Thinking about the history of ANZCA: An Australian perspective

Steven Maras

First published in the Australian Journal of Communication 31(2) 2004: 13-51.


This paper reflects on ways of approaching the historical development of the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA), from an Australian perspective. It is not in itself a history. Rather, it seeks to examine some of the questions that have been raised by prior work on ANZCA, and particular frameworks, problems, and issues that need to be taken into account. Formed in 1979, ANZCA is an organisation with a complex past and present, incorporating the Australian Communication Association (ACA), and operating across two countries. In this paper, I discuss four issues, among the many that could be looked at in detail: the question of an Australian communication studies, the situation of the field in Australian higher education, communication education, and the notion of the field itself.

In 2003, this journal published 'Presidentsreflect on ANZCA: Past and future' (Maras, 2003), which emerged out of asession at the 2002 annual conference of the Australian and New ZealandCommunication Association (ANZCA) held at Greenmount Resort, Coolangatta,Queensland. This session sought to bring together some of the past presidents ofANZCA to reflect on the organisation and their period of involvement. Assomeone curious about the history of communication studies in Australia, andknowing that in the last few years ANZCA had been re-energising itself, I tookan [Page 13 Ends] interest in bringing the session to publication--which hashappened thanks to the support of Mary Power and Roslyn Petelin. During thistime, I had also been working on 'An ANZCA Dossier', an information resourceabout ANZCA that is now accessible, thanks to Mary Power and Joanne Jacobs, on the ANZCA web page ( The two projects overlapto some extent. However, while they draw on historical documents andexperience, and contribute to an understanding of ANZCA's past, neither of theseprojects can qualify as a history of the association. Similarly, this paper isnot in itself a history [Note 1]. Rather, it seeks to examine some ofthe questions that have been raised by this earlier work on ANZCA, andparticular frameworks, problems, and issues that need to be taken into account.

There are risks in writing about any academic or professional field, especially as a relative newcomer to ANZCA. I am reminded here of Bourdieu's three types of field strategies available to aspirant entrants in a field: conservation, succession, and subversion (see Swartz, 1997, p. 125). Thankfully, I have encountered collegial generosity rather than gate keeping. As the past presidents' session reveals, one of the achievements of ANZCA is the way it was able to support the careers of now senior scholars at a particular time, and as such it isn't something to discuss lightly. At the same time, there are risks in not doing this kind of work. Issues to do with the specifics of local debates, as well as of institutional memory, continuity, and reproduction are at stake. In the past presidents' session discussion, Mary Power speaks of 'Young ANZCA', which implies the existence of an 'Old ANZCA'.

One of the difficulties of attempting to think about the history of ANZCA is how to keep the focus on ANZCA and not widen it to include the broader history of communication studies in Australia, or the state of the field in New Zealand. This is especially difficult since ANZCA emerged out of a set of specific conditions or background of activity. However, a narrow focus, restricted to just one stage or period of ANZCA's development, can be too restrictive. Thinking about the history of ANZCA thus involves a set of decisions about the scope and framing of the investigation. For example, the linkage between communication studies in Australia and ANZCA, especially in the period when ANZCA was formed as the Australian Communication Association (ACA), is very strong. However, given the trans-Tasman focus of the organisation, and the differences between the way the field was established in New Zealand and Australia, it is important that this link not dominate. My own limited experience of the New Zealand context means that I may not always be successful in this task. [Page 14 Ends] Indeed, in order to incorporate a New Zealand perspective into this piece, one would need to include the relatively untold story, to a large extent undocumented (except perhaps for Shirley Leitch's contribution to the past presidents' session), of, firstly, why New Zealand scholars joined ANZCA, and, secondly, the contribution they have made to the association, even before it became ANZCA [Note 2].

Separating the focus on ANZCA from the history of communication studies is complicated by my own tendency not to restrict the historical questions to the internal dynamics of ANZCA as an organisation. From this perspective, I am interested in the role ANZCA has played in articulating and stabilising the academic field of communication studies and also, through its journals and conferences, created an ongoing space for discussion. At the same time, it must be said that other actors and bodies have played their role in shaping the field. The activities of ANZCA are not identical to the activities of the entire field of communication, media, and cultural studies more broadly. In the introduction to the past presidents' session, I make the point that ANZCA has always been defined within a network of relations (between individuals, the executive, research centres, other associations, and the journals, for example), and at different periods this network has required maintenance, repair, and expansion (in relation to the ACA-ANZCA change, or the International Communication Association, for example) [Note 3].

These issues to one side, accounts of the development of communication studies in Australia (and New Zealand) are not that common, and those that exist have been done (for many good reasons) by senior figures. We are fortunate to have the overviews of the field that exist (many of them are listed in the dossier). In relation to communication studies in Australia, some provocative and thoughtful commentary and reflection exist, although not always presented as a form of historiography. The texts we do have frequently work in the genre of a discipline review, or overview of the field for an overseas audience, which introduces its own constraints. Nevertheless, these texts attempt to open up discussion of different problems or issues. Thinking about the history of ANZCA from an Australian perspective, several overlapping 'problems' or axes of investigation interject and need specific consideration. I want to discuss four of these: the question of an Australian communication studies, the situation of the field in Australian higher education, communication education, and the notion of the field itself. [Page 15 Ends]

An Australian communication studies?

While the question 'Is there an Australian communication studies?' is difficult to answer, the posing of the question has played a significant role in Australian debates, and also for ANZCA, especially during its ACA phase. Many individuals have raised the question (see Irwin & More, 1983, p. viii; Lewis, 1982, p. 14; Ticehurst, 1992, p. 7), but I suggest that it has been approached in at least three ways.

