While some Australian commentators view the discipline as 'mature and relatively stable' (Irwin, 1998, p. 283), the conclusion is still drawn that 'communication has not been established as a discipline' (Wilson, 2001, p. 14). Putnis et al. describe a field of 'amorphous contours', focusing attention on a 'curriculum divide' that represents one of the 'central unresolved tensions in the field' (2002, p. 6). Turner characterises the area as a 'highly volatile emerging discipline' and suggests that to describe the area as a discipline is perhaps to 'overstate its homogeneity and stability' (1998, p. 181). Wilson highlights 'the undisputed fragmentation of the field into many unrelated or loosely related areas, as well as many different [End Page 31] approaches and disciplinary methods', which itself gives rise to new identities and rhizomatic interconnections (2001, p. 14). In the past presidents' session, Molloy says that 'I don't think communication is a discipline'.
These concerns mark ANZCA in a unique way. From the very earliest articulations of the ACA, two primary concerns emerged: first, the complexity of the field and any discipline of communication studies, and, second, the difficulty of defining communication (see Kress, 1981). These are in a sense founding themes of ANZCA. They contribute to a lack of clarity about what the association's key purpose or role is, or a concern about its progress, that persists in discussions. This questioning to do with the founding themes was not the by-product of some crisis in ANZCA, but a condition of its emergence and formation of its identity [Note 24]. While some thought that it was not necessary to unify the study of communication as a discipline (see Muecke, 1982, p. 93), this view was itself a response to anxiety in/about the field. In a summary of the 1986 conference, More and Blood identified a 'very real divorce between those who see a need to justify teaching and research in the communication discipline and those who do not see a need to do so': a 'divorce' that they felt to have similarity with 'irreconcilable differences' that split the discipline at international level (More & Blood, 1986, p. 34). While the association drew on the energies of members eager to legitimate their particular disciplinary focus, and while the rubric of interpersonal communication was proposed as an initial framework, the ACA also drew, almost from the outset, on notions of interdisciplinarity, and a rigorous effort to theorise communication, to help overcome the problems (see Miller, 1980; also Irwin, 1985; Penman, 1986; Sless, 1987) [Note 25].
Viewed from this perspective, it becomes apparent that the politics of the field is intertwined with different conceptions and poetics of the field. This is where some analysis of the metaphor of 'ferment' becomes necessary. In some cases, the metaphor signals a problem in the field, a tumultuous development. In others, it defines a productive state of change. (For example, King and Muecke took the historical coincidence of the 1983 'Ferment in the Field' issue of the Journal of Communication as a sign of possible rapprochement of paradigms in the Australian context (1984, p. 2).) A possible disadvantage of the idea of a field existing in ferment is that it posits a unitary conception of the field that pre-exists the ferment. One might start by reversing the assumption and look at communications or communication studies from the outset as a multidisciplinary entity (and here, my own definition of discipline [End Page 32] would extend beyond scholarly disciplines to other techniques and disciplines outside of the academy). If we do so, a different poetics of the field emerges. Ferment, fissures, and fractures can be linked to the attempt to draw a discrete (mono)identity for the discipline. This identity might be desirable to gain a higher profile, to gain more funding, to form a department, or to stabilise a particular area. However, this stability tends to operate against the multidisciplinarity of 'the field' and its generative connections across discipline areas. It can create borders and fractures. Attempts to 'own' communication are thwarted by the sheer complexity and relevance of the term to many areas of human activity. As my colleague John O'Carroll puts it (personal communication), the discipline of communication stands on a fault-line, and draws its energy from the fault-line.
The issue of the field represents a significant methodological obstacle to approaching the history of communication studies in Australia, and ANZCA. Indeed, even this sentence reveals a certain problem, in the sense that we shouldn't be speaking only of 'communication studies', since that term signifies in particular ways. Using communication studies as an umbrella term seems old-fashioned today. Also, interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity are important to ANZCA members, many of whom share membership in other areas (cultural studies, journalism, psychology, and linguistics, to name a few). A key issue facing discussion of the area in Australia is how to account for the relationship between communication studies and areas such as media and cultural studies that have close intersecting histories, but have also achieved a degree of relative autonomy (see Turner, 1998). At different times, the triangle of media, communication, and cultural studies has had different configurations. Media studies can be treated variously as a subset of communication studies, or cultural studies, or an independent area with its own problematics (media ownership, public broadcasting). To exclude media and cultural studies from a study of Australian communication studies would leave much that is unique to the Australian context absent. At the same time, these disciplinary categories constitute distinctive formations with identifiable trajectories, issues, and frameworks particular to them.
My provisional response to this obstacle is not to re-unify the notion of the field, but to suggest that the complexity of ANZCA and its network is a concrete example of the complexity of the field today. Furthermore, because the term 'communication' is a central focus of the organisation, it is something of a unique site at which one can examine the slippage between different ideas of the field, and different [Page 33 Ends] understandings of communication in both popular and academic domains. Galvin's (2002) account of how 'communication' may no longer be able to define a unique area because, like 'information' or 'culture', it has become a 'background' or ubiquitous term with diverse stakeholders, might make this view seem redundant. However, his article also draws on a mapping of different configurations of a field--even if the usual emphasis on media, public relations, and journalism might obscure important developments in information technology and other areas, including the re-badging of communication curriculum into creative industries--which holds interesting possibilities. In the context of ANZCA, Galvin's approach could be supplemented by paying greater attention to the different epistemologies and attitudes towards communication deployed across the Tasman. Taking up the trans-national challenge means addressing the different dimensions of the New Zealand situation. Even a cursory glance reveals that many New Zealanders work in business and management schools, not in the humanities.
As a way of acknowledging rather than avoiding the complex issues of the field, I want to introduce the term 'field-work' to describe the way ANZCA both articulates the field, or concepts of the field, and reacts to developments in the field. Thinking about the history of ANZCA thus becomes linked to an idea of thinking about what kind of field-work ANZCA does. And, in using this term, my intention is not to suggest that the work goes one way, that the association simply works on the field, but also that 'the field' works on the association. Thus, I am interested in how ANZCA does field-work, but also how it gets caught up in the workings of the field. Nor is it my intention to look at the field in a purely objectivist way: fields are never entirely depersonalised, or divorced from personal perceptions of the field.
As a way of acknowledging rather than avoiding the complex issues of the field, I want to introduce the term 'field-work' to describe the way ANZCA both articulates the field, or concepts of the field, and reacts to developments in the field. Thinking about the history of ANZCA thus becomes linked to an idea of thinking about what kind of field-work ANZCA does. And, in using this term, my intention is not to suggest that the work goes one way, that the association simply works on the field, but also that 'the field' works on the association. Thus, I am interested in how ANZCA does field-work, but also how it gets caught up in the workings of the field. Nor is it my intention to look at the field in a purely objectivist way: fields are never entirely depersonalised, or divorced from personal perceptions of the field.
There are several reasons why ANZCA finds itself uniquely placed in relation to this field-work. The most important reason is that it retains a general focus on communication, and presents itself as a broad church. This leaves ANZCA (excitingly) exposed to different currents and versions of communication. The second reason is the fact that it has been the institutional host of key journals in communication, media, and cultural studies in Australia. Rather than focus on ANZCA as a reflection of the ferment of the field, I would like to see more emphasis placed on ANZCA as a space of solutions and invention. When in the past presidents' session Bruce Molloy talks about negotiating a rapprochement with cultural studies people, or when Sue Turnbull tells how she worked with Graeme Turner to keep ANZCA connected [Page 34 Ends] to the journal Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy, these are narratives of practical creativity. The recent proposal from Helen Wilson to change the rules of the Association and move away from State or regional based representatives to 'Section Heads' is, I think, an example of the association trying to be more responsive to the shifting currents that eddy through it, and reflects a codification of areas of interest that had been past practice for regional representatives. The effort to gain recognition for the field of communication as a formal area of research in the late 1980s, and the internationalisation of ANZCA leading up to the 1994 joint conference with the International Communication Association are similar acts of field-work.
The activities of ANZCA are not identical to the activities of the entire field. At times, a gap between the two has emerged, and in this space the journals have played an interesting role. Accounts of the early history of the ACA are sometimes characterised by a tension between interpersonal communication and mass media. In the first issue of the ACA Newsletter (November 1979), Bill Crocker writes in 'A Note from the President' that:
the focus of A.C.A. is on interpersonal communication … It is not centrally concerned with mass media (film, T.V., journalism, etc.) communication arts (theatre, etc.) or communication technology. A.C.A. does not replace the need for specialist organizations in these cognate fields. Individuals working in those areas may certainly wish to be members of A.C.A., however, since interests will overlap in many areas.
The reality, however, did not always reflect practice. While it is fair to say that a view of communication influenced by interpersonal communication, with a focus on professional contexts and social science methodology, was an important area of interest within the association, Crocker's was not the only view of what the nascent association could be. The interests of communications scholars, and members of the association, were just too diverse (Putnis, 1986, p, 153). A look at the content of the ACA Newsletter, the advertisements, the conference programs, and especially the contents of Australian SCAN at the time--which under the editorship of Rod Miller maintained a wide agenda--reveals an interest in interpersonal communication, but also film studies and media issues. Telecommunications was never far from view. Even Crocker sees these areas as 'cognate fields'. The 'piggy-backing' of the founding ACA conference at Raywood after an ANZAAS conference is significant from this perspective. [Page 35 Ends]
ANZCA has found different ways to modulate perceptions of the field. The 'eclecticism' of the Australian Journal of Communication (AJC) in particular, it could be argued, has played a key role in reminding ANZCA members of the demands and complexity of scholarship in the subject, and, in a sense, of the suspect nature of borders, as well as allowing members a credible publication forum for their (very) diverse interests. The extent to which this article draws on AJC publications is itself evidence of its close alignments to the field. MIA contains the ANZCA updates. The representation of two foci in the title of Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy, and the emphasis on 'international' in one of them, is another instance of a journal working across disciplinary segments that might otherwise lose contact [Note 26].
In terms of the history of ANZCA, there is no doubt that the complex 'field-work' we are talking about permeates the organisation of conference strands, the refereeing of papers, and that this issue has had to be handled carefully. Important to a substantive history of ANZCA would be an analysis of the kinds of papers presented, and their areas of focus over the years (an analysis that is beyond this present paper). The conference is a crucial site, and, for some members, given the geographic distance at play and the subsequent lack of opportunities to meet physically, ANZCA is the conference. Read through the idea of field-work, we can suggest that ANZCA, and particularly the annual conference, has been the site of some complex field-work, and key to the negotiation of some field issues [Note 27]. The conference has been a place of dispute, compromise, reconciliation, and pluralism.
An interesting text here is Ann Curthoys's report of the 1983 conference organised at the then New South Wales Institute of Technology (NSWIT), where she describes 'the yawning intellectual chasm between these two groups [the Interpersonal and Mass Communication schools] … represented at the 1983 conference by separate sessions, with little crossover of attendance at, or argument between the different streams' (Curthoys, 1983, p. 2). Graeme Turner later sketched the following portrait of relations between the two 'schools' at the time in a keynote address to the 1989 ACA conference.
