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Bridging Divides: The Legacy, Impact, and Future of Urban Communication


Bridging Divides: The Legacy, Impact, and Future of Urban Communication

With the support of the

Urban Communication Foundation (


Southern Methodist University Hunt Institute for Engineering & Humanity


Event held at the Hunt Institute for Engineering & Humanity, Lyle School of Engineering

Southern Methodist University, Caruth Hall 206

Dallas, Texas

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

9:00 am – 5:00 pm


Responding to the 2017 NCA annual convention theme, “Our Legacy, Our Relevance,” the Urban Communication Foundation proposes to hold a NCA preconference under the theme, “Bridging Divides: The Legacy, Impact, and Future of Urban Communication.” Given the intense focus on the urban-rural, (post) industrial, global-local, and other highly juxtaposed divides in the U.S. following a contentious 2016 Presidential election, urban communication is more relevant then ever in debates, discussions, and solution-oriented research seeking to foster change. By inviting scholarly position papers intended to identify the state of urban communication, reflect on where it has come from, and strategize about where it can—and should—go next, an urban communication pre-conference will put scholars from across our discipline, using various methodological approaches, and focusing on similar issues from different perspectives, in conversation with one another.

A plethora of “wicked problems” have arisen around many of these juxtapositions—concerns about food deserts, the role of technology in helping (re)vitalize post-industrial cities, the role of city governments in advocating for the social welfare of its residents, the ability for organizational collaboration to effect policy change, historical connections to contemporary development initiatives, and the ways in which we might teach about any of these in our higher education communication courses. A broad-based collective of communication scholars dedicated to studying and discussing urban life is an important part of making sense of these complex divides and ways to connect them.

Urban communication has been an active focus of the discipline for decades and has produced a plethora of internationally-recognized scholars who continue to engage in scholarship that intersects with various aspects of urban life and communication studies. While the juxtapositions and tensions that emerge both within and in relation to urban life, it is an opportune time to pause and reflect on the development of this burgeoning area of study—not just because it is useful to learn from our own historical development as an area of communication studies but because it is necessary for our urban communication scholars to join the various “wicked problems” of our day. Urban food deserts (Gallicano & Stansberry, 2011), issues of sustainability (Passafaro, et al. 2016), (inter)cultural (dis)connections (Mohammad, 2014), and national populist movements (Groshek & Engelbert, 2013) have all grabbed the attention of various communication scholars. While these investigations build upon the work of their disciplinary predecessors, it is perhaps an appropriate time to reflect on the patterns of interest over time. For example, Asante (1976) reflected in the journal Communication about the connections between urban communication and urban culture across the 20th century about the same time that Lanigan (1970) warned in Central States Communication Journal about an “urban crisis” caused by polarizing communication forces. And DiBerardinis (1979) focused on exactly the urban-rural divide that became highly visible in the 2017 Presidential election result maps in his Journal of Applied Communications Research article. But it is the work in between these sets of literature that have shaped the foundation on which current scholars continue to be inspired to work between urban history (e.g., Gibson, 2003), communicative cities (e.g., Gumpert & Drucker, 2008), and helping cities face uncertain futures (e.g., Jeffres & Lin, 2006). It is in this liminal space that we see urban communication scholarship to be primed to propose technological, methodological, pedagogical, philosophical, and applied solutions to various levels and types of problems that cities face. This pre-conference provides an opportunity for urban communication scholars to come together to significantly effect future influence by looking back to where we’ve come from to make collectively informed decisions about where we can—and should—contribute in the future.

We invite scholars focused on quantitative, qualitative, rhetorical, and applied methods of scholarship to contribute to discussion about how cities can begin bridging key divides like those discussed above. We propose hosting a full-day pre-conference hosted at nearby Southern Methodist University (SMU), during which participants will present and discuss (a) research projects, (b) case studies, (c) pedagogy papers, and (d) position papers that focus on how urban communication has effected change historically, is engaged in efforts to effect change currently, and can effect change into the future. Papers can focus on specific localities or larger comparative contexts. Colleagues from across the communication discipline and related fields are welcome. You will receive a formal acceptance and invitation to attend from the Urban Communication Foundation.

