Organizers: Benjamin Kraemer*, Felix Frey
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
This preconference aims at stimulating the scholarly reflection and discourse about methods and methodology of theory building across all subfields of communication and ICA divisions by inviting participants to share their thoughts, experiences, and insights in an open, interac-tive and interdisciplinary exchange.
The state of theory building in communication has been the object of lamentation, disappointment, caricature, even ridicule, but also appeals and aspiration throughout the history of our field. Rather than restating deficiencies in our field’s theory building in comparison with our neighboring disciplines or reiterating the reasons for or consequences of these deficits time and again, this preconference aims at collecting and advancing our field’s methodological tools and practices for theory building.
“Theory building” or “theory development” can be characterized as a creative problem solving process of generating novel or modifying existing conceptual structures (statements about concepts and their relations) with the aim of describing and explaining phenomena better than before (Hagen, Frey, & Koch, 2015; Weick 1989). This preconference is interested in a methodological discussion of cognitive operations, individual and social practices, and empirical approaches researchers use in this process of theory building.
In stark contrast to the great importance theory building is attributed by the scientific community in general and in our field, the collection, development and dissemination of methodological knowledge about how to develop both original and well-crafted theory only forms small part of our methodological research and teaching. For example, there is a scarcity of textbooks that cover more than the formal requirements and logical principles of “theory construction” (Blalock, 1969; Dubin, 1969; Freese, 1980) and accommodate the specifics of our field (but see, as one prime exception, Shoemaker, Tankard & Lasorsa, 2004). Also, inspiring and instructive collections of individual experiences with and approaches to theory building have been published, e.g., in psychology (Kruglanski & Higgins, 2004), human resource development (Turnbull, 2002) and management (van de Ven, 1989), but not in communication.