One approach is defined by Peter Putnis, who opens his 1986 overview of the field with the question 'Can one speak of Communication Studies in Australia as a discipline in its own right or even as a single field of study?' (p. 144). Putnis's position is defined by a clear distinction between communication studies as an institutionalised field of study and an 'Australian paradigm of communication studies' (1986, p. 143). On the level of the paradigm, Putnis sees the field as caught in a cross-current between Anglo- and American influences [Note 4]. Building on work by Lewis (1982), Putnis presents this idea as pointing to an orthodoxy in the Australian scene. While this cross-current has a real effect on the level of teaching and research, Putnis is also attempting to show how this notion works as an 'idea', a 'framework' through which the field is constructed and through which different narratives about the field evolve. As such, he is interested not just in the competition between paradigms, but 'the use of the notion of competing paradigms' (Putnis, 1986, 148). This approach opens up a different way of engaging with the field, not simply as a place where overseas controversies are played out on Australian soil, but as an 'arena' where local conditions introduce differing trends 'between and within paradigms' (1986, p. 153). While the absence of any single dominant paradigm of Australian communication studies means that Putnis is not inclined to respond with a 'yes' to his question about the discipline, he nevertheless promotes the notion of an Australian communication studies as a counter-balance to what he perceives as an increased importation of cultural studies and British curriculum models without sufficient modification or adaptation for local contexts. Speaking against a backdrop of growth in Australian studies, Putnis is especially concerned with the risks of perpetuating the British influence on Australian social institutions [Note 5]. In later work, Putnis took up the issue of how the Australian perspective emerges in different local research (1993).

A second approach is represented by Harry Irwin. For Irwin, in contrast to the experience in the United States, for example, Australian scholars received the contrast or split between European and North American [Page 16 Ends] approaches not as a given but as a recognised problem (1984, p. 4). This produced an opportunity for defining a uniquely Australian approach, especially considering the fact that this new field, largely because of its emergence in the non-university tertiary institutions, did not face strong opposition from established interests (Irwin, 1984, p. 3). Irwin and More suggest that 'it is possible to develop approaches, uniquely Australian, which benefit from insights available from each of the major overseas approaches' (1983, p. viii). In a later version, Irwin's account is dominated by the theme of a lost opportunity, a possibility that was missed because of competition between different viewpoints about communication studies.

This competition, while offering the potential for Australian communication studies to choose the best of both worlds in determining its own direction, instead created confusion and animosity. Australians, who ignored the possibility of developing a unique standpoint, also ignored developments in communication studies provided by their Asian neighbours, along with the opportunity to take up issues relating to Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. (Irwin, 1993, p. 159)

In this account, a sense of an Australian communication studies emerges, but it is in relief, formed more out of pathways refused rather than pathways followed, and defined more by geography, and government policy, than a unique set of problems or questions. Indeed, in his earlier paper, Irwin refers to Australian communication studies as living in a state of 'colonisation' (Irwin, 1984, p. 13). This is not to suggest that Irwin fails to outline what an Australian communication studies should be interested in: he mentions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, and greater interest in Asian and Pacific communication (Irwin, 1984; see also Lewis & Osborne, 1993), as well as intercultural communication, business communication, and communication education (Irwin, 1998). Ironically, it could be said that fields such as cultural studies, media studies, Asian studies, and Australian studies have been more effective in making the most of the opportunities Irwin outlines, and in this sense Irwin's account is overshadowed by a sense of a field struggling with its multidisciplinarity and alienated from some of its key projects [Note 6].

A third way of answering the question is broached by Gunther Kress. He writes: [Page 17 Ends]

nothing gives me a greater sinking feeling that the idea of a 'uniquely Australian' version of this or any other discipline. It is a perversely inverted version of the 'cultural cringe'. Either we say interesting things about problems in communication--in which case we'll make an impact everywhere, or we don't--in which case we don't deserve to. (Kress, 1981, pp. 4-5)

For Kress, wariness of a distinctively Australian communication studies comes with a feeling that attempting to define what communication is or, work out what the discipline might be about, is a pointless exercise, only achievable through long term examination of problems in communication [Note 7].

Evoking a complex nationalism, the question of an Australian communication studies (an Australasian communication studies has never been mentioned, to my knowledge) is associated with a process of displacement and re-evaluation through which local conditions are used to write and re-write the map of communication studies, according to a unique or regional frame of reference, as well as the cultural outlook and perspectives of Australian scholars. If one approaches the question from the point of view of disciplines and paradigms, it is very difficult to answer in the affirmative. However, if one approaches the question from a socio-geographic perspective, and attempts to focus on key problems, it becomes possible to map out the outlines of an Australian communication studies, either real or ideal. Such a perspective resides in both Irwin's and Putnis's approaches, despite their different ways of answering the question. Both Irwin and Putnis maintain the importance of linking activities in the field to Australian social and policy traditions. This would need to be supplemented today with a critical account of the inter-relatedness and autonomy of the terms 'communication studies', 'media studies', and 'cultural studies' in Australia. Some of the interest or anxiety over Australian communication studies and what it might be has manifested itself in terms of an interest in working out an 'Australian research agenda' (see Norton, 1992) [Note 8]. However, this approach can sometimes have the effect of setting up UK and US approaches in a monolithic way. Even if one accepts that many staff appointed in the early days of communication studies in Australia came from the US or UK, this does not give us an insight into the inventiveness with which these migrants might have adapted and hybridised their research methodologies [Note 9].

At the 1981 ACA conference, in what Wilson has called 'the first Australian critical statement about communication studies' (2001, p. 2), Bill Bonney criticised the unity or coherence of the field of the area [Page 18 Ends] of communication, and drew a distinction between two approaches to communication, one interested in a general study of culture and cultural production, and the other invested in an a-historical and a-social account of the process of communication. Wilson has noted how Bonney's intervention led to a certain orthodoxy, and has also highlighted the binary character of Bonney's intervention. Building on this binarism, in a Letter to the Editor of the Australian Communication Review (ACR) regarding the 1981 conference, Kress mentions 'two quite distinct paradigms', the British/European and American, operating in 'unreconciled conflict' at the conference (Kress, 1981, p. 4). From a historiographical perspective, what we can call 'paradigm-talk' presents a problem. Space does not allow us a detailed methodological discussion, but history presents a problem for paradigm-talk if only for the reason that, while realms of 'normal practice' might exist, practices do not stand still. From this perspective, the notion of paradigm is a concept well suited to explaining the absence of change in a field, and blindness to developments resulting in a paradigm shift. Putnis's strategy of charting the use of the notion of competing paradigms becomes useful to overcome this problem, although his own use of the term 'paradigm' possibly complicates the analysis. What becomes apparent is that some accounts of Australian communication studies draw on a very loose, and shifting definition of the paradigm that in some ways distorts earlier attempts by Kress (1981), Lewis (1982), and Irwin and More (1983) to chart differing perspectives in the Australian context [Note 10]. From a historiographical perspective, caricaturing the Australian scene in terms of a divide between two paradigms risks obscuring attempts to come to terms with the 'divide' and understand differences (see, e.g., Hodge, 1982; Irwin, 1985). If paradigm-talk has two dimensions, a sense-making side and a territory-making side, then we can suggest that, despite attempts to show how the notion of the paradigm works to make sense of the Australian context, the geography of the divide has won out.