Upon acceptance, you will need to submit a check for $15.00 made out the Urban Communication Foundation as a registration fee to defray refreshments and equipment costs at the SMU facility. Details will accompany acceptance notification.


Procedures for submitting papers  

Authors are asked to identify in their abstracts the topic of the short position paper, research report, or case study they wish to contribute to the seminar. Please submit a one-page proposal including a paragraph describing your topic and provide your affiliation and contact information. The deadline for submission is September 15, 2017. A selection committee comprised of three UCF members will review all submissions and inform authors of their submission’s rating by October 1. Authors are responsible for submitting their full manuscripts for participant access no later than October 31, 2017 so that all participants have the opportunity to read and reflect on them prior to attending the preconference. A detailed preconference schedule will be made available in early November 2017 and distributed to participants at that time.

Abstracts should be submitted electronically by Friday, September 15, 2017 to the UCF Pre-conference Chair, erin mcclellan ( Full papers will be due on Tuesday, October 31, 2017. Please address any questions you may have to the above email address.

We look forward to receiving your submission and having another fantastic gathering of scholars discussing the various ways that urban communication can help us engage the world.


erin mcclellan (UCF Pre-Conference Chair)

Sheila Gobes-Ryan (UCF Pre-Conference Co-Chair)

Curry Chandler (UCF Pre-Conference Co-Chair)

Gary Gumpert (UCF President)

Peter Haratonik (UCF Executive Coordinator)

Owen Hanley Lynch (SMU Site Coordinator)

White Paper – Call For Applications

Call for Grant Applications (2017-2018)

UCF White Paper Program

Free Speech in the City

The Urban Communication Foundation (UCF) believes that an important measure of the health of a city is how well the city fosters and protects environments and rights supporting healthy, open, and robust communication. Such is the basis for democratic participatory societies, and that is fundamental to our values as a foundation. But open and robust communications sometimes pose challenges to other interests in cities and to the governments overseeing those cities. And governments may try to limit communication in response to such challenges. Some will do so more successfully than others, and some will focus on enhancing rather than controlling communication.

As the world appears to be increasingly contentious, the UCF is dedicating this year’s White Paper Program to an examination of urban communication freedom, regulation, and relevant government intervention and policy. We are particularly interested in soliciting proposals that will lead to the development of a white paper that discusses ways in which government regulation or policy, especially that made at the local city-level,  can protect and enhance an open and robust marketplace of ideas that is characterized by democratic values of inclusion, reason, and courage. The locus of our concern is, of course, cities.

The following are but a few examples of research questions and topics that applicants might pursue. This list is not at all exhaustive, and novel and interesting research questions are encouraged.

  • What regulatory mechanisms have been used to limit communication in urban contexts, and what can we learn from them that might strengthen efforts to limit the limits?
  • Do cities have communication issues that lend themselves to particular regulatory attention?
  • What are the best examples of how cities, perhaps in partnership with NGOs, have enhanced communication freedoms?
  • How do the intersections of communication and infrastructure lend themselves to regulation?  How might government policies encourage freer communication?
  • How might the legitimate concerns of governments be addressed while best protecting democratic expression?
  • What policies most effectively protect and enhance robust urban communication? What strategies enhance the likelihood of such policies being adopted?
  • How can public/private partnerships enhance open democratic expression?
  • What threats to privacy impact free expression and what government policies can address those threats?
  • In what ways has the change in the channels/locus of urban communication – from town square to the Internet – changed the regulatory environment and the freedom of expression?
  • What corporate policies and infrastructures impact freedom of expression and the governments’ ability to regulate it?
  • How does zoning, broadly defined, impact communication freedom?
  • What sorts of non-communication-focused regulations and policies have secondary impacts on communication freedom (for example, regulations pertaining to traffic, street furniture, public safety, etc.)
  • What municipal policies can enhance participatory government and access to municipal information?

Information about the Urban Communication Foundation’s White Paper Program

The UCF has been a leader in promoting scholarship in the general area of urban communication. The Foundation has funded dozens of research projects and acknowledged dozens of scholars that have advanced the field of study. Through this White Paper series, we extend this influence by focusing in on particular issues or areas of research and look to support the development of public research reports on issues that have a direct bearing on public policy and/or the everyday life for people within cities.

