Critical Theory in a Digital Media Age: Ways Forward

Editor: Robert E. Gutsche, Jr. (Lancaster University).

Information: Increasing digitization of journalism and other forms of media continue to attract the attention of social scientists and sociological approaches to interpret change and to predict the future for audiences and producers alike. However, emerging forms of surveillance and sousveilliance among and by media producers, privacy amid massive data collection, and globalization at the center of digital communication across continents and economies warrants a revision of critical theory within media and communication studies. While critical theory, which deals with, in the words of Horkheimer, that which attempts to “liberate human begins from the circumstances that enslave them” – promises for much engagement with new technologies and interactions of power systems in media and communication, the area largely remains in select corridors of scholarship and industry discussions. There is a need to revisit (and return to) the works that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s in the U.K. and U.S. not only as a targeted approach against increasing neoliberalism globally but as commentary about the dangers of established social scientific and sociological approaches to politics, advertising, and journalism that failed to question dominant ideologies of the day. The work of scholars most aligned with contemporary attempts at critical scholarship in journalism and media research amid technological change include Stuart Hall, Hanno Hardt, bell hooks, Marx, and, of course, a host of postmodern theorists. This special issue is an attempt to capture the state of critical theory in journalism, media, and communication scholarship to reveal what deeper meanings exist within dominant, normative assessments of journalism and the Fourth Estate, sociological inquiries into journalistic boundary work, and deterministic interpretations of technology that remain at the forefront of popular journalism and media studies. This issue will not argue against the need for normative work that asks difficult questions about technological advancement or positions journalism fully outside of fulfilling its democratic aims. Yet, the predominant position of this issue is to engage and enlighten researchers to ask about and apply critical positions in order to develop those theories, unveil new ideas about current questions, and plow a way forward for critical perspectives in increasingly digital means of communication. This issue welcomes discussions from a variety of media and communication areas, from journalism and advertising to platform studies, social media networks, virtual reality and AI, to political communication.

Instructions for Authors: Authors interested in submitting a paper for this issue are asked to consult the journal’s instructions for authors and send their abstracts (about 250 words, with a tentative title and reference to the thematic issue) by email to the Editorial Office (

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Media and Communication (volume 9, Issue 2)

Submission of Abstracts: 1-15 June 2020

Submission of Full Papers: 15-30 October 2020

Publication of the Issue: April/June 2021