It is interesting to look at the deployment of the idea of the paradigm and its different articulations. In Putnis's account of two conferences in Britain (Putnis, 1984), each of them inhabiting a paradigm, the differences are framed in terms of a tension between 'the production and reproduction of culture' and the 'teaching of communication skills'. Conflicts between British and 'American' methodologies form a largely background aspect of the account, with the cultural studies conference looking towards 'European Marxist thought' and the skilling conference to 'the Americans'. In later work by Putnis (1985), however, the paradigms take on a more fully national identity: the [Page 19 Ends] tension is between Anglo-European and American paradigms. In 1986, Putnis notes the lack of emergence of an 'Australian paradigm of communication studies'. Tackling the issue of cultural dependence, Putnis uses the term 'cross-current' to modify the idea of two mutually exclusive 'paradigms', US and UK, in his work, but nonetheless mentions 'American versus British/European paradigms' (Putnis, 1986, p. 146). Putnis goes on to point out, in the form of a metacommentary, that the paradigms idea has 'become the dominant way of situating teaching and research in Australia'. 'The use of the notion of competing paradigms as a way of making sense of communication studies is predominant not only in discussions of the field as a whole but also in the way research in particular branches such as interpersonal communication or media studies is represented' (Putnis, 1986, p. 148). Here, the sense-making side appears in the analysis, but falls back into the topography of a divided terrain. What is interesting about Putnis's 1984 account is that it shows the two paradigms in operation in Britain. A careful reading of the American context, from Adorno's criticism of Lazarsfeld (echoing critical versus empirical arguments) to James Carey's research (Carey, 1989), would have to be done to prove the existence of the two paradigms--or more, for there is a strong pragmatic tradition to be accounted for--in the US context [Note 11]. Furthermore, closer attention to cultural studies reveals distinct camps and differing views (see Turner, 1989, p. 2). The point is that, while the tendency exists to define the paradigms along mutually exclusive colonial/imperial lines, it is also possible to trace differences in the pedagogic and content focus of the 'paradigms' that do not follow colonial/imperial lines, or operate within colonial/imperial domains. As Irwin notes in one paper, the equation of philosophic differences with geographic ones is not a straightforward task (1985, p. 3).

From Lewis (1982) to Irwin and More (1983) to Bonney (1983) to Curthoys (1983) to King and Muecke (1984), the two paradigms argument finds an inconsistent line of development that has still yet to be mapped out and fully unpacked [Note 12]. An indication of the inconsistency is that Lewis does not speak of paradigms but attempts an overview of the growth of communication education in the US and UK as a way of charting Anglo-American influence on Australian communication education. For Lewis, the US perspective is characterised by the systematic study of communication processes, with mass communication and interpersonal communication the main focus. British approaches are characterised by scepticism towards psychology, a rejection of compartmentalisation of communication into categories of interpersonal, small group, and organisational, [Page 20 Ends] and a preference for a macro-sociological perspective. Irwin and More do not speak of paradigms, but differing perspectives. The US approach is process based, and linked to separate contexts of mass communication, interpersonal, small group, and organisational communication, while the European approach is structure based, influenced by structuralism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis, and critical of empiricism--with a local tension existing between developing theory and developing communication skills and strategies more relevant to industry and organisations. Bonney highlights a tension that he calls an 'independent discipline approach', which holds that the study of the human communication process is specific to it, and independent of other disciplines, and a 'cultural studies approach' that holds 'that there is no a-historical, a-social object as the human communication process and hence no possibility as communication theory (Bonney, 1983, p. 1) [Note 13]. For Curthoys, the tension is between American social psychology and mass communication. For King and Muecke, who suggest that paradigm talk is reductive and over-schematic, and call for a more complex account of the emergence of communication studies, the tension is between quantitative content analysis and a psychological account of non-verbal and interpersonal communication versus a British-European paradigm based on linguistic and semiotic analysis with greater investment in Marxism.

As a rhetorical trope, the 'two paradigms' motif has helped make sense of a field in conflict or ferment (more on this metaphor below), but it has also arguably polarised discussion to an unnecessary degree and obscured understanding of the tensions and differences at stake. What it has also obscured are attempts at bridge building between the different 'paradigms', what Irwin, drawing on management literature, calls 'boundary spanning' (Irwin, 1985).

It can be suggested that the Australian context represents a case that proves the inadequacy of 'paradigm' talk to characterise debates rather than the dominance of two undisputed paradigms. From this perspective, paradigm-talk would lack the flexibility to account for the different levels and speeds of debate. In this context, it is worth noting Molloy's point in the past presidents' session that, in the early days of the association, ideological conflict was often masked, or misrecognised, as interpersonal conflict: 'we didn't realise we were part of an emerging, ideological struggle, contesting who should have the right to name and appropriate different theoretical perspectives' (Maras, 2003, p. 5). Leaving aside the point that few communication studies contexts are without vigorous dispute, the inadequacy of paradigm-talk could be [Page 21 Ends] seen in terms of 'teething problems' for an emerging intellectual milieu that was trying to find a footing in the 'cross-currents' swirling around it. Or it can be seen in terms of an extraordinary confluence of forces coming together in terms of the cultural prominence of communication issues, the Australian communication studies project, and a soon-to-be-internationalised cultural studies project, with significant academic horsepower that was highly theoreticist and at times dismissive of 'pragmatic-functional' perspectives (see Turner, 1989). In terms of the history of ANZCA, I would suggest that it is always useful to keep in mind the way departmental level issues and tensions articulate on the level of the association (a point that I take up below). Or it can be seen in terms of the influence of specific institutional, departmental, and work contexts rather than colonial/imperial ones. Some scholars still work with a very short-hand version of the 'two paradigms' argument, identifying a tension between interpersonal and mass media approaches that is present in the ACA's first Newsletters (see Crocker, 1979), or alternately a tension between different realms of application, supported by either management/business or humanities perspectives. In the past presidents' session, in a special use of the term, 'pragmatic'-functional perspectives are cast in opposition to cultural studies.

