The Popular Communication division had its start in 1987 and celebrates its 25th anniversary at the 2012 conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The title of the division has always held significance for its members. Whereas other conferences and groups are devoted to the study of popular culture, this division is equally interested in materials that are popularly consumed yet are sometimes forgotten in reviews of what constitutes popular culture (for instance, news, “high” culture, music, political culture, digital media, and the purchased or created goods of material/commercial culture). In this sense, then, the division is interested in the intersection of communication and culture, particularly as this intersection can be understood in historical perspective and in relation to the people who find meaning in it. Inspiration for the division comes from many sources, although key among them are mid- to late twentieth century scholars such as Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall, Angela McRobbie, Barbie Zelizer, and others, each of whom attempts to provide greater understandings of the role of popular communication in identity, power, and everyday life through in-depth, historically contextualized empirical examinations of lived experience.
The division has been supportive of a number of interest groups and divisions that had their start within or in some relationship to Popular Communication, such as the Ethnicity and Race in Communication, GLBT Studies, Visual Communication Studies, Journalism Studies, Game Studies, and Communication History Divisions and Interest Groups. The Popular Communication division continues to encourage cross-divisional membership and, in fact, its members have the highest rate and greatest diversity of cross-divisional membership of any ICA division.
Onetime division Chair Sharon Mazzarella and longtime division contributor Norma Pecora worked tirelessly to launch a journal that would encompass this same broad spectrum of study, and the journal Popular Communication was begun in 2002. In 2005, the journal became the division’s official publication when the membership voted to increase its dues so as to make the journal available to all division members. In 2007 when the journal changed editorship, it was retitled Popular Communication: International Journal of Media & Culture.
The division strives to increase its international breadth and intellectual richness, and regularly serves as a co-sponsor to joint conferences, receptions, ICA pre-conferences, and ICA sessions.