'Once', it is popularly held, cultural studies set itself in clear opposition to and competition with communication studies. Take-over plots, parodic representations of empiricist positions, and stories of the courses operating at places like Kuring-gai provided [Page 36 Ends] the stuff of conversations among those cultural studies persons desperate enough to turn up at an Australian Communication Association conference, and who hung around the corridors outside the sessions deploring the absence of The Political. In the conference program, the division between 'us' and 'them' was reproduced in parallel sessions; within the sessions themselves the division produced ritual attacks on empiricism on the one hand, and subjectivist marxism on the other. The 'enemy' rarely witnessed its own representation. (Turner, 1989, pp. 1-2)
Such accounts pose an interesting challenge for anyone interested in thinking about the history of ANZCA. It is not my intention to look at them with a view to producing an authoritative historical account. Rather, more importantly in this context, I want to suggest that they can serve as illustrative examples of field-work. The circumstances around the 1983 conference are interesting in this respect. Through the illness of vice president John Skull, who had received the most votes, Bill Bonney, who had launched a strong critique of a-historical and a-social approaches to communication at the 1981 conference (see above), became vice president of the association (who in the ACA constitution organised the conference and then assumed the presidency). At the 1983 conference at NSWIT, organised by Bonney, the ACA made the decision both to sponsor the newly formed Australian Journal of Cultural Studies (AJCS), and elect John Fiske as vice president. Following the presidency of William Crocker and Harry Irwin, each having served two-year terms, cultural studies gained prominence in the association.
While documentation is irregular, and recollections are not always crystal clear, it can be said that the conjunction of a number of conferences outside of the ACA [Note 28], strong activity in the South Australian chapter of the ACA, and in Western Australia, the sponsoring of the AJCS, and a 'cultural studies' issue of the AJC guest edited by Noel King and Stephen Muecke in 1984, marked a point at which the ACA was attractive to cultural studies figures who felt that the association should represent the work they do, and also that the ACA needed greater theorisation and politicisation [Note 29]. Regardless of the terms in which it is couched, this conjunction of interest represents a point at which the ACA might have functioned as a 'Communication and Cultural Studies Association', and served as an umbrella organisation for projects in both areas [Note 30]. This was an attractive prospect for cultural studies scholars for whom 'communication' was a keyword (in Raymond Williams's sense), and for members of the ACA interested in human or [Page 37 Ends] interpersonal communication, for whom the existence of a nationally prominent organisation gathering together different approachesto communication under the one body was seen as an important development.
Subsequent events did not bear this possibility out in the way one might expect. A small showing of 70 delegates at the 1984 conference in Perth is regarded to have been caused by the travel involved but also in part by a perception that it was too 'cultural studies'. The matter was of sufficient concern that the Annual General Meeting referred the matter of 'revitalising the interpersonal strand to avoid a loss of members with a special interest in this area' to the incoming executive and organisers of the 1985 conference (ACR, 6(1), 1984, p. 8). The 1985 and 1986 conferences indeed achieved the goal of keeping these members, but, despite the fact that some cultural studies people remained members, worked as state representatives, published in the Australian Communication Review, or, indeed attended conferences, extant programs show that cultural studies participation dropped away. Bill Bonney had by then died. John Fiske, who was a bridging figure across different 'schools' of communication [Note 31], was at that time in the process of making the transition to academic life in the USA. Cultural studies as an area was growing in prominence. At the 1986 AGM, concerns were raised by members about the ACA sponsorship of the Australian Journal of Cultural Studies, the administration of the journal, and reports that the AJCS was soon to become an international journal. The view that 'the AJCS did not reflect their interests' resulted in a motion for the ACA to discontinue its association with the AJCS and adopt Media Information Australia (MIA) as the second ACA journal.
Despite a real emphasis on diversity within ANZCA in the past and the present, this period represented the shaping of an implied constituency within ANZCA, crossing human, professional, and media communication, but not apparently extending fully to cultural studies. The task of forming a dialogue between two paradigms dropped away from the conferences, with the themes focusing on communication development and application and convergence, and intense interest around policy processes. Following the sponsorship of MIA, media studies gained momentum in the association. The situation was sufficient that, as stated in the past presidents' session, Molloy felt a need to 'mend the split' and use the 1989 conference (which listed Graham Murdock and Lawrence Grossberg as keynote speakers) to do [Page 38 Ends] so a conference that Roslyn Petelin described in her AJC editorial as a 'watershed', perhaps because 'Cultural Studies so decisively reemerged three years after our imprudent relinquishing of the Australian Journal of Cultural Studies in 1986' [Note 32].
Although I am not certain that a 'split' is the right characterisation of these events which as I stated earlier are accessible only through irregular documentation and recollections as a story about aspirations, divergences, and bridge-building, this example forms an interesting instance of field-work. There are hints of evidence that the early debates impacted on the quality of critical discussion. In 1992, Ticehurst raises a concern regarding communication and debate within the ACA: 'We seem to have been politely talking past each other, with a paucity of vigorous debate, continuing along unswerving research directions, and not really listening to, or considering, the arguments of others' (1992, p. 6). In the past presidents' session Mary Power recalls that at the last conference 'I heard Alan McKee talking to someone in a cafe and he said: too many papers on organisational communication. Well, I thought there were a lot of Cultural Studies papers'. It is easy to overstate the significance of residua of this kind. There has never been solely one image of what ANZCA is, or could be. The blurring of interests of communication scholars has seen media and cultural issues take a significant place in the association. Paradigm-talk would perhaps turn this too quickly into a narrative about competing ideologies, and bring into play a particular causal view of history, focusing on rift, conflict, and crisis. I am more interested in this illustration as an example of the complexity and necessity of field-work, and the way the association has dealt with aspirations and tensions that manifest over an extended period of time.
The idea that issues to do with the field played an important part in these events is supported by an observation made in an article by Irwin in 1985. Irwin outlines different approaches to the disciplinary status of communication and looks at a view that 'development of the study over time may allow it to develop into a discipline' (a position echoed by Kress above) and a position that 'communication is not a discipline' and that 'it can never become one' (Irwin cites Bonney at this point) (Irwin, 1985, p. 2). He then goes on to write:
the independent discipline versus cultural studies debate is unlikely to be resolved given that the two viewpoints are based on widely disparate assumptive positions. In the mentime [sic], as the debate continues, those who deny the possibility of communication as an independent discipline do not engage in [Page 39 Ends] attempts to develop comprehensive communication theory and are highly critical of meta-theorising of others. (Irwin, 1985, p. 2)
In this passage we find another way (and I am sure not the only way) to un-pack the two-paradigms narrative one that casts the tensions with cultural studies in a different light. Not as an argument to do with the inherent precepts of cultural studies but as a problem for attempts to conceptualise the field as an independent discipline which returns us once again to one of the founding themes of ANZCA.
The close linkage of ANZCA and its annual conference forms an important consideration in any economic evaluation of ANZCA. Each year, the association stakes its financial situation on the success of the conference. The rise of other organisations in the field of media and communications has meant that ANZCA does not stand alone in the field, and its particularly generalist take on communications is harder to sustain in this age of 'themed' conferences. International associations have also impacted on ANZCA. If ANZCA members have migrated to other conferences and forums, it is not solely because of a shift in interest, or a drive to specialisation in some areas, but out of an institutional expectation of greater international recognition on the part of scholars. Given that conference attendance is frequently linked to departmental funding, any reduction in that funding leads to a rationalisation of conference choices. As a generalist association operating across Australia and New Zealand, ANZCA regularly faces the challenge of moving the conference around, while ensuring that it will remain attractive to the membership [Note 33].
There are obstacles to ANZCA fulfilling its potential as a hub in the area of communication in Australasia. Aside from the work required to keep talking across different intellectual frameworks, approaches, and professional areas within the association, as well as issues of geography and population, the effort of maintaining the standard of different departments, programs, and offerings to students, on the local level, are strong factors. With these obstacles in mind, recognising the field-work done by ANZCA is especially important. This field-work can be evaluated in different ways, often depending on the evaluator's methodological disposition and educational/institutional background. Perhaps the most pessimistic view is to see ANZCA as part of the problem of division and fracturing in the field, and thus somehow outdated or irrelevant. From this perspective, past debates have impacted on the association, leaving it focused on tensions in the field, and making it difficult to grapple with new developments and [Page 40 Ends] the big questions. A middle view sees ANZCA as taking a palliative role, relieving the symptoms and leaving an uncertain space for the problem to be addressed by individuals. An optimistic view sees ANZCA as taking a proactive role in rejuvenating the area and forming new problems. The truth probably lies somewhere between these three options: ANZCA has probably reproduced attitudes to the field that are unhealthy; it has made a space for the problem to be addressed in a sporadic, non-systematic way (which may indeed be suitable, given its resource base) [Note 34]; and it has made proactive attempts at renewal (such as the efforts since the crisis of the 2001 conference, the positivity of the 2002 conference, the back-to-back organisation of the 2003 conference with the fibreculture conference, and the focus on new members, especially post-graduates, with the 2004 conference). In this context, two recently published articles seem especially significant for the way they seek to shift the emphasis to proactive engagement, and also suggest that something has changed. The first is Helen Wilson's piece, 'Towards a non-binary approach to communication', where she undertakes some very important criticism and reflection on ANZCA. The second is Michael Galvin's 'Communication futures and the future of communication', which builds on the recent DETYA survey of Communication and Media Studies (Putnis et al., 2002), but also highlights a new version of the problem that the reality of what is happening in the communications world, and the curriculum, is difficult to map within conventional categories and organisational
While I have sought to picture ANZCA as a space of creative solutions to the complexities of field-work, there is room for a more straightforward account of its achievements on a limited resource base. The dossier performs a basic work of testimonial in this sense, especially in relation to the honorary life members. In working on the 'significant dates' section of the ANZCA dossier, I was especially interested in the internal communication mechanisms, the networking activities of the association, and also the internationalisation of Australian communication studies. On the latter, while I have not seen all the figures, if I am not mistaken, the joint conference with the International Communication Association in Sydney in 1994 marks a high point in membership numbers (around 400) [Note 35]. The Australia-New Zealand link is another achievement, but it would be nice to see more critical assessment of (different) interests. ANZCA members are an intrepid bunch, frequently jetting off to conferences run by the National Communication Association, International Communication Association, [Page 41 Ends] and the International Association for Media and Communication Research [Note 36]. However, for all its importance, a critical history needs to go beyond testimonial, and seriously critique the work of ANZCA members not simply as key position holders, but as thinkers, scholars, and intellectual entrepreneurs.