Looking back over this ground, although it is speculation, it seems that the tension between human and media communication is not so prominent, and that the issue of the compartmentalisation of the field in terms of organisational, group, media, and human communication is also not so insistent (see Irwin, 1985). Demands for a consistently unified field have given way to an appreciation of diversity. At the same time, in Turner's words, cultural studies has 'burrowed under the empiricist fence' to blur the methodological boundaries and found its 'applied' forms (e.g., cultural policy) that merge with aspects of applied communications (Turner, 1989, p. 3). And communications has become a key focus of interest instead of communication, although the productive if heated examination of the nature of communication that once characterised ACA debates seems to be missing.

The situation of communication studies in Australian higher education

In Irwin's accounts of communication studies, the shape of the field is linked to changes in the higher education sector (covering a period through the 1980s and 1990s). Communication studies is a relatively recent introduction to the higher education landscape in Australia. Emergent in the early 1970s during the period of expansion that [Page 22 Ends] saw the establishment of Institutes of Technology and Colleges of Advanced Education (CAEs), as well as non-sandstone universities such as Murdoch, Macquarie, and Griffith, communication studies was seen as an area of academic and vocational merit offering contemporary relevance (Irwin, 1993, p. 158). Defined during the period of the so-called 'binary' system of higher education that offered mass education but channelled research funding primarily to universities, the area is considered to have undergone roughly two major phases of development (see Irwin, 1993; 1998) before the current configuration:

i) 1970-1987 was a period of slow expansion and consolidation of majors within other degrees and courses (e.g., the program in communication studies initiated at The University of Queensland in 1984); the creation of the ACA (formed in 1979) and its link to the journals that continue to form important scholarly forums for the field (the Australian Journal of Communication--formerly Australian SCAN: Journal of Human Communication (est. 1976), and Media Information Australia (est. 1976)--now Media International Australia, incorporating Culture and Policy). A characteristic of this period was a broadening of the interests of the ACA beyond speech education and human communication, and engagement with concepts of culture and cultural studies approaches as a live issue for the field, as demonstrated by the sponsorship of the Australian Journal of Cultural Studies (formed in 1983) in this period.

ii) 1987-1995 was a period that saw the breaking down of the binary system of education under the so-called Dawkins reforms and the creation of a 'unified national system' (Putnis et al., 2002, p. 6); the harnessing of higher education to 'national priority' areas related to economic growth that often excluded the humanities (Hunter et al., 1991); the entry of communication studies into newly formed or consolidated institutions comprising the former CAEs (e.g., the University of Western Sydney, Edith Cowan University, La Trobe University), Institutes of Technology, and Agricultural colleges; a burgeoning number of postgraduates in the area, and the establishment of Media and Communication Studies as an Australian Research Council category (circa 1990). Another characteristic was a questioning of the situation of the field within the humanities and social sciences (with business studies as a possible alternative location), derived primarily from the difficulty of adequately funding specialised vocational courses in media and journalism. [Page 23 Ends]

A third period could be identified, roughly from 1995 to the present, which is represented by the introduction of courses in media and communications in older universities such as the University of Sydney, University of Melbourne, and the University of New South Wales, under funding and institutional conditions very different from the expansion of the area in the 1970s and 1980s, leading to smaller schools or targeted programs sometimes enabled by the teaching efforts of staff from a number of schools. These post-1995 developments tend not to occur under the banner of 'communication studies' per se but rather under 'communications and media', and explicitly engage with developments in communications and new media, as they were among the first programs to be set up following the popularisation of the World Wide Web and the application of personal computing to the creation of multi-media. In this period, the global revolution in information and communication technology (ICT) becomes a key policy consideration, forcing the field to re-link to national priority areas, and articulate itself to innovation (Galvin 2002; Putnis et al., 2002, pp. 11-19). When Wilson draws attention to the implications of a shift from 'critique' to 'design' in Kress's work, she raises an important problem in this third period of communications studies (2001, p. 6). Her point also forms a nice linkage to a background phenomenon: while communication studies has always had complex links to social sciences, humanities, and commerce, in this period the discipline(s) of design (influential in creative industries discussions) emerges as a major factor for many departments undergoing merger or restructure, with 'convergence' looming large as a factor in curriculum design (e.g., at RMIT and UWS).

Whether or not the recent Nelson reforms to higher education result in a fourth period of development remains to be seen. Given the possibility of a return to a 'binary' system or 'league ladder' of teaching versus teaching and research universities, and also a desire to increase diversity in the field (Putnis & Axford, 2002), one wonders whether the new reforms will precipitate staff movement towards particular universities or a fewer number of departments in an attempt to increase diversification in the area and define niche or specialised identities. This would be despite Putnis and Axford's warning that 'supporting a few elite institutions on the assumption that they are always in the best position to respond to emerging research demands, changing labour-market demands, or student needs and interests does not fit with the evidence in this field' (2002, p. 18). [Page 24 Ends]

This periodisation of the development of communication studies through policy regimes has helped provide accepted narratives about the development of the field. Irwin suggests:

The conservatism of the old universities was not conducive to the development of a new field of study, especially when its social relevance and intrinsic interest threatened to attract students away from longer established academic fields. The new institutions … were more responsive to the needs and interests of students and employers, and more innovative in course developments. It is in these advanced education sector institutions, which eventually grew to hold more students than the universities, that communication studies was introduced and developed. (1989, p. 44)