The final report should likely be between 8,000-12,000 words in length and present original research on the topic. The end product should aim to have some influence on policy makers, community leaders or researcher within an urban context and speak to basic research and practical solution. The author(s) of the top rated proposal will receive a grant of $10,000.

Guidelines for Submitting Proposals/Applications

  • Proposals should not exceed 1,000 words (excluding references). Please include a cover page with the name, position, institution, and contact information for all authors. Proposals should identify the research focus and its potential for positively impacting freedom of expression in cities.
    • Applications should include a short itemized budget and a concise statement providing a rationale for the expenses listed in the budget. Funds may be expended in a variety of ways (e.g., to hire a research assistant or for a course by-out), provided that it is clear how doing so will enable the researcher(s) to complete the proposed work. Funds may not be used to purchase computer hardware. Funds awarded by the UCF may be utilized to offset fringe costs (such as those often involved in hiring a research assistant), but the Foundation will not cover overhead expenses (i.e., indirect costs). In any case, the total amount of the award will not exceed $10,000, which will include costs associated with presentation of the research at a UCF session. Funding may be dispersed in phases over the course of the project.
    • Applicants should include one letter of recommendation. The referee should be able to assess the significance and viability of the project described in the proposal, as well as the qualifications of the applicant as they pertain to the proposed work.
    • Proposals should be submitted to Harvey Jassem, at, or Matthew Matsaganis, at, no later than November 1, 2017. Funding decisions will be made by December 31, 2017. The final report must be completed and submitted to the UCF no later than November 1, 2018.
  • The UCF reserves the right to publish and disseminate the completed White Paper.
  • The primary author will be required to present his/her findings at a UCF panel.
  • Upon selection as the UCF White Paper competition winner, the author(s) will be recognized as Urban Communication Foundation Fellow/s.

Spotlight on San Diego: The New Urban Agenda: Applications and Interventions

Fri, May 26, 18:30 to 19:45, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, 5, Cobalt 500

Session Submission Type: Panel

Habitat III took place in October 2016 culminating in an outcome document entitled “The New Urban Agenda”, adopted to “guide the efforts around urbanization of a wide range of actors — nation states, city and regional leaders, international development funders, United Nations programs and civil society — for the next 20 years.”
The Agenda includes a call for compact cities, polycentric growth, mixed-use streetscapes, prevention of sprawl and transit-oriented development.
The New Urban Agenda is a 23-page document that promises that no one will be left behind through inclusive development, economic growth and environmental sustainability. It deals with rights to the city, and unique needs of vulnerable urban populations including women, the LGBT community, the poor, disabled and indigenous peoples. Urban land policies should guarantee housing, for people, for economic profit and for social interaction. The internet, mobility, “smart cities” were acknowledged and incorporated in the discourse of implementation. Social interaction, community and communication technologies were evident but unarticulated in the New Urban Agenda. With the adoption of the New Urban Agenda attention turns to implementation and intervention. Around the world, there are now efforts to judge existing programs, standards, and achievements while develop innovations designed to achieve New Urban Agenda goals. This panel will explore the host city, San Diego through the lens of communication and the New Urban Agenda.

The panel will be chaired by Paula M. Gardner, McMaster University.

The distinguished panelists include:

Gary Gumpert, Urban Communication Foundation

Peter Haratonik, The New School

Susan Drucker, Hofstra University

Angela Booker, BINACOM – Binational Association of Schools of Communication of the Californias

Kieth Pezzoli, BINACOM – Binational Association of Schools of Communication of the Californias


Please visit for more information regarding the event.

The Jane Jacobs Urban Communication Book Award Awarded to Peter Laurence

Urban Communication Foundation sponsored "Jane Jacobs at 100" at the 2016 National Communication Association Convention in Philadelphia. The 2016 Jane Jacobs Book award was also announced. Picture (from left): Casey Lum (William Paterson University), Erik Garrett (Duquesne University), Curry Chandler (Cloud Gehshan Associates), Lewis Freeman (Fordham University), Susan Drucker (Hofstra University), Harvey Jassem (University of Hartford), Gary Gumpert (Urban Communication Foundation), Peter Hecht (University of Pittsburgh), Peter Haratonik (The New School)

