What Ferment?: A Challenge for Empirical Research
Fermentation is a productive process; the enzymes produce a feisty brew. Is communications research in ferment, or is it at a dead end?Most social research is motivated by social problems or social changes; researchers respond to real-world crisis by coming up with ideas for research. The period from the 1930s through the 1960s was a great era in communications research. It is true that social research dramatically debunked lay generalizations about the enormous controlling effects of the new mass media. One of the major problems in the type of research has been that the empirical instruments used were often too crude to note small changes that could be of great significance as they were compounded over time. The most important progress in communications research has been in the improvement of measurement instruments that make these small changes, in the past lost in the “noise,” observable.