Why, it might be asked, is this necessary? And this question raises another to do with the very value of associations, and the challenges they face. The networking that led to the formation of the ACA was convivial and carried out under conditions very different from those of today. Electronic networks make the possibility of association far easier. There is a sense that organisations such as ANZCA are tied to a logic of gate-keeping. Additionally, it can be said that the kind of interdisciplinarity found in the humanities in Australia is somewhat intolerant of the idea of 'the field', and is wary of professionalised definitions of the field characterised by strong occupational closure. It could also be argued that, in a postdisciplinary context, the notion of the field may be redundant. While these are legitimate concerns, the answer as to why it is worthwhile thinking about the history of ANZCA has I believe, three aspects. First, field-work involves work in the sense of effort, and this should be recognised. Second, the media and communications area can still be seen as area of academic and vocational merit offering contemporary relevance, as Irwin puts it. Third, it has to do with the nature of scholarly communication, and its status in today's informational society. The nexus of cultural, media, and communication studies in Australia forms an interesting case through which to examine issues of how academics associate, the politics of that association, and the cultures that influence that association. In this context, asking questions about scholarly activity and collaboration, as well as differences and disagreements, has an important role in thinking about the status of scholarship in contemporary society.
Thinking about the nature of the field, field-work, and the ability to read fields, is an important aspect of scholarly practice [Note 37]. While, on the surface, different journals and conferences provide participants with a sense of current developments, the field connects scholarly dialogue with past debate and discussion, and conditions that discussion. It is the stage upon which disciplinarity is performed, and the morphology of different fields has a bearing on the extent to which interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, or postdisciplinarity is rigorous, or merely opportunistic. Central to a notion of academic listening, the field conditions our understandings of positions and position-taking (Bourdieu, 1993, pp. 34-35). It both filters and generates discourse. [Page 42 Ends]
Although it is primarily a spatial metaphor [Note 38], the idea of the field has temporal applications in a scholarly world where (as undergraduates are taught) theorists are usually discussed using the present tense. Underpinning this practice is an important fiction that the field is a living entity, both structured and structuring, as Bourdieu suggests in his account of the habitus (Bourdieu, 1990, p. 53). In this sense, thinking about the history of ANZCA is not just an exercise to do with the past, but also the present and future.
AcknowledgmentsMy thanks to Lelia Green, Bob Hodge, Harry Irwin, Bruce Molloy, Graeme Turner, Jonathan Watts, and Bill Ticehurst for making time to talk about ANZCA history, and the AJC Editorial Board, including Roslyn Petelin, for their varied and generous comments, suggestions, and feedback regarding this article. Any inaccuracies are my sole responsibility.
1. The only published history of ANZCA is by Bill Ticehurst, when he wrote an account of the first ten yearsof the Australian Communication Association (see Ticehurst, 1989). This text isreprinted on the web as part of the ANZCA Dossier.
2. The change from ACA toANZCA was mooted in Ticehurst (1992, p. 10). Some suggested reasons why NewZealanders joined ANZCA include a stimulating, interdisciplinary intellectualmilieu that welcomed critical scholars, the generosity and standing ofAustralian scholars, and the fact that the Australian Journal ofCommunication offered a highly respected publishing outlet for moreinnovative and critical research. Thanks to Judith Motion for these points. TwoNew Zealand members of the ACA are listed in the Australian CommunicationReview (3(3), 1982, p. 9).
3. Quoting Galloway, Irwinnotes that, prior to the formation of the ACA, an '"invisiblecollege" of those concerned with the new communication studies wasfunctioning' (1984, p. 14).
4. Ticehurst has suggestedthat out of that cross-current emerged a stream, that is still maturing anddeveloping (personal communication).
5. Noteworthy here is anexchange between Peter Putnis and Graeme Turner. In a report for the Bulletinof the Australian Studies Project--an initiative that coincided with theAustralian Bicentennial that sought to review Australian studies in tertiaryeducation--Putnis used the idea that 'traditional Australian dependence onBritish curriculum models [page 43 Ends] and of the reluctance to developcourses focusing on Australian society and culture' as a starting point for abrief piece on Media and Communication Studies (an excerpt from a longerpaper). Putnis's recent experience observing developments in the UK had madehim aware of a growing British influence in Australia (see Putnis, 1984). Thethen ACA-supported Australian Journal of Cultural Studies came in forspecial criticism for the way it took up British developments without adaptinga framework with specific ties to the British experience to the needs ofAustralian society. Turner's reply, while acknowledging concerns regardingcultural imperialism, defended the journal as a forum for the publication of Australianresearch, arguing that 'the alternative to being colonised is not to bedoggedly nationalistic' (Turner, 1986, p. 30). Interestingly, Turner's responseto the concern that media studies was 'insufficiently linked to mainstreamAustralian social history' (Putnis, 1985, p. 18) is met with a celebration ofAustralian cultural studies as a distinctive project. It should be noted thatTurner later voiced concerns regarding the lack of public purchase and'visibility within political and cultural debate within Australia' that hadbeen achieved by cultural studies (1989, p. 11).
6. Interestingly, a similarposition is taken in the New Zealand context by Samuel Coad Dyer, who sought topromote a uniquely New Zealand perspective in communication research (see Dyer,1993).
7. Beneath the reaction tonationalism, there is also a sense that the very difficulty of identifying auniversal definition of a discipline suitable for all areas feeds scepticismabout the worthiness of the task.
8. Norton was a US scholarappointed as Head of the School of Communication and Organisational Studies atthe Queensland University of Technology.
9. Virginia Nightingale'sdiscussion of 'effects models', and specifically Grant Noble's work, suggeststo me an interesting approach to take (see Nightingale, 1997, p. 369). JohnHartley's work draws in a unique way on the Australian context (see 1996, pp.170-195).
10. Galvin offers a slightlydifferent critique of the 'two paradigms' theme when he highlights the way inwhich a valid use of the idea in the Australian context results in dubiousgeneralisations regarding developments in the US and UK (see Galvin, 1990).
11. See, however, comments bySteven H. Chaffee talking about changes to US approaches in Putnis (1986, p.146).
12. A task that Putnis beginsbut falls short of by positioning Australia as the arena for competingparadigms (1986, p. 153), but which is taken further by Galvin (1990). [Page 44Ends]
13. Similar argumentssceptical of the possibility of the discipline of communication studies hadalready been circulating in the association (see Miller, 1980, p. 6)
14. Indeed, it is importantto remember that higher education is the main policy focus in question. Wilsonnotes that communication policy has not had as central a role (2001, p. 9).
15. My thanks to BillTicehurst for this point.
16. In 1977, the first of theCommunication, Technology and Control conferences was held at University of NewSouth Wales (see Bell & Boehringer, 1979).
17. The commitment to liberalarts education in North American higher education institutions forms anotherdifference to keep in mind here.
18. My thanks to GraemeTurner for this point.
19. This inclination to writedifferent localised tensions into broader cultural narratives perhaps definesone of the attractive aspects of paradigm-talk. It could be argued that theAustralian communication studies debate has, influenced by nationalistdiscourse, itself focused too much on an imperial (US vs UK) geography.Alternative geographies would be worth considering. A tension between thedifferent State capitals sometimes forms an imaginary geography of Australiancommunications that could be worth investigating further: including theinfluence of Murdoch and Western Australia as a cultural studies/theoreticalspace; the influence of Canberra, and the Communication Research Institute ofAustralia; the influence of Brisbane and the former Key Centre in Media andCultural Policy.
20. It would be interestingto see approaches that ventured beyond these well-worn grooves, as well as aredefinition of 'critical practice' that moved beyond a particular disciplinarysegment. Over-emphasis on particular segments can itself hamper ourunderstanding of developments that potentially cut across them: the influenceof semiotics on Australian communication scholars would be interesting toconsider in this light (see Threadgold, 1988).
21. Curthoys offers aportrait of Henry Mayer at the 1983 conference as 'irritated by what he sees asmindless empiricism and speculative theory alike' (1983, p. 8). If Mayer issuch a key figure, it is perhaps not only because he was a linking pointbetween media studies and the ACA, but because his own critical pluralismprovided an alternative to the 'two paradigms' divide. A survey of individualcontributions is beyond the scope of this paper. Below, I refer to problemswith the complexity of the field, and the difficulty of the definition ofcommunication as founding themes of ANZCA. Several figures in ANZCA inparticular sought to keep these issues on the boil (see Bonney, 1983; Kress,[Page 45 Ends] 1983), in an often ambitious way, with David Sless and RobynPenman foremost among them (see Penman, 1982, 1986; Sless, 1987; Sless & Shrensky,1995).
22. A useful and necessaryadjunct to this focus on individual contributions would be an account of theorganisations such as the Communication Research Institute of Australia (CRIA)and Key Centre for Media and Public Policy, which served either as a home forANZCA or its journals. Late in 1985 the change in contact details for anorganisation with a rotating executive was seen as a problem (largely due to alarge number of non-financial members), and the Canberra CAE was proposed asthe base for a permanent secretariat. Later, CRIA provided a semi-permanenthome for ANZCA for some time, which provided both a certain kind of continuityas the conference and presidency travelled around, and a focus on critical butalso applied communication research. Thanks to David McKie for this point.
23. An interesting aspect ofa historical analysis of ANZCA would be to look at the different areas it mayhave nurtured within the conference, such as public relations (although thiswould need to be supported by a careful examination of papers given at ANZCAconferences over the years).
24. It could be suggestedthat a contributing factor here is that people turned to communication out ofdissatisfaction with other more traditional disciplines (Putnis, 1993a).
25. One important term inrelation to interdisciplinarity was 'meaning', which formed a focus both forcultural studies practitioners interested in the production and consumption ofmeaning, but also scholars in other areas, drawing on semiotics, and evenphenomenology (Bill Ticehurst, personal communication).
26. Expanding this reading alittle, a title such as Continuum could be seen as an expression of adesire for diversity and pluralism; the online journal M/C bridges mediaand culture, but also popular and academic discussions of particular issues.
27. Norton's seminar on anagenda for communication research is a noteworthy attempt at association levelactivities (see Norton, 1992; Putnis, 1993a), although the fact that it wasconducted at the conference may have left some research issues, andresearchers, under-represented.
28. The conferences inquestion were in 1976 at NSWIT and a 1980 Australian Communication and CulturalStudies conference held at South Australian College of Advanced Education. In1983 John Fiske was also convenor of the ANZAAS communication session in Perth.
29. A 'cultural studies'issue of the AJC (5&6) was guest edited by Noel King andStephen Muecke in 1984. [Page 46 Ends]
30. Today, given that thispossibility did not eventuate, there are times when one wonders if the energiesrequired to support both ANZCA and the (now) Cultural Studies Association ofAustralasia as well as newer bodies such as Fibreculture, could have found adifferent form. At the same time, there is little question that the existenceof different associations adds to the diversity of a sometimes claustrophobicAustralian scene.
31. It is worth highlightingthat the first chapters of Fiske's Introduction to Communication Studiesexplicitly works across the 'process' and 'semiotic' schools. It should also benoted that Western Australia was a very busy place in relation to communicationactivities (see Fiske, 1982).
32. The editorial appeared inAustralian Journal of Communication, 16 (1989). To place it incontext, Petelin sees this reemergence of cultural studies in terms of changesto cultural studies itself, especially in terms of the limitations oftheorisation and an emerging dialogue between 'empiricists' and'theoreticians'.
