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ICA President's Column

Posted By Terry Flew (Queensland U of Technology), Wednesday, October 2, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, October 1, 2019

I had the opportunity in 2018 to be on a panel in Seoul, South Korea with the late Charles Berger. Charles had been Professor Emeritus at U of California, Davis, a long-time ICA Fellow, and a former Editor of Human Communication Research. South Korea was a country that Charles had a great affinity with, and it was a privilege to spend time with him and to hear his insights into how the communication field had evolved over a 50-year period. 

Charles, Hak-Soo Kim (Sogang U), Lance Holbert (Temple U and Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Communication), and I were invited to reflect at Yonsei U on the new challenges and new expectations in the communication field. Thinking about the future required, not surprisingly, critical reflection on ICA’s past. Going back to 1977, when Communication Yearbook (now the Annals of the International Communication Association) was first published, it could be noted that:

  • ICA in 1976 had about 2,200 (Weaver, 1977, p. 616) members. In April 2019, it had 4,574 members. Membership has therefore doubled over a 40-year period;

  • ICA in 1974 had eight divisions: Information Systems; Interpersonal Communication; Mass Communication; Organizational Communication; Intercultural Communication; Political Communication; Instructional Communication; and Health Communication. In 2019, the ICA has 24 Divisions and nine Interest Groups, with the newest – Human-Machine Communication – endorsed by the Board of Directors at the 2019 Washington, DC Conference. This is a 300% increase in the number of subgroups within ICA. 

The number of Divisions and Interest Groups within ICA has therefore grown at three times the rate of the overall membership. This is, in one measure, a sign of the diversity and vibrancy of the Association and the communication field more generally. But it has always presented challenges, ranging from the size of the Board of Directors to the complexities of scheduling to the question of whether there is a common core to the field. The latter was certainly a matter of interest to Charles Berger, who wondered whether it presented difficulties in presenting what we did to other stakeholders, be they policymakers, scholars in other disciplines, or prospective graduate students. 

One of the matters that the ICA will be examining in 2019-20 is the process for formation of new Divisions and Interest Groups and the sustainability of the current structure going forward. It sits alongside a number of matters that the Association is evaluating, including the future of conferences, questions of inclusion, diversity, equity and access, and the implications of open access for the future of our journals. We will be seeking your input as ICA members on these important matters in the near future. 

Weaver, C.H. (1977). A history of the International Communication Association (L.M. Brown, ed.). In B.D. Ruben (Ed.), Communication Yearbook (pp. 607-618). New Brunswick, N.J: Transaction Books.

Tags:  October 2019 

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