As well as providing an account of originary contexts, the articulation of different policy regimes has provided a very useful framework for mapping the shifting contours of the field and the changing rules of the game. It has given important insight into the context and climate in which teaching and research is carried out. However, one possible drawback is that it runs the risk of promoting a mechanistic link between policy (cause) and courses (effects) [Note 14]. The issues surrounding recognition of the field of communication studies as a research field, as opposed to communications as a discipline of messaging and telecommunications (now confused by the trend to refer to most courses as 'communications'), would require a different kind of narrative [Note 15]. Necessarily, I think, Irwin takes a broad view of the phenomenon of 'mass education' and the linking of higher education to national priorities and new populations: the demand for 'skills' (however they may be defined), and not just in the information technology sector, is one particular area that is worth greater attention. It is interesting to consider the emergence of communication studies not just in terms of the development of a field, but as part of a much broader process of engagement with the priorities of the new economy that comes with the knowledge society and service industries. In other words, there is value in seeing the emergence of communication studies in relation to a broader societal engagement with 'communications'. Indeed, it is noteworthy that the study of telecommunications and issues of 'communication, technology and control' pre-dates the ACA and many courses in communication studies [Note 16].

This leads to a possible second problem with the periodisation, which is that it potentially closes off other possible readings of the field as an extension of social and cultural history. My personal intuition is that [Page 25 Ends] there is more to say about the link between the rise of media studies and the fusion of entertainment, politics, and media, post-1970s. I would also include here discussion of Australian society's engagement with the televisual, particularly in the post-Vietnam period. A careful study of the emergence of communication studies in Australia in relation to the 1960s and 1970s as a 'period of Australian cultural self-assertion' (Putnis, 1986, p. 144), and intensified nationalistic discourse (especially against the background of Bicentennial celebrations), could yield interesting results (see Putnis, 1993a).

A third concern regarding the periodisation of the development of communication studies in Australia in relation to policy frameworks should be mentioned: namely, that by focusing on opportunities and risks, it highlights impacts on the field but does not always place equal weight on the responsibilities of the area, and fails to promote what I would describe as the social contract obligations of the field. Irwin is careful to stress the need for theory and practice to go together, and also inter-connectedness with the humanities and social sciences. However, communication and media studies is, seen in the context of massive changes to higher education in the last 40 years, part of a significant change in priorities in the curriculum and the purposes of education. In some respects, it has been a doorway for increased focus on utility in the context of an arts and humanities education, and has as a result transformed the expectations surrounding that education. Read in this way, it could be argued that, in return for its place in the arts curriculum, communication and media studies has a social contract obligation to pursue critical perspectives on pedagogy, professional, and policy practice, to argue the case for new, democratic communication futures, and to promote the need for critical media and communication literacies to support this future (for an important statement of the responsibilities of communication scholars, see Putnis, 1993b).

Communication education

It has been argued that the lack of sustained focus on communication pedagogy in Australian communication studies forms a gap in the area (Irwin, 1998, p. 281). And yet it has also been suggested that 'communication studies emerged in Australia as essentially a curriculum idea' (Putnis, 1993a). I am increasingly of the view that thinking about the history of ANZCA involves thinking about communication education more broadly. Communication education is not only at the centre of many debates that have peppered ANZCA's history, but is [Page 26 Ends] also a key term through which that history can be made relevant to the present. As such, we need to think about the definition and place of communication in the curriculum and the way it works on a pedagogic level. While different snapshots of curriculum have been provided at different times (see, e.g., Lewis, 1982; Putnis, 1986, p. 149; Putnis, 1988), and form an aspect of the reports of the field (Molloy & Lennie, 1990; Putnis et al., 2002), this kind of curriculum history is not very common and is awkward to approach. Nevertheless, two points spring to mind.

First, there is the issue of how departmental tensions and aspirations articulated themselves on the level of the association. The size of the Australian scene in particular meant that few scholars could avoid talking to, or even working alongside, scholars from different camps. Certainly, the complex topography in which the CAEs and Institutes of Technologies worked increased the attractiveness of the ACA as a kind of focus point for activity or as a representative body. Many of the currents eddying through the ACA derived from 'the institutionalisation in particular circumstances of sets of pedagogical values and practices' (Galvin, 1990, p. 164). While different sets of theory and methodologies from the US and the UK were available, there was arguably no paradigm of pedagogy ready at hand to do the job required for the emerging field of undergraduate study in Australia [Note 17]. A 1983 article by Kress forms a useful illustration here. Promoting the 'questions and problems surrounding both the production and consumption of meaning' as a key problem area for communication studies, Kress seeks to define a new problem area at a time when 'traditional disciplines' are not adequate, and the raison d'être of the CAE sector of tertiary education was recognised as 'the provision of vocationally/professionally oriented education and responsiveness to community need' (Kress, 1983, p. 4). As well as the relation of communication courses to work and industry, the 'implications for our own practices as educators, and the effect on teaching methodologies, and learning strategies and environments' form a key focus for Kress. The inter-relationship between cultural studies and communication studies is also interesting from this perspective, where most cultural studies practitioners worked in degrees with the name 'communication'. As such, communication could be described as a contested terrain of sorts, which was at the same time attractive to students and important to employers. While paradigm-talk could exaggerate the tensions here--scholars with an industry focus could celebrate practical and professional relevance and theoreticians could take the intellectual high ground--on the level of the student experience the mixture of instrumentalism and [Page 27 Ends] theory made for a richer if at times uneven educational experience. It is at the level of communication education that ANZCA has done important work in serving as a clearing house for local and international perspectives on critical communication, and ideas about what a communication degree should look like, and the significance of applied communication and professional contexts--see, for example, Irwin & Knight (1985), which presented findings of the 'Applied Communication Course Development Project'. While it is inaccurate to say that ANZCA served the role of, say, the Public Relations Institute of Australia or the Journalism Education Association, papers at ANZCA conferences, the meeting of teachers from different backgrounds, and the fact that ANZCA was a forum in which highly academic and professional issues could be raised helped focus discussion on what training for the professions might mean [Note 18].