Urban Communication Foundation sponsored “Jane Jacobs at 100” at the 2016 National Communication Association Convention in Philadelphia. The 2016 Jane Jacobs Book award was also announced. Picture (from left): Casey Lum (William Paterson University), Erik Garrett (Duquesne University), Curry Chandler (Cloud Gehshan Associates), Lewis Freeman (Fordham University), Susan Drucker (Hofstra University), Harvey Jassem (University of Hartford), Gary Gumpert (Urban Communication Foundation), Peter Hecht (University of Pittsburgh), Peter Haratonik (The New School)

This book offers readers a fascinating intellectual history of Jane Jacobs’ development as a critic and scholar of urban design. Of particular interest is how this deeply researched book delves into the early stages of Jacobs’ career, focusing with particular detail on her formative years as a working journalist in New York. Laurence shows how, as a writer and associate editor at Architectural Forum and other publications during the 1950s, Jacobs drew on her observations of modern architecture and urban renewal planning—as well as her professional connections to leading urbanists of the day—to develop and sharpen her now-legendary critique of top-down modernist planning. In doing so, Laurence convincingly dispels the mythology that has formed around Jacobs as an “amateur” urbanist who burst unexpectedly onto the scene in 1961. Far from it, Jacobs was a working writer and reporter, whose successive professional encounters with the failures of modernist planning and urban renewal compelled her to offer, as Laurence writes, “a wholly new vision of cities” in The Death and Life of Great American Cities—a vision that attempted to nurture, rather than poison, the fragile “ballet” of the street.

This is a book about urban communication in two major senses. First, as noted above, it documents how Jacobs’ early career as a professional journalist formed the crucial foundation for her development as a leading critic of modernist planning and perhaps the most influential urbanist of the late 20th century. Second, Laurence’s book also shows how Jacobs developed a particular understanding of the built environment as a medium of human communication, as a crucial means for shaping and enabling particular forms of social interaction. Not only did she help develop this view of the communicative city in her early writings and intellectual work (e.g., presenting at conferences on “urban design criticism”), but she was instrumental in bringing this view to wider audiences, both before and after the publication of her seminal 1961 book.

In sum, we cannot think of a more worthy selection for the UCF Jane Jacobs Book Award, particularly on the 100th anniversary of Jacobs’ birth in 1916.

Tanja Aitamurto Receives 2016 Gene Burd Outstanding Dissertation in Journalism Studies Award

Eike Rinke

Tanja Aitamurto

We are pleased to announce that Tanja Aitamurto been chosen as the recipient of the 2016 Gene Burd Outstanding Dissertation in Journalism Studies Award for her dissertation,” Crowdsourcing for Democracy: New Era in Policy-Making.“.

Tanja Aitamurto, Ph.D. is the Deputy Director and a Brown Fellow (postdoctoral) at the Brown Institute for Media Innovation at the School of Engineering at Stanford. She examines how collective intelligence, whether gathered by crowdsourcing, crowdfunding or co-creation, impacts journalism, governance and product design, particularly media innovations. Her work has been published in several academic journals, such as the New Media and Society and Digital Journalism.

James W. Carey Urban Communication Grant Awarded to Sarah C. Bishop

Sarah C. Bishop

The James W. Carey Urban Communication Grant is awarded to Sarah C. Bishop for (Un)Documented Media Makers and the Search for Connection Online. Bishop’s research considers the interaction of citizenship, media and migration, and she is especially concerned with issues of forced migration and involuntary citizenship.

Sarah C. Bishop is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Baruch College, City University of New York. At Baruch, Bishop teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Intercultural Communication, Privilege and Difference, and Digital Media Culture.

2016 UCF Eastern Communication Association Applied Urban Communication Research Grant Winner: Rebecca Townsend


Rebecca Townsend is the recipient of the 2016 UCF Eastern Communication Association Applied Urban Communication Research Grant for her proposed study of Social Networks and Pedestrian Safety. Professor Townsend is a Professor at Manchester Community College, Manchester, CT.

This interdisciplinary work seeks to explore what people say they will do when they engage in a common practice in cities across the globe: cross the street. There is no communication scholarship that explores pedestrian safety messages, nor pedestrian activity, nor how social networks or expert messages about safety affect pedestrian behavior.