33. My thanks to David McKiefor his comments on the economic aspects of ANZCA.
34. The president's addressat the annual conference over the years forms an interesting genre here (seeWilson, 2001).
35. The organising committeefor the conference was Warwick Blood, Gael Walker, Peter Putnis, AnnRoss-Smith, and Bill Ticehurst. Professor Bradley Greenberg worked on behalf ofthe International Communication Association. The conference itself was aby-product of increased participation by Australians in the ICA, particularlyBruce Molloy, Bill Ticehurst, and others. It was mooted as early as 1987 underElizabeth More's presidency.
36. Australian-based scholarshave recently held the presidency of both the ICA (Cindy Gallois, 2001-2003)and the IAMCR (Frank Morgan, current). Whether or not ANZCA had a role to playfor these scholars is an interesting question.
37. In Australia today, thenotion of a field poses an interesting intergenerational challenge. Seniorscholars with disciplinary trainings can today take their sense of the fieldfor granted, directing their energies to theme-based conferences. Meanwhile,younger scholars inheriting a discourse of interdisciplinarity, are aware of adifferent level of discourse to do with the field but frequently are notmentored in these arts or find themselves carrying out their own mappingexercise in order to engage with the logic of positions the field represents.At the same time, the logic of the field changes and new disciplinary pressurestied to particular vocational fields might be winding back some of the pastgains of interdisciplinarity. As Cathy Greenfield notes [Page 47 Ends] in thepast presidents' session, 'OK, our students want to do new auteur film theory,but they need to know about the debates and directions in Communication Studiesgenerally'.
38. I am also interested inthe electro-magnetic connotations of the term.
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First Upload 13th January,2005. © Steven Maras 2005
A Letter from the President
[Bill Crocker, Foundation President]
First published in the Australian Communication Review 1(2) (March 1980): 1-3 and reprinted here in the original formatting.
The fiftieth conference of A.N.Z.A.A.S. will be an important event for all those interested in the study of communication in Australia. The program of the Communication Section (outlined elsewhere in this Newsletter) raises some very significant questions, including the status of communication as a distinct academic discipline. It seems highly appropriate, therefore, that at this particular time we should be launching the Australian Communication Association.
If A.C.A. is to most effectively serve its membership and the emerging discipline, however, the founding members need to clarify as much as possible what their central concerns are. This is particularly so since the term "communication" can have so many meanings.
If you look at all the topics for discussion at A.N.Z.A.A.S. you will see that they are all concerned with mass media and/or telecommunications. The "communication" referred to in that program means communication over significant distances and mediated by electronic gadgets. The formulation, dissemination and response to messages transmitted via the electronic media constitutes a field of study of vital importance in contemporary society. There are already a number of organizations and journals in Australia catering for people working in that field.
The Australian Communication Association is primarily concerned with another kind of communication. Some examples might help to establish parameters.
A.C.A. is concerned with the intereactions [sic] which take place when, for example:
- people talk together to achieve phatic communication;
- individuals talk to others (or to themselves) to solve problems or clarify attitudes;
- counsellors give guidance to those seeking it;
- professionals, such as physicians, priests, lawyers, and architects, consult with clients;
- managers and supervisors work with employees;
- teachers or lecturers interact with students;
[PAGE 1 ENDS]
- training supervisors and army instructors seek to modify the behaviour of their subordinates;
- administrators interpret institutional policies with staff;
- salesmen sell their products;
- groups and organizations meet to decide on policies and ways of implementing policies;
- employers and employees negotiate;
- arbitration commissioners conciliate;
- people read to others, tell stories or play language games;
- people deliver lectures, sermons and political speeches;
Events of this kind are often grouped into the three categories of person-to-person communication, group discussion and public speaking. It is characteristic of all of them that participants have eye contact and immediate direct feedback. There is no generally accepted term for all of them. We could refer to them all, however, as examples of interpersonal communication and distinguish them from the central concerns of the A.N.Z.A.A.S. program which might be called media communication.
Of course there is a great deal of overlap between these two cognate areas, It is sometimes difficult to decide whether a particular communication event should properly be classified as belonging to one or the other. For example, in some kinds of public speaking (such as a sermon in a cathedral) there may be little eye-contact or immediate, direct feedback whereas a telephone conversation (electronically mediated over a considerable distance) may be best classified as interpersonal communication.
It would be foolish at present to try to draw boundaries between these areas. The differences between them are largely ones of specialization and emphasis. But the differences are significant, especially in practical applications of the research in the two areas. It is important to study and teach both specialisations. Until the formation of A.C.A. there was no national organization or journal concerned centrally with interpersonal communication in Australia.
There seems to be a strong need for an association which will facilitate contacts among people whose professional concerns involve the study and applications of theories of interpersonal communication. This need has become obvious because:
- There is growing recognition of the importance of interpersonal communication skills for the psychological, social, vocational and educational well-being of every individual and for our society as a whole. This new recognition has resulted, for example, in:
- A growing demand for courses. Many new degree or diploma courses in communication have been established in universities and CAE's. Demand for places in these courses is high. There has been a proliferation of short courses such as those at Q.I.T and the University of New England listed in the last Newsletter.
[PAGE 2 ENDS]
- Increasing numbers in occupations requiring special interpersonal communication skills. These occupations include social workers, counsellors, business consultants, industrial conciliators and paramedical professionals. Businessmen and organizations are increasingly seeking professional advise on communication problems and seeking training for staff.
- Increased emphasis on the teaching of oracy in schools. Every English or Language Arts syllabus in Australia now gives a prominent place to interpersonal communication. Speaking and listening are now often found listed with reading, writing and arithmetic as the fundamental skills to be developed through formal education.
- There is substantial amount of research in Australia on interpersonal communication. For example, there is the work of Brian Hansford and colleagues on Communication Apprehension; Milton Clark, Diana Davis and Ron Holt on Receptor Skills; Michael Dunkin on Communication of Teachers; Brian Cambourne, Don Novick and Don Waters on Children's Oral Language; W.P. and E.J. Robinson on Communication skills in Young Children' and many others.
- There are significant overseas developments in the study of interpersonal communication in overseas countries which are influencing what is done in Australia. One example of this ins the rapidly expanding interest in communication in classrooms which has resulted in such books as Barnes's From Communication to Curriculum (in the U.K.) and Hurt, Scott and McCroskey's Communication in the Classroom (in the U.S.A.). Another example is the growing amount of research and teaching on intercultural communication.
For these reasons there is a widespread wish for an organization which will help those working in the field of interpersonal communication in Australia to establish their professional identity, to relate to colleagues, to become aware of developments, resources and opportunities, and to test and compare what they are doing in the light of what others are doing. Such an organization can also establish valuable links with associations representing people working in cognate fields, with regional associations such as the Communication Association of the Pacific and with associations in other parts of the world.
The formation of the Australian Communication Association would seem to be a timely event. Much hard work will be required, of course, if it is to fulfil its potential. We have an excellent national executive, however, and first-rate foundation members. The meeting at Raywood should consolidate the basic organizational work, generate activities and begin planning for our first major convention early in 1981 [Signed] Best wishes, Bill Crocker.
Presidents reflect on ANZCA: Past and future
First published in the Australian Journal of Communication 30(1) 2003: 1-24.What follows is an edited transcript of a session from the 2002 Annual Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA) held at Greenmount Resort, Coolangatta, Queensland. This session [organised by Mary Power and chaired by Caroline Hatcher] appeared in the program as 'Past Presidents Reflect' and on the conference website as 'New Directions from Past Presidents'. It sought to bring together the past presidents of ANZCA who were present at the conference to reflect on the organisation and their period of involvement. As someone with a research interest in the history of communication studies in Australia, I took an interest in trying to bring the session to publication, which has happened thanks to the promptings of Mary Power and the efforts of Roslyn Petelin.
During this time, I was also working on 'An ANZCA Dossier', an information resource about ANZCA that is now accessible, thanks to Mary Power and Joanne Jacobs, on the ANZCA website at http://www.anzca.net/dossier.htm. Given Bruce Molloy's comment below that 'we've had a hell of a job trying to work out who was president and when', the appearance of the dossier is, hopefully, timely.
The session itself requires only a brief introduction. The timing is worth noting. At my first ANZCA conference in Perth in 2001, I was startled to attend the Annual General Meeting to find the demise of ANZCA talked about as a serious possibility. Helen Wilson and Lelia Green tell that story below, but it is fair to say that this most recent crisis makes the issue of ANZCA's history more [Page 1 Ends] pressing, and it is natural in this context to, as Caroline Hatcher puts it in her introduction, 'reflect on how things are going, on what we have achieved, and where we want to go'. In the discussion, there is a strong sense of people taking stock of what they have given and received from ANZCA in the formation of their professional careers.
It is worth noting that the speakers were president in the post-1989 period of ANZCA--although, of course, many were active in the association prior to that and I hope there is occasion to hear more from earlier presidents at another time. The activities of ANZCA are not identical to the activities of the entire field of communication, media, and cultural studies more broadly, but they are, of course, closely linked. Numerous observations in the session about the state of the field, its origins, and past conflicts confirm this. The attraction of a session such as this is the potential insight it gives into the running of ANZCA. A major theme of discussion is the role of the president and their capacity to speak about important issues of the day. Some speakers are not convinced about the significance of the role of president. Having worked on the dossier, I would make the point that the effect of the presidency should perhaps be seen in the longer term, in relation to the efforts and custodianship of the executive. With limited resources, it took more than three years for the change from the Australian Communication Association (ACA) to ANZCA to take place. The process of incorporation took several more years. The mooted changes to the constitution in relation to regional representatives, discussed below, have been on the table for two years or more. Long-term change of this kind is a challenge to manage.
At the same time, the session shows how the contribution of individuals canbe important in the middle of particular crises and changes. It seems to me that ANZCA has always been defined within a network of relations (between individuals, the executive, research centres, and the journals, for example), and there have been times when this network has required maintenance and expansion (in relation to the ACA-ANZCA change, or the International Communication Association, for example). Within this network, many ANZCA members have a desire to make communication scholarship more relevant to public, political, and policy debate, especially in this age of communication. From this emerges the idea of the president as spokesperson. The problem remains that speaking for this network, and representing a body like ANZCA appropriately in public discourse, is a difficult thing to do. [Page 2 Ends]
The history of ANZCA should not be reduced to a list of presidents. That said, it is timely to hear these perspectives in order to work out new directions, but also as a step towards a broader understanding of the history of the organisation, and its uniqueness.
Caroline Hatcher: Good morning everyone. Thanks for coming, because I think today is an important session. Every now and again it is time for an association to stop and reflect on how things are going, on what we have achieved, and where we want to go. Today we are really very lucky to have some of our presidents from past years here, and so I would like to ask you to welcome them all before we hear them speak.
We start with Bruce Molloy, who was our president 1989-1990; then Peter Putnis 1992-1993; Warwick Blood 1994-1995; Sue Turnbull 1997-1998; Shirley Leitch 1998-1999; Helen Wilson 2000-2001; and, of course, our president for this year, and our most wonderful speaker from a few moments ago, Lelia Green for 2001-2002.[Note 1]
I would like to ask each of the presidents to speak for between five and seven minutes, and then at the end of that time to engage in discussion. Bruce, Peter, Warwick, Sue, Shirley, Helen, and Lelia all promise to be provocative, so we intend it to be fun as well.