Kress's observations about the vocational focus of CAEs raises another point, which is that the pre-history of ANZCA, or more specifically the ACA, may be worth looking into in more detail. In the ANZCA Dossier, I have tried to flag the existence of a number of associations in existence, or mooted, before the ACA came into being, as well as the emergence of communication as a section of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS). The ACA, on one level, can be seen as but one expression of a broader drive or push for association. What would make the history of the ACA/ANZCA unique in this context is the way it became a durable entity, when so many other associations fell by the wayside. The relationship between these other associations and the ACA could reward further study, especially the roles played by William Crocker and Rod Miller. On a related point, there is an issue in the history of ANZCA that is of interest. Namely, what role did speech education play in shaping the association? Irwin in particular has been careful to acknowledge the importance of Crocker's role as foundation president. However, the link between what speech educators were concerned and passionate about, and how this influenced the association and the field more widely, is under-analysed on the one hand, and too easily boxed into issues of 'interpersonal communication' on the other. A cursory look at some of the pedagogic aspirations of speech education shows that they contributed to interest in the Australian accent, an emphasis on skills and expression, an awareness of literacy and problems with the pedagogy itself, an awareness of the needs of occupations, as well as a shift away from correct/incorrect approaches to speech towards ideas of effective communication (Crocker, 1970). It is possible to see these interests restrictively in terms of speech training (although [Page 28 Ends] this would be to ignore the moves to rethink speech training in terms of communication in the area). More broadly, these interests raise conceptual issues relating to the professional training, nationalism, cultural capital, and an awareness of appropriate pedagogy that are still with us today, and underpin our understandings of communication education.

A thorough look at communication education would need to draw on more information about the teaching and learning contexts of the CAEs and Institutes of Technology. The amount of control held by 'Higher Education Boards' involved in centralised planning of curriculum was significant. There is a trope in accounts of Australian communication studies that goes: 'communication studies started at the periphery (CAEs) and moved into the centre (Universities)'. The Dawkins reforms to higher education that dismantled the so-called 'binary' system of post-war funding are the obvious catalyst here. But this narrative puts communication studies into the university (and into a realm of legitimacy) very quickly. I wonder (and this is obviously a question from someone who entered the area after Dawkins), if there are any enduring effects of a CAE 'mentality', and, if there are, what are they? The fact that at times different programs have been quite idiosyncratically built around staff interests might be one legacy. The keenness with which communications programs seek to meet student and employer needs might be another. Another might be the tension between two images of communication as an area that can do 'service teaching' for other disciplines versus an area with its own disciplinary identity. The distinction between Bachelor of Communication degrees and Bachelor of Arts (Communication) degrees might be interesting here. One area of interest is in debates around the humanities, and especially the new humanities (see Ruthven 1992). To what extent has the relationship between communication studies and the humanities been conditioned by this history? It is noteworthy that it was cultural studies and not communication studies that was the key disciplinary site for much of the early thinking about the new humanities. While the focus on the humanities is of interest, the links between communication studies and particularly psychology and business studies are also worth considering here.

Field work

A conventional intellectual history focuses on key figures as representatives of intellectual formations--formations that in turn have links to social debates and political ideologies (different thinkers thus [Page 29 Ends] become emblematic of the left or the right of politics, progressive or conservative) [Note 19]. The conventional approach to history relies on a fairly well established map of the field and different interests, and indeed an account of ANZCA focusing on the factional interaction of Irwinians and Fiskians, or modernists and post-modernists, or pragmatic-functionalists and semiotic-culturalists for example, might be possible. If there is an over-reliance on stereotypes or caricatures of intellectual formations, of organisational, management, interpersonal communication, and cultural studies, in accounts of the field so far, then I suspect that it is due in part to this approach to history, and the modes of interpretation it encourages [Note 20].

While conventional intellectual history would seek to define and evaluate the scholarly contribution of particular individuals, this has not been a strong feature of the Australian context. This is not to say that it would not be possible to do so (see Putnis, 1993a). The contributions of Grant Noble and Henry Mayer as models of scholastic engagement, and Robyn Penman and David Sless as applied theorists, in addition to other figures already mentioned in the discussion (as well as the life members of ANZCA), could be looked at in this way [Note 21]. Individual presidents' addresses (see the 'ANZCA Dossier') often form significant interventions into particular debates, such as issues to do with ANZCA's public role (as do those by external keynote speakers at conferences) [Note 22]. I suspect that one reason for this style of history built around individual contributions not being so common in the Australian context is that, to use a theatre metaphor, the stage upon which their contribution could be judged and evaluated is still unstable. To shift metaphors, the field is either inadequately framed, or its framing is still a source of contention.

A 'formations' approach to historiography frequently draws on a singular and unified conception of 'the field', and, leaving aside the point that different perceptions of the field can be contested, there are practical difficulties to do with writing the history of this 'field'. Two immediate issues arise here. The first is that, in terms of writing about higher education, there needs to be more awareness of how changes to higher education in the post-war period have transformed our understanding of what a discipline or field might be. At the same time that post-modernism has challenged the disciplinary organisation of knowledge, relatively 'new' professionally oriented disciplines have been established in the university, among which we can include business, nursing, etc. (see Clarke, 1996). Communication studies is a [Page 30 Ends] new area in this sense, although it needs to be said that it has reached a degree of institutional stability and maturity, and that today perhaps areas such as public relations are in the space communication studies was 20 years ago, in relation to finding appropriate theoretical and philosophical frameworks for pedagogic practice, and negotiating the demands of disciplinarity in an academic context (see Motion & Leitch, 1999) [Note 23]. The status of communication studies as a new discipline, and the desire for scholarly legitimation from its practitioners, has, I think, marked ANZCA in particular ways. Its current activities seem guided by practitioners in the higher education sector (and to a lesser extent communication professionals), but not those involved in technical and further education, corporate training, or secondary schools.