Bruce Molloy: When I asked what the session was about I was told that I could talk about anything I liked. So I thought I would talk about The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which is my favourite film. But then someone said that wasn't really appropriate.
On the other hand, when you consider what The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is really about, it's about the vagaries of history, the power of the myth, and the fallibility often of memory. And I think this might be quite appropriate, given some of the reminiscences and recollections that you're about to hear. We've had a hell of a job just trying to work out who was president and when.
Based on last night's quiz question about the start of Communication Studies as a degree-level program in Australia, and seeing I was involved in planning that first degree, I'd like to start by telling the story of what happened there. Well, let me say first of all that in 1968 I started tertiary teaching at the then Queensland Institute of Technology (QIT), which means I've been involved for over 30 years, and, as Judith Wright says in one of her poems, 'South of My Days', I feel like Old Dan with 'thirty [Page 3 Ends] years of stories, hived in him like old honey'. I think there are 30 years, and many, many stories hived up here, not like old honey, sometimes more like old vinegar.
In a meeting back in 1972, Tom Dixon, myself, Keith Bain, and Robert Kelly sat down to try to work out how we could advance our careers. Tom would become Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Queensland University of Technology; Keith is now Professor of Political Economy at the University of East London; Robert, whom I've lost track of, was last heard of as a Senior Lecturer in English at Adelaide and writing a handbook on plain English for South Australian Parliamentarians; and me--I'm still here at Bond University.
The reason I wanted to point to our careers is because we figured, as General Studies lecturers, teaching English Expression and things like that, there was no great career track for us. We sat around and worked out that the only way to have a career track was if you had a terminating degree. I'd like to say we planned Communication because it was going to be a world-shaping, world-improving innovation, but that wasn't the real reason. We sat down and argued about the title at length. I came from an English/History background, Tom was from Linguistics and Mathematics, Robert was from Rhetoric and Classics, and Keith was a Political Economist and a poet and writer as well. It was out of that discussion that we decided that 'Communication' was the appropriate title because it was so amorphous, that it was able to accommodate all our different interests, and was eclectic enough to allow us to appropriate suitable theory to back up practice.
Peter Putnis talked in his masterly keynote address about growth and diversity, diffuseness and homogeneity. I think that was pretty well the pattern for the whole development of Communication studies in Australia.[Note 2] Over that period from the early 1970s, new paradigms emerged. From being a subversive activity practised in the corners of English departments, Cultural Studies became an academic orthodoxy.
Rod Miller, a colleague of ours, had already registered the name, Australian Communication Association, and started a journal called Australian Scan (which later became the Australian Journal of Communication). We had to negotiate with him to get access to the name, so we could set the Communication Association up, and there is some contestation about where the first meetings were and who ran them, but I honestly can't remember myself. The first one I went to was at the then Kuring-gai College of Advanced Education, I think, with Harry Irwin and people like that heavily involved. [Page 4 Ends]
Even in our little close-knit QIT environment, the tensions that were obvious throughout the whole development of Communication were there. I wanted a literary/cultural studies bent to our course. Tom Dixon was keen to be pragmatic and functionalist, and have lots of structural linguistics. Everybody had their strand and there were quite bitter ideological conflicts. We just thought at the time that they were interpersonal conflicts; we didn't realise we were part of an emerging, ideological struggle, contesting who should have the right to name and appropriate different theoretical perspectives.
When I became president in 1989, I tried to do two things. One was to try to mend the split in the association that had followed John Fiske's presidency, when almost all the Cultural Studies people had left. They thought they weren't getting a fair go in the conference programming, because it was being run by people who taught Business Communication, Corporate Communication, Public Relations--the functional, pragmatic areas. I did manage to get most of those people back to conferences that I was involved with, greatly helped by Roslyn Petelin, who can't be here this morning.
The other thing I tried to do was the study that Peter alluded to this morning called 'Communication Studies in Australia', because I thought that until Communication was recognised as a research category, the chances of being regarded as a respectable, academic activity--I wouldn't say discipline, because I don't think Communication is a unitary discipline--were negligible.[Note 3]
If I had to give my thoughts on where the association is now, and what I think we need to do now, I think we need to be very self-reflexive and critical, because I'm not sure that, after 20 or 25 years of Communication Studies, we have better television content. I'm not sure we have any better understanding of how the media works in society. I'm not sure that our Communication professions are more ethical, or more responsible than they have been in the past. I think they are much more competent, but I'm not certain that the professional standards have risen. It is interesting that Peter Putnis mentioned the question of credentialing: how can we control who calls themselves what? There are two sides to this. One is that if you have a strong professional Association, then you have a strong lobby group. The other side is that you also have people who try to constrain your activities, and many of the papers that have been given here, at this conference, would have trouble finding a place in a strongly credentialed association. [Page 5 Ends]
I think there is the need for us to be very heavily committed to theorisation. Now, I've always been a practical person, but I think until we adopt a practice of trying to locate our particular eclectic studies within some appropriate theory, we are never going to be taken seriously. As Stuart Cunningham said yesterday, it is very hard for us to speak with a unified voice, as scientists and information technology people can, because we have such widely divergent interests and such a diffuse approach to our basic activities.
I think we have to avoid trivialisation. We should resist the temptation to try for publicity by doing outlandish things. Doctors don't do this, information technology people don't do it, and I don't think communication people should do it either. I think we should be taken seriously for what we can seriously contribute, and we should concentrate on serious and theorised contributions.
I'd like to congratulate all the people who have worked so hard, especially Mary Power, for this conference, and Roslyn Petelin for the excellent standard of the Australian Journal of Communication. Except I would say that I wonder sometimes what the appropriate role is for a journal that is as eclectic as it is. When people elect to read journals, do they read them for a breadth of subject matter, or do they read them for a depth of material in a particular area? I think we have to look at some of these questions if we want to ensure we have a viable future.
Peter Putnis: Bruce started by saying that we found it quite difficult to recall what year we were presidents in. I've got an explanation for that, which is that the position of president of this association is structured so as to have, actually, minimal impact. This is because you become vice-president of the association and your main job then is to organise the conference, and as a kind of a reward after that you become president for one year. Given that you have to wrap up the conference, there's not a lot you can do in one year. I make that as a serious point in terms of continuity of some leadership. I think that has been a problem in the association with the way in which the position of president has worked.
Picking up on Bruce's biographical note, it might be of interest for me to parallel that a little in terms of my experience. I finished a PhD at the Australian National University in 1975 on 17th-century English Restoration drama. I then had to find a job, and I got one as a lecturer in Literature at the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education. It was a bit of a shock to the system to find that, as well as teaching Literature courses, I had to teach General Studies and Liberal Studies. I actually found myself having the job of 'Coordinator of Liberal Studies' for [Page 6 Ends] the university, which involved trying to convince Science and Engineering people that they needed a dose of the Humanities. This was, I recall, one of the most stressful jobs I have ever had.
In 1983-1984, I had the opportunity of a one-year sabbatical in England--I think people had taken pity on me--so I worked for a year at Sheffield Polytechnic, which had the first master's degree in Communication Studies. While I was there I did a paper called 'Australia in the British Press', a very straightforward paper that I sent to Henry Mayer, and he sent me back one his characteristic notes, which some of you may have, kind of saying: 'Yeah, this is good stuff', etc. I then felt that I could reposition myself. In terms of this general theme of finding a space, finding a place where you can develop academically, I think ANZCA and the whole field of Communication and Media Studies has been actually quite extraordinary. Finishing a PhD in Restoration drama, and not really feeling comfortable with the English Literature scene, and trying to publish in Oxford journals, such as the Review of English Studies, it wasn't a real space to me. I never felt part of it, so I was looking for something else. If you are looking for a home, you don't want one that is too comfortable, and Communication and Media Studies never was. It was a site for contestation, debates, interesting positions, and always good fun in that sense.
Reflecting more specifically on the role of president, my recollection is that I didn't know what my responsibilities were. I guess one can raise the question: 'Is there anything one can say as president on behalf of ANZCA and its membership?' I do recall in the early days of ANZCA we took some positions, there was an academic called Tony Keulemans, whose courses at Chisholm Institute were being closed down by the management, and we all rallied together and tried to defend Communication/Media at Chisholm. It didn't work. But I can't recall too many other occasions when the association took that kind of position. Perhaps it never could, but it did mean that we were not in the business, and are still are not in the business, of putting in submissions on behalf of the interests of this particular group, say for example, to the process of review of higher education, such as 'Higher Education at the Crossroads'.
I did as president do some work on how the ACA, the Australian Communication Association, could become ANZCA. And I remember getting a colleague of mine at Bond University, Jim Corkery, who was in the School of Law, to do a legal opinion on what needed to be done to [Page 7 Ends] the constitution. He did a very good legal opinion that was useful, and I remember that ANZCA paid him, in, I think, three bottles of good-quality red wine, for that work.
In those early days, and I think now for people perhaps earlier in their academic careers, ANZCA did provide the space for a kind of legitimation, if you like. Everyone else was going to and speaking at conferences, so you had to have your conference as well. It did play a major role in validating one's academic work by being able to say that you were part of an association, and there is a group of people who actually value this work. That was a great help in one's own institution.
A final comment I might make is in terms of where we have got to. Bruce made a comment about recognition of research. We are now in the position where Graeme Turner and I are members of the Australian Research Council Expert Panel for Humanities and Creative Arts. That is quite an extraordinary! I don't think 'representation' is quite the right word... It just so happens that there is a presence now, which I think is greater than the presence of other fields in that particular forum. It still may not translate into a mass of research grants in these areas, because there are far fewer submissions of research grants from our field, than there are say, from History. Nevertheless, it does signal a quite major shift in the recognition of this field, which is also reflected in changed attitudes in the Australian Academy of the Humanities.
Warwick Blood: Some time in the early 90s, that's the 1990s not the 1890s, a very strange thing occurred on the west coast of America. The country was invaded by a dynamic duo, who came bearing gifts in a large box. In this box were many tiny koalas, and they'd been brought to the heathens in America by Bruce Molloy and Bill Ticehurst. They were searched by American Customs agents!
Bruce Molloy: Indeed, I almost got arrested because of him [Bill Ticehurst].
Warwick Blood: It was part of a lobby effort to get a joint conference of ANZCA with the International Communication Association (ICA). Some of you will recall that conference at the University of Technology, Sydney. I often reflect on what happened there. One of the things that I found fascinating in all of my negotiations to get our program finalised was my problem in fitting what we wanted with the huge ICA conference program. If you have ever been to an ICA conference you know [Page 8 Ends] that some 20 parallel sessions cut across various aspects of Communication Studies. It struck me then, as it had before, how silly the divisions and titles were. I mean, what was Organisational Communication as they defined it? Or what was Political Communication? I had to convince my American colleagues that you could actually have a conference that didn't have everything divided up into neat little boxes like Mass Communication, Interpersonal Communication, or Health Communication, etc. I often think about that when I look at courses, or subjects that we are teaching, or textbooks in our field. In many respects, that is one of the great strengths of ANZCA and its conferences and of Australian Communication Studies as a field. We don't have those sorts of divisions and we are more inclusive in accepting various perspectives and positions. I recall my very first conference, which was at Macquarie University--and the wonderful role Henry Mayer played in organising that conference--and discussing that very topic with him. I have always been very happy that we have been--or tried to be--as inclusive as possible.
I would agree with Peter Putnis that I don't think there is any role for the president of ANZCA other than organising the conference. It is impossible to make policy or public statements because we are such a broad church. I note two other positive developments. We now have keynote speakers at our conference that don't come from somewhere else! I think that is wonderful. The other thing I notice, of course, is that if I am suggesting a textbook for a subject, I usually have the choice now of an Australian textbook.
Finally--and Peter Putnis referred to this--there is more openness now in terms of getting research grants and research consultancies. We now have representation on Australian Research Council panels. And in Canberra, I have noticed that government departments and agencies are very open to the fact that expertise in communication might add something to a particular problem that government is facing. I think that opens up many possibilities for the field.
Sue Turnbull: My first ANZCA Conference was in 1985, when John Fiske was President and it was held in Canberra at University House. It was, in fact, my very first academic conference. I had arrived from England in 1984, after being a secondary-school teacher, to take up a La Trobe University scholarship. I had the absolute luxury of having all my fees paid for me plus a living allowance--something that is unthinkable now. However, as a mature-age student it is the only way I could have done [Page 9 Ends] it. And so I attended my first ANZCA conference, and at the time John Fiske was one of the people that I really wanted to talk to. He was enormously encouraging about work that I'd been doing as a preliminary to my PhD on 'Young Women in Prisoner'. He asked me to send him my unpublished paper and later cited it, which was an enormous thrill and revealed to me the power of the ANZCA conference and the thrill of networking.
In Melbourne in 1990 I gained enough courage to present my first paper. Henry Mayer was sitting in the audience. Part of my research was the observation of girls in schools, and I was talking about the ethnographic approach I had taken to understanding the role of media in their lives. Afterwards, Henry Mayer came up and said: 'That was really good, I'd like to publish your paper'. Once again, I was thrilled with the power of the ANZCA conference. Unfortunately, Henry had just decided that he was going to have all the papers refereed for Media International Australia, but he hadn't quite cottoned on to what blind refereeing actually entailed. So my paper was sent out, without my name on, to someone--only one person. Henry then returned my paper to me with unedited and signed copies of all the correspondence involved, which included the question 'Who do you think wrote this paper?' Unfortunately, the comments of the referee (who guessed right) were so disparaging that I actually became immobilised both in my PhD research and in my ability to write for two years. So much for the power of the ANZCA conference.
However, by 1993, I had recovered sufficiently to present a paper on the completion of my research at the ANZCA conference held at the Victoria University of Technology in Footscray. James Carey, the American scholar, was in the audience, and was very complimentary. That was the moment when I realised how insecure I was as a mature-age postgraduate and how vital ANZCA had been to my development as an academic, both in terms of the conference experience and in terms of its journals. And at this point I'd like to say a big thank you to Roslyn Petelin for her work on the Australian Journal of Communication, which has been so important to ANZCA and its conferences over the years.
My own year as president had its own excitement: there was a moment when the journal Media International Australia lost its funding relationship with the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. There were some anxious discussions about where MIA would go. It ended up being bid for, as it were, by Tony Bennett, who intended moving its operations to Griffith University and merging it with another journal. There were many anxieties expressed during that year about what this [Page 10 Ends] shift might mean for MIA and ANZCA. However, when Graeme Turner took over as editor, he and I engaged in some serious correspondence and managed to ensure MIA's continuing relationship with ANZCA. And I'd like to thank Graeme Turner most sincerely for his efforts at that time and his sterling work as editor of MIA. Helen Wilson is to be the new editor of MIA and I am hoping that this will ensure the ongoing relationship with ANZCA.
The last thing I want to say is that I haven't been to the ANZCA conference for the last two years and coming back this year has been a real pleasure for two reasons: first, the delight of meeting all the old friends; and second, seeing so many new faces. There were a lot of people that I had not seen before at the conference, which demonstrates to me that new blood is coming into ANZCA. I'm also delighted about the fact that I can still come to an ANZCA conference and get passionately engaged with people who care about the same things that I care about. That for me has been a real joy this time, and continues to demonstrate the importance of ANZCA and its conferences to the ongoing professional development of both its fledgling and more fully launched communication scholars.
Shirley Leitch: I became president for one reason and that was to assist in building the field of Communication in New Zealand. Other speakers have already spoken about the bringing of New Zealand into what was then the ACA and creating ANZCA. When I first went to the University of Waikato in 1990, there were no Communication courses as such. There was one Business/English course, which was called 'Communication,' but was really just teaching management students how to write memos to one another and doing it in a traditional Business/English way. Communication was not being taught in any universities in New Zealand. I saw very quickly that there was going to be a lot of resistance within both the School of Management and the university, and within the broader academic community in New Zealand, to the introduction of Communication. So I set out, I guess, a little agenda. We started off with some courses. We moved from courses to a major in a Management degree. From that, we went to creating a whole department, and then eventually managed to get a Communication degree. At every step of the way there was a huge amount of resistance. Now, there is a kind of irony in all of this because I have been a major critic in New Zealand of the sort of market-demand-led education. I see that as a very bad thing. But I have to say that Communication has been the beneficiary of that. When I put on the first Communication course at Waikato at third-year level I was told: 'Well, you can have this course, but if you don't get [Page 11 Ends] 20 people we'll cancel it'. I got 70 in that first year, which made it, I think, the biggest optional third-year course in the degree. After that, there were no more comments of that nature. So, market demand actually created Communication at Waikato.
I saw, though, that the worst thing that could happen to Communication was that we would become isolated. There are only eight universities in New Zealand, and they are good universities, but that's about as many as in a medium-sized city in other parts of the world--very insular. There is a New Zealand Communication Association, and they do a good job, but I didn't think that that was enough, and so I was a real supporter of the move to bring New Zealand into this association. And I think you'll see that around about a quarter of the people here at the conference are actually from New Zealand. So I think that shows that bringing New Zealanders into ANZCA did two things: first, it broadened the field in New Zealand and opened this conference and the journals much more to New Zealanders; second, I think it has also helped ANZCA to thrive and survive because I think that it has become an important part of the membership base, and so forth, for ANZCA. Once New Zealand became part of ANZCA, the next thing to do was to actually bring the conference to New Zealand. In doing that, we again brought a lot more New Zealand members into the association and they have stuck around and are big fans of ANZCA. So, it was a political agenda, and one that has paid off hugely well for ANZCA, for New Zealand communication scholars, and for the University of Waikato.
Helen Wilson: Like many of us here, I feel as though I also have quite deep roots in the Communication field in Australia and in ANZCA. I used my presidential address last year as an excuse to parade all that, so I won't say anything more about that now.[Note 4]
The question about what presidents do... I do think that Peter has made some quite telling comments there. What comes into my mind was an occasion when I was driving home and some talk program introduced the President of the Cultural Studies Association of Australia, Alan McKee, commenting on the incident of John Hopoate. I remembered thinking at the time: 'OK, this is what presidents do ...'. Because we had been having these conversations about what presidents do, and whether we should be making comments about public issues. I was thinking, 'OK, well this is a terrific example, but I don't have the talent'. But I do think that it is an issue: about having a profile and what are appropriate issues to be commenting about that are in ANZCA's interests. I think that that is a topic that we have to talk about. [Page 12 Ends]
I was on the editorial board of MIA when the crisis that Sue Turnbull referred to happened, and, indeed, Sue was a great stalwart then, and we owe a lot to Sue that that journal is still going strong, and is still connected with ANZCA. When I was president there was a financial crisis that brewed because we had a dramatic drop in membership, and needed to address our accounting procedures. The whole incident took us too close to the wind for comfort, and should never, ever happen again. That was a really low moment in ANZCA's history. Indications are that we have bottomed out and that ANZCA has a positive future. But we do need more members; we do need to get bigger. I agree with what everybody says about how open we are, how flexible we are, how relevant we are, but we have got to translate that into more members, and we have got to figure out how to do that.
A couple of things that I've been involved in that I'd like to push . . . One is about changing the rules of the association, which will come up at the annual general meeting. I think that the federal structure that we've got, where we have State representatives and a New Zealand representative, really doesn't work because there aren't State-based activities by and large. We quite often ask for reports and there is nothing to report. So, what we have proposed in the draft, which will have to go through a process of getting approved, is to change the term 'Regional Representative', which is right through all the rules now, to 'Section Head'. We've talked about changing the structure to something more like the ICA, where you have sections that are thematic.[Note 5] What we decided in the executive meeting last night was that we would just call it 'Section Heads'; we wouldn't say anything more about what a 'Section Head' is, so that the AGM every year will just decide what the sections are. So, that's on the agenda, and up for debate. What I'm wanting to argue for is the most open, flexible structure possible. We need to have an executive and those executive members need to have some responsibility. We have got to work on that.
The second thing that I want to push is the question of postgraduate students. What everybody has said really underlines the importance that an association like this has in encouraging postgraduate students, giving them recognition, and helping in their careers. I think this is incredibly important. The Grant Noble Prize, which I have been responsible for organising the judging of for the last few years, is important. There are issues about that prize, about who is eligible to enter that prize. That is another thing that will come up in the AGM. I do think that there would be a consensus among us that that's a very important part of our activities and we've got to grow that. [Page 13 Ends]
A couple more things that are more speculative. We talked at last year's AGM about, at some stage, having a combined conference with other associations. The last two conferences have been relatively small, and it's just too nerve-racking. If you lose too much money you are stymied. So, that is one option, especially if we have it in a venue other than Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, or the Gold Coast, where the received wisdom is that they are the only venues that can make money.[Note 6] There was a thought that we would try to have a combined conference with the Cultural Studies Association in New Zealand, but that didn't happen. I hope that something like that could be considered in future.
The final thing to mention is the promises of the Web. If we can get more members, if we can have a more open structure, hopefully we can use the Web more creatively and more extensively in future.
Lelia Green: I'll use my few minutes to talk about why people should join ANZCA. I'm currently the president. I weathered all the financial troubles, which were just terrifying to suddenly see. We are looking at our accounting procedures and we now have many more members. The crisis was very valuable, however, because what it meant was that we went back through our pocket diaries and we contacted our friends in ANZCA, who perhaps we hadn't seen for a conference or two, and said: 'Look, ANZCA's under threat. Does it matter? How hard should we work to make something happen in the ashes of this moment?'. And people immediately came forward and said things like: 'Actually, when I come to think about it, it's been incredibly important to my career, and I owe ANZCA'. And they not only said it, but they put in the hours to make the resurrection happen.
I must say ANZCA has been incredibly important to my career, too. I hadn't realised I had so many parallels with Sue Turnbull's story, but when I arrived from the UK in 1986, I was recruited by the then Western Australian College of Advanced Education (now Edith Cowan University) from the BBC as a television director. I was recruited as a craft/skills person rather than as an academic. I had in my heart of hearts given up the BBC not to do the same job in Western Australia in an under-resourced, under-financed, under-supported role, but because I wanted to become an academic. I wanted to start thinking more and, if you'll excuse it, doing less, if you know what I mean. I found incredible resistance to this. I hadn't quite realised how hard it was to recruit production teachers, but the first time I said to somebody: 'I'd really like to do some research on this area', that person, who wasn't, I must admit, at my university for very much longer after that, but who was a [Page 14 Ends] senior person at the time, turned to me and said: 'My dear, that is such a bankrupt paradigm'. Now, I was talking about audience studies, and I felt tiny. I wasn't even sure that I could use the word 'paradigm' appropriately.
When I came to my first ever ANZCA conference, which was a year after I arrived in Australia, I found all these people were so interested, and they were so energising. I came to the conference feeling down at heel, down in the mouth, and really very uncertain about what I'd been doing with the previous 12 months, and I left full of energy. I left with a vision of the sort of contribution that I could make because I could see how other people were living that vision for themselves within a supportive community. I could see how all the different interests that each of us had--because there are very few carbon copies in ANZCA--actually fed the enthusiasm and the knowledge and the wisdom of each other. I learned so much at that conference, and I found myself really looking forward to the next conference because it was the high point in my academic life. Not only did it give me a deadline, so I was bound to contribute something, but it also gave me the energy to keep me going through the next two semesters of what I consider to be the hard work of academia, which is the weekly lectures, the marking, the looking for signs of growth, interest, and enthusiasm among 150 students, say, and trying to nurture them.
I would recommend ANZCA as being a wonderful place. The fact that we now have Australian Research Council assessors, journal editors, and people on the boards of other international journals is not, I think, a coincidence. It is because part of the dynamism of ANZCA has been such to support visions of careers that have finally seen fruition. It's a cause-and-effect thing, a chicken and egg, but it is the case that ANZCA has been terrifically fertile in terms of feeding careers and ideas and new directions. I would hope it continues to be in the future, and I would encourage all aspiring PhD students, new academics, people transferring from, as it were, the craft industries into theoretical practice, to make a contribution and to see just how much ANZCA can contribute to you.
Caroline Hatcher: Thanks very much to everyone. It has been just a pleasure, and really an honour, to listen to both personal stories and the important directions that we might remember for the future. In particular, the thing I want to keep in mind is that ANZCA is obviously an academic association, but the comment from most people was, in a sense, the way in which the association is genuinely supportive--as someone who started my first conference with ANZCA, I felt that too--and I know that is what we all [Page 15 Ends] look forward to in the future. Two other important points, from all of the points that were made, were, first, what will we do as advocate, can we do more? And second, that we do need to be proud. We are, I think, growing up, turning of age. The cultural cringe has gone, and we recognise that we are able to provide a really good space for academic meeting. We can stand proud, I think, and that's a great way to look forward.
Mary Power: What we discussed at the executive meeting is the proposed change in the constitution. It cannot be done overnight and everybody will get a copy. How, we haven't decided. But I think it's very important that we don't make laws that are unworkable or restrictive. We sat last night for two hours, talking about some of the aspects of ANZCA and its structures--we thought structures was a soft enough word--and it seemed to me in the meeting that we didn't want to abandon the regionalism that ANZCA also includes. We didn't want to pre-empt what people might say in the future. I agree with Warwick Blood, having been to the National Communication Association conference in the USA, which is where I go, that people don't talk to one another across the areas. We are small enough in Australia to keep this about communication. Some great things have come out of all that you have said. Regarding Helen's comments about having experts: I wouldn't see the head of ANZCA, the president, as the only expert. I think we should have a panel of speakers and feed them to the media, and say if you want to talk on Media Communications, this person, or these people, will speak. We have wonderful expertise, and if it came out from a senior level of ANZCA, that would be better than just one person, because it spreads it across everywhere. I'm really asking Warwick and Helen to engage in a debate a bit about this idea of how do we have our executive representative of the broad church we want to be?
Helen Wilson: Can I throw that back to Alan McKee in the audience, just to talk to his policy as President of the Cultural Studies Association of Australia (CSAA)?
Alan McKee: I've been on the executive of the Cultural Studies Association for six years now, and I've been president for three years, and I'm leaving at the end of this year. My presidential address at the proceedings this year is going to be: 'What was the point of the Cultural Studies Association?', which is precisely why I'm here. I've found, exactly as everyone's saying here, that the role of being president has wonderful [Page 16 Ends] connotations of power, and no effect on anything whatsoever. As with ANZCA, people have fond feelings towards the CSAA, but they're not really interested in it as an institution. They are quite happy for it to exist and for it go on. They like coming to conferences. They don't care what the people who are running it are doing. They don't care what they're doing; it's not important to them; it's not part of their lives. Over three years I have tried to introduce dozens of initiatives to the association, none of which have caught on, or interested members at all. We organised a press release scheme, for example, so that members who would like their research to be more widely known in the media--which I thought would be quite common in Cultural Studies, where people often have some kind of desire for intervention and political participation--could e-mail us with the details and we would get a press release put together and sent out. Not one single person has taken this up.
We have put up an online publishing scheme for postgraduate work that would be fully refereed, professionally done up, and posted online. We have had no submissions for that. So, the role of being president of the CSAA is to make sure the conference happens every year and come up with ideas nobody is interested in. In terms of taking a public voice, again, we appointed somebody actually to be the CSAA media mapper and press release manager, who would look out for issues of interest for the CSAA, get voices from within the organisation to comment, and then send out press releases based on that. Great idea, I think. ANZCA might like to try it. It fell on its face. So, lots of great ideas but, in terms of actual practice, it doesn't really seem to matter. The example that you gave of me going on the radio, I do think it is my own personal capacity. I would do it anyway, and I stick my title on after it to try and get the association a more public presence, but that's it.
Warwick Blood: I'm not sure what the proposal is for changing from the regional or State basis in the ANZCA constitution. I would just caution everyone against coming up with labels that are close to ICA-type labels. Just to give you a personal observation: for years I have been a member of the Political Communication division, and I really can't think of anything that's happened in the Political Communication division that the International Communication Association finds of theoretical or even of empirical interest. Because it is not really about politics as we would define it. These labels sometimes become walls; that is all I'm cautioning against. [Page 17 Ends]
Peter Putnis: I just wanted to make a very brief comment. I also don't know the details of the proposal, but it just occurs to me that one might want to distinguish between the best strategy to get a functioning executive--and I take the point about people having responsibilities--and the idea of the structure of an association. When I was listening to your use of the word 'sections', I thought, well, is it necessary to talk about the structure of an association in order to get a functioning executive, or can one actually divorce those two issues and then not have to worry so much about what 'sections' mean? Helen Wilson: The fundamental point that I'm trying to make is that the State-based structure doesn't work, and we've got to have another basis for electing the executive. There are communities of interest within ANZCA; that's been really clear from the beginning. So, I just thought that we should recognise those communities of interest in this structure, and somehow have them more explicit in the program, so that you have a session on New Media Studies or Political Economy, or whatever.
Netra Khadka: Well, I've got a Health background, and it seems to me that the Health Communication side is missing in the association. What I'm saying is that in order to boost the membership you need to embrace those people working in the Health field. There are many people who have a Health Communication background--medical doctors, nutritionists, physiotherapists--but it seems to me that they are actually not impressed by this association. My advice is that there should be something in your structure so that those people that are working in the Health field could be embraced.
Patsy McCarthy: When we were talking about the inclusivity of the various factions or sections, etc., it reminded me of the debate around multiculturalism. Is it more important for us all to be part of the wider group Communication, or should we claim our own ethnic origins, as it were? From my biased position as a Communication person in Speech Communication, I guess I have an insight into the difficulty of being looked at as an area that might be included in everything, and yet have nothing entirely of its own. The attitude is often that we can all speak, therefore we can put a bit of Speech work across the curriculum. This is a very useful way to do it, but makes it extremely difficult for the area to stand and have some sort of respect as a discipline in itself. I am aware that many people are keen to assert the individual power of their discipline area. I find this question one that is almost impossible to solve [Page 18 Ends], because I understand exactly what Warwick is saying about the inclusivity, and I really like to be able to have the multidisciplinary feeling that I get at ANZCA. Yet lots of people feel that they would like to have something that they can identify with more strongly as their own area, so that it does get a little bit more respect or symbolisation as an important area. I don't know if anyone would like to say anything more on that, because I think it is one of the big questions we face and that could cause breakaway groups. Obviously, our strength is in the fact that we do include so many different areas. But then there are a lot of areas that are of less interest to people who are focused on just their own specific topics.
Bruce Molloy: Being pragmatic about it, it seems to me that the membership has declined over the last decade, and that if you are trying to generate increased interest, then maybe you need to look at some initiatives like sectionalisation. I take Warwick's point. I have been a member of the ICA as well. The ICA conference is very heavily structured, often very erratically structured: a great big room with practically nobody, a smaller room with hundreds of people trying to get in. But at least there are hundreds of people trying to get in, which is a good thing. So, if it does broaden the base of the membership and attract people, I think that some restructuring would be a good thing.
Shirley Leitch: Can I make a comment? I think that the notion of bringing in other interests such as Health Communication is an excellent suggestion, but I think that might be conflating two separate things. On the one hand, I do support what you are saying. On the other hand, I don't think sectionalism is the way to go. There are two reasons for that. One is the reason that Warwick has explained. That this is a broad church. One of the things that I really like about ANZCA is I come here, and I sit and I talk with people, and I have got to know people who are from the whole field of Communication. That has really enriched my scholarship because I can't get away with saying: 'Oh, we don't look at that in my area', which is not an intellectually sound position to take. This is actually one of the few conferences where I have to actually listen to papers from right across the field of Communication, and where I have the opportunity to engage with people and discussions and debates right across that field. I think that Health Communication can gain a lot from talking with people who work in Organisational Communication or Public Relations or Media Studies, or whatever. And that's [Page 19 Ends] what you get from being part of ANZCA. If you go to ICA, you'll only talk to other Health Communicators, and you'll only know what you already know. It is not a broadening experience.
On the other hand, that is not to say that we can't be streaming within conferences, and we've always tried to do that anyway. So, I don't think it is a matter of either/or positions. Finally, I'd like to support the notion that the move away from regionalism actually means that when we're in the AGM and we say: 'Who wants to be on the executive?', if there are five people from one State in Australia who are really keen to put time and energy and so forth into that executive, for goodness' sake let them all be on it, because that's what we need. We don't need to say: 'Well, look I'm sorry... but we'll twist your arm, even though you're not going to do a damn thing and we all know it, and you don't want to be on the executive'.
Cathy Greenfield: I just thought that there were some parallels between general discussions in the broad church of Communication, and not surprisingly what Southern Review has faced. Southern Review started in 1963 as an interdisciplinary journal--so it has always been interdisciplinary. When it went to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology we were deciding at that stage, do we want to fold? We had also asked our advisory board, do we drop the focus on interdisciplinarity? Because interdisciplinarity was how we all started and it seemed to point out a fashion. A shift in disciplinarity has marked our efforts in Cultural Studies. Imagine Cultural Studies becoming a discipline. That has been the thing that has happened over the last 10, 15 years. Because of the way universities have gone, because of career structures, the structures of the courses that we are teaching, all those reasons, people have been forced down disciplinary paths in many ways. It's hard, I think. A lot of us maintain that we are still interdisciplinary, and that we've got that commitment, but it's not something that engages us all the time. Pulling that together with the issue of the missing advocacy at ANZCA, I'm wondering whether there is any value in thinking about where you get your membership from, and Helen Wilson mentioned the importance of postgraduates; I am wondering whether there is a role for advocacy back into what Communication, Media Studies, or Journalism degrees, or all the different areas, look like. Do we say that we have some kind of commitment to the overlapping nature of Communication?
The need, as Shirley said really crucially, is to have to listen to other people. OK, our students want to do new auteur film theory, but they need to know about the debates and directions in Communication Stud[Page 20 Ends]ies generally. That is what I've just been teaching in the last semester to an Honours research workshop. OK, you are Journalism students, you are PR students, you are Film Studies students, but it's not right for me to talk about developing your research literacy and let you go out without knowing something about where you sit in the broad field. One avenue might be to think about whether we are committed to the value of that kind of teaching, then we need to say that we are committed to that kind of teaching, and that is what we should have. Then you get your Honours students, your postgraduate students, who you can convince that they should come to this conference rather than just one with a narrower focus. I'm trying to think ahead how you build a constituency. We've all been built at an earlier time... However, our career structures, in the practicalities of getting on with what we have to do day by day, are not necessarily feeding into the kind of interdisciplinary philosophy ANZCA has been about. I know I got very worried yesterday at the number of times that Stuart Cunningham said I was very brave at Southern Review. Maybe we were being brave but you've got to make a decision whether you think it is worthwhile or not. That's just one possible strategy and an invitation to put advocacy back into kinds of teaching. At RMIT, and I suspect at other places too, the place where Communication Studies sits is all very fluid at the moment. Our main thing is about where we sit within Design. Are we actually in Design?
Lelia Green: I know it's wrong to assume that younger people are necessarily earlier in their careers than some of the older people, but are there any of the younger people that would like to say what they think ANZCA is going to potentially offer them, or why they're here?
Steven Maras: I'm still in a sense finding out what ANZCA is all about. Myinvolvement with ANZCA has really only been in the last couple of years. I look back at my own situation and ask, why was it the last couple of years and not the last eight years, or ten years that I've been working as an academic in the area? It comes down simply to members not saying that Ishould join, and these are quite senior people. The other comment that I'llmake is that in last year's President's address, Helen Wilson picked up on James Beniger's phrase, 'embrace the subject and not the field'. Bruce madethe point earlier that he doesn't think Communication is a discipline. Iwould want to reiterate that. Even with something like Health Communication, which is clearly an important area--every time I go to the doctor I wish it was more important--there is a danger that it could becomea factionalised entity within ANZCA [Page 21 Ends], and ANZCA could become a factionalisedentity all over again. That would be a negative step for me, and we need tocontinue to forge the idea that the subject of Communication is interesting.
Joanne Jacobs: Just to follow up on Steven's point. I've been presenting at conferences now for about five years, and never once was I told I should actually present at ANZCA. In those five years I've been doing conferences, I presented at three independent research forums and two Australian Broadcasting Authority forums, but no one has ever told me I should come to ANZCA. That is clearly an indication that young academics are not getting any direction at all from our mentors. My vision, I suppose, for ANZCA is partly to do with my proposal, which is going to the AGM tomorrow, for the production of the website, so at least we have a forum so that young academics can actually see what ANZCA does for the immediate community: the fact that you can get subscriptions to the major journals through ANZCA, and the fact the we can develop those networked communities. While I actually sympathise with Warwick's point of view that we don't want to have sectionalisation, I still feel that perhaps a sectionalisation shouldn't be Federal; it shouldn't be special interest groups; it should be where the nexus of interests meet. Rather than being about Political Communication, Business Communication, New Media Communication, the nexus should be where those various groups come together: where Business Communicators are arguing with Cultural Studies people, where New Media people are arguing with Print Media.
E. Sean Rintel: Although I was told to go to the ANZCA conference a few years ago, it was put to me as a practice run for the ICA. That is probably not a good thing. In terms of how you get young academics and PhD students involved, the one thing that universities, supervisors, and PhD programs sometimes do pretty badly is professional development. If ever there was a role for an association for advocacy, then professional development is one such area for it. I think associations could do so much more in terms of professional development. Sure, no one university wants to run particular courses in all the things that academics need to know particularly. But professional organisations, with all the people that are part of it putting in a little bit, that would be a good thing for associations to do. [Page 22 Ends]
Mary Power: Sean, I think that is really highly exciting, because last conference I heard Alan McKee talking to someone in a cafe and he said: 'too many papers on organisational communication'. Well, I thought there were a lot of Cultural Studies papers. So it's not good if we are going to go to the conference and see ourselves as bits and pieces of the whole thing. I hear what you are saying about 'young ANZCA', and how do we door-knock those people and get them here and fire us up, because the blood is running very thin, and it has got to be passionate again. Discussion needs to be shared and argued, and there have to be people around the pool until late at night, drinking if they have to, thinking about things and saying: 'we want it this way'. Shirley is right when she says get the people who are passionate, but get people with a range. Don't have any rules about it, but get people from everywhere and from different ages, who can come and move us along. I think that's what we should all be doing. Getting those postgraduates and saying: 'you're going to come and give a paper with me at the conference, or by yourself'. We have had some fantastic papers in sessions I've been to on Public Relations. Now, I don't know anything about Public Relations, but these were great papers, and they were clearly interdisciplinary. Health education and communication will clearly be the growth thing of the future. But we need to have you in here learning what we do, and we need to learn what you do.
Caroline Hatcher: Maybe we could close off by saying that when I was thinking about the theme for next year's conference, the diversity-convergence tensions discussed in Peter Putnis's keynote paper, but also today, would make a great theme for the conference. So the theme of the conference for next year is 'Designing Communication for Diversity', which explores the tensions that abound in the convergence-divergence mix, and is also a reflection on us as communications specialists and what we should be doing. Maybe this is an opportunity to bring that whole tension to the conference next year. Hopefully, some of these debates will start to happen.
Thanks to Effie Rassos for her assistance in the transcription of the recording of the ANZCA session that forms the basis of this piece. Thanks also to the participants for their contributions. [Page 23 Ends]
1. A full list of ANZCA presidents and conferences can be found at http://www.anzca.net/dossier.htm.
2. A version of this address was published as Putnis, P., & Axford, B. (2002). Communication and Media Studies in Australian universities: Diverse, innovative, and isomorphic. Australian Journal of Communication, 29(1), 1-20.
3. The study was published as Molloy, B., & Lennie, J. (1990). Communication Studies in Australia: A statistical study of teachers, Students and courses in Australian tertiary institutions. Brisbane, Australia: The Communication Centre, School of Communication, Queensland University of Technology. A shortened version was published as Molloy, B. (1990). Communication Studies in Australia: Reflections and text. Australian Journal of Communication, 17(3), 64-94.
4. This address was published as Wilson, H. (2001). Towards a non-binary approach to communication. Australian Journal of Communication, 28(2), 1-18.
5. It may be of interest to note that the Australian Communication Association had encountered a similar issue previously. The ACA Newsletter, 2(2), June 1981, reports that the question of Special Interest Groups will be considered by the then bi-annual general meeting: 1) Interpersonal, small group and organisational communication; 2) Mass communication, information dissemination and human communication technology; 3) Teaching of communication and intercultural communication.
6. The panelists noted that conferences at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, and at Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia, both made a profit.
First Upload 22nd January, 2004. © Steven Maras 2004
A Note from the President
[Bill Crocker, Foundation President]
First published in the Australian Communication Review 1(1) (November 1979): 1-2 and reprinted here in the original formatting.
There is no doubt that the conference on Developing Oral Communication Competencies in Children, held in Armidale July 12-18, has created a great deal of interest. Letters continue to come asking for copies of the papers. The general purpose of the conference was to examine the nature of communication competence and to suggest ways of fostering it among children. The sixty or so participants, coming from all states and from overseas and representing a very wide diversity of backgrounds, did not achieve consensus, but they did find a considerable agreement as they shared their differing experiences and points of view.
It is not surprising that the conference should have created such interest. The discrediting of the normative approach to the teaching of speech skills has left a void in educational practice. The importance of these skills, however, is now widely recognized. Their significance for the psychological, social and vocational needs of all individuals, and for the society itself, is obvious. Consequently in schools, adult education, business, industry and the service professions there is demand for a better understanding of the process of communication and for help in developing skills of communication.
One of the outcomes of the Armidale conference was the formation of the Australian Communication Association. Some delegates felt strongly that there was a need for an organization which will promote the study of communication, facilitate contacts between people working in the field, act as a sorting-house of information about what is being done in the field in Australia, and encourage the dissemination and application of ways of improving communication. Under the chairmanship of Rod Miller a committee was appointed. The names of the present committee members are listed elsewhere in this Newsletter.
My view is that the focus of the A.C.A. is on interpersonal communication. Under this term I would include the study of person-to-person communication, group discussion, public speaking and writing and the applications of theory and skills in these areas to such activities as teaching, counselling, business, politics, social work, administration and personal relationships. I believe that, vague as its boundaries may be, there is a distinct and recognizable field. It is not centrally concerned with mass media (film, T.V., journalism etc.) communication arts (theatre etc.) or communication technology. A.C.A dos not replace the need for specialist organizations in these cognate fields. Individuals working in those areas may certainly wish to be members of A.C.A, however, since interests will overlap in many places.
This is the first Newsletter. It is intended that the Newsletter should be published four times a year. This issue will go to members only but the next, early next year, will be distributed widely with invitations to potential members to join. The Association will now be the publisher of Australian Scan, which will appear in January and June in each year.
[PAGE 1 ENDS]
Elsewhere in this Newsletter you will see a notice about the A.N.Z.A.A.S. conference to be held in Adeliade [sic], 12 - 16 May. The executive hopes to arrange the first meeting of members of A.C.A. after the conference on May 17 and 18. At this meeting we could discuss plans for the First Convention, possibly in January or February, 1981, and a constitution for the Association. It is hoped that members might obtain funding for A.N.Z.A.A.S. and the A.C.A. meeting from their employers.
The executive hopes to develop strong links with the Communication Association of the Pacific. The next convention of C.A.P. will be in Guam in July, 1980 and perhaps some of our members might be able to attend.
There is no doubt that the Association can serve a very important need in Australia. For it to be successful it will need considerable effort from all the founding members. [Signed] Best wishes, Bill Crocker.
First Upload 7th May, 2004. © Bill Crocker 2004