The second issue that arises in relation to the field is that as well as being a new, professionally oriented 'discipline' or multidiscipline, it has been in 'ferment' for a long time. In 1980, Rod Miller addressed the argument put by Nicholas Garnham that '"communication studies is not a discipline. It is not even a coherent field of study. It is an illusion based upon the poly-semic nature of the word communication ..."' (Miller, 1980, p. 6). A special issue of the American Journal of Communication that carried the theme 'Ferment in the Field' was published in 1983. In simplistic terms, this issue grappled with changes to the institutionalised structure of 'communication research'--an approach organised around the key names Lazarsfeld, Lasswell, Lewin, and Hovland (all of whom had come to the study of communication from other disciplines), focused around prominent research centres, and strong distinctions between interpersonal and media communication, and group, interpersonal, mass, and political communication. Rogers and Chaffee, for example, worry over the task of finding a balance between academic study and professional training in communication skills, while delineating a new sense of the 'theoretical center of communication' (1983, p. 23). While some Australian commentators view the discipline as 'mature and relatively stable' (Irwin, 1998, p. 283), the conclusion is still drawn that 'communication has not been established as a discipline' (Wilson, 2001, p. 14). Putnis et al. describe a field of 'amorphous contours', focusing attention on a 'curriculum divide' that represents one of the 'central unresolved tensions in the field' (2002, p. 6). Turner characterises the area as a 'highly volatile emerging discipline' and suggests that to describe the area as a discipline is perhaps to 'overstate its homogeneity and stability' (1998, p. 181). Wilson highlights 'the undisputed fragmentation of the field into many unrelated or loosely related areas, as well as many different [End Page 31] approaches and disciplinary methods', which itself gives rise to new identities and rhizomatic interconnections (2001, p. 14). In the past presidents' session, Molloy says that 'I don't think communication is a discipline'.

These concerns mark ANZCA in a unique way. From the very earliest articulations of the ACA, two primary concerns emerged: first, the complexity of the field and any discipline of communication studies, and, second, the difficulty of defining communication (see Kress, 1981). These are in a sense founding themes of ANZCA. They contribute to a lack of clarity about what the association's key purpose or role is, or a concern about its progress, that persists in discussions. This questioning to do with the founding themes was not the by-product of some crisis in ANZCA, but a condition of its emergence and formation of its identity [Note 24]. While some thought that it was not necessary to unify the study of communication as a discipline (see Muecke, 1982, p. 93), this view was itself a response to anxiety in/about the field. In a summary of the 1986 conference, More and Blood identified a 'very real divorce between those who see a need to justify teaching and research in the communication discipline and those who do not see a need to do so': a 'divorce' that they felt to have similarity with 'irreconcilable differences' that split the discipline at international level (More & Blood, 1986, p. 34). While the association drew on the energies of members eager to legitimate their particular disciplinary focus, and while the rubric of interpersonal communication was proposed as an initial framework, the ACA also drew, almost from the outset, on notions of interdisciplinarity, and a rigorous effort to theorise communication, to help overcome the problems (see Miller, 1980; also Irwin, 1985; Penman, 1986; Sless, 1987) [Note 25].

Viewed from this perspective, it becomes apparent that the politics of the field is intertwined with different conceptions and poetics of the field. This is where some analysis of the metaphor of 'ferment' becomes necessary. In some cases, the metaphor signals a problem in the field, a tumultuous development. In others, it defines a productive state of change. (For example, King and Muecke took the historical coincidence of the 1983 'Ferment in the Field' issue of the Journal of Communication as a sign of possible rapprochement of paradigms in the Australian context (1984, p. 2).) A possible disadvantage of the idea of a field existing in ferment is that it posits a unitary conception of the field that pre-exists the ferment. One might start by reversing the assumption and look at communications or communication studies from the outset as a multidisciplinary entity (and here, my own definition of discipline [End Page 32] would extend beyond scholarly disciplines to other techniques and disciplines outside of the academy). If we do so, a different poetics of the field emerges. Ferment, fissures, and fractures can be linked to the attempt to draw a discrete (mono)identity for the discipline. This identity might be desirable to gain a higher profile, to gain more funding, to form a department, or to stabilise a particular area. However, this stability tends to operate against the multidisciplinarity of 'the field' and its generative connections across discipline areas. It can create borders and fractures. Attempts to 'own' communication are thwarted by the sheer complexity and relevance of the term to many areas of human activity. As my colleague John O'Carroll puts it (personal communication), the discipline of communication stands on a fault-line, and draws its energy from the fault-line.

The issue of the field represents a significant methodological obstacle to approaching the history of communication studies in Australia, and ANZCA. Indeed, even this sentence reveals a certain problem, in the sense that we shouldn't be speaking only of 'communication studies', since that term signifies in particular ways. Using communication studies as an umbrella term seems old-fashioned today. Also, interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity are important to ANZCA members, many of whom share membership in other areas (cultural studies, journalism, psychology, and linguistics, to name a few). A key issue facing discussion of the area in Australia is how to account for the relationship between communication studies and areas such as media and cultural studies that have close intersecting histories, but have also achieved a degree of relative autonomy (see Turner, 1998). At different times, the triangle of media, communication, and cultural studies has had different configurations. Media studies can be treated variously as a subset of communication studies, or cultural studies, or an independent area with its own problematics (media ownership, public broadcasting). To exclude media and cultural studies from a study of Australian communication studies would leave much that is unique to the Australian context absent. At the same time, these disciplinary categories constitute distinctive formations with identifiable trajectories, issues, and frameworks particular to them.

My provisional response to this obstacle is not to re-unify the notion of the field, but to suggest that the complexity of ANZCA and its network is a concrete example of the complexity of the field today. Furthermore, because the term 'communication' is a central focus of the organisation, it is something of a unique site at which one can examine the slippage between different ideas of the field, and different [Page 33 Ends] understandings of communication in both popular and academic domains. Galvin's (2002) account of how 'communication' may no longer be able to define a unique area because, like 'information' or 'culture', it has become a 'background' or ubiquitous term with diverse stakeholders, might make this view seem redundant. However, his article also draws on a mapping of different configurations of a field--even if the usual emphasis on media, public relations, and journalism might obscure important developments in information technology and other areas, including the re-badging of communication curriculum into creative industries--which holds interesting possibilities. In the context of ANZCA, Galvin's approach could be supplemented by paying greater attention to the different epistemologies and attitudes towards communication deployed across the Tasman. Taking up the trans-national challenge means addressing the different dimensions of the New Zealand situation. Even a cursory glance reveals that many New Zealanders work in business and management schools, not in the humanities.

As a way of acknowledging rather than avoiding the complex issues of the field, I want to introduce the term 'field-work' to describe the way ANZCA both articulates the field, or concepts of the field, and reacts to developments in the field. Thinking about the history of ANZCA thus becomes linked to an idea of thinking about what kind of field-work ANZCA does. And, in using this term, my intention is not to suggest that the work goes one way, that the association simply works on the field, but also that 'the field' works on the association. Thus, I am interested in how ANZCA does field-work, but also how it gets caught up in the workings of the field. Nor is it my intention to look at the field in a purely objectivist way: fields are never entirely depersonalised, or divorced from personal perceptions of the field.

As a way of acknowledging rather than avoiding the complex issues of the field, I want to introduce the term 'field-work' to describe the way ANZCA both articulates the field, or concepts of the field, and reacts to developments in the field. Thinking about the history of ANZCA thus becomes linked to an idea of thinking about what kind of field-work ANZCA does. And, in using this term, my intention is not to suggest that the work goes one way, that the association simply works on the field, but also that 'the field' works on the association. Thus, I am interested in how ANZCA does field-work, but also how it gets caught up in the workings of the field. Nor is it my intention to look at the field in a purely objectivist way: fields are never entirely depersonalised, or divorced from personal perceptions of the field.

There are several reasons why ANZCA finds itself uniquely placed in relation to this field-work. The most important reason is that it retains a general focus on communication, and presents itself as a broad church. This leaves ANZCA (excitingly) exposed to different currents and versions of communication. The second reason is the fact that it has been the institutional host of key journals in communication, media, and cultural studies in Australia. Rather than focus on ANZCA as a reflection of the ferment of the field, I would like to see more emphasis placed on ANZCA as a space of solutions and invention. When in the past presidents' session Bruce Molloy talks about negotiating a rapprochement with cultural studies people, or when Sue Turnbull tells how she worked with Graeme Turner to keep ANZCA connected [Page 34 Ends] to the journal Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy, these are narratives of practical creativity. The recent proposal from Helen Wilson to change the rules of the Association and move away from State or regional based representatives to 'Section Heads' is, I think, an example of the association trying to be more responsive to the shifting currents that eddy through it, and reflects a codification of areas of interest that had been past practice for regional representatives. The effort to gain recognition for the field of communication as a formal area of research in the late 1980s, and the internationalisation of ANZCA leading up to the 1994 joint conference with the International Communication Association are similar acts of field-work.

The activities of ANZCA are not identical to the activities of the entire field. At times, a gap between the two has emerged, and in this space the journals have played an interesting role. Accounts of the early history of the ACA are sometimes characterised by a tension between interpersonal communication and mass media. In the first issue of the ACA Newsletter (November 1979), Bill Crocker writes in 'A Note from the President' that:

the focus of A.C.A. is on interpersonal communication … It is not centrally concerned with mass media (film, T.V., journalism, etc.) communication arts (theatre, etc.) or communication technology. A.C.A. does not replace the need for specialist organizations in these cognate fields. Individuals working in those areas may certainly wish to be members of A.C.A., however, since interests will overlap in many areas.

The reality, however, did not always reflect practice. While it is fair to say that a view of communication influenced by interpersonal communication, with a focus on professional contexts and social science methodology, was an important area of interest within the association, Crocker's was not the only view of what the nascent association could be. The interests of communications scholars, and members of the association, were just too diverse (Putnis, 1986, p, 153). A look at the content of the ACA Newsletter, the advertisements, the conference programs, and especially the contents of Australian SCAN at the time--which under the editorship of Rod Miller maintained a wide agenda--reveals an interest in interpersonal communication, but also film studies and media issues. Telecommunications was never far from view. Even Crocker sees these areas as 'cognate fields'. The 'piggy-backing' of the founding ACA conference at Raywood after an ANZAAS conference is significant from this perspective. [Page 35 Ends]

ANZCA has found different ways to modulate perceptions of the field. The 'eclecticism' of the Australian Journal of Communication (AJC) in particular, it could be argued, has played a key role in reminding ANZCA members of the demands and complexity of scholarship in the subject, and, in a sense, of the suspect nature of borders, as well as allowing members a credible publication forum for their (very) diverse interests. The extent to which this article draws on AJC publications is itself evidence of its close alignments to the field. MIA contains the ANZCA updates. The representation of two foci in the title of Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy, and the emphasis on 'international' in one of them, is another instance of a journal working across disciplinary segments that might otherwise lose contact [Note 26].

In terms of the history of ANZCA, there is no doubt that the complex 'field-work' we are talking about permeates the organisation of conference strands, the refereeing of papers, and that this issue has had to be handled carefully. Important to a substantive history of ANZCA would be an analysis of the kinds of papers presented, and their areas of focus over the years (an analysis that is beyond this present paper). The conference is a crucial site, and, for some members, given the geographic distance at play and the subsequent lack of opportunities to meet physically, ANZCA is the conference. Read through the idea of field-work, we can suggest that ANZCA, and particularly the annual conference, has been the site of some complex field-work, and key to the negotiation of some field issues [Note 27]. The conference has been a place of dispute, compromise, reconciliation, and pluralism.

An interesting text here is Ann Curthoys's report of the 1983 conference organised at the then New South Wales Institute of Technology (NSWIT), where she describes 'the yawning intellectual chasm between these two groups [the Interpersonal and Mass Communication schools] … represented at the 1983 conference by separate sessions, with little crossover of attendance at, or argument between the different streams' (Curthoys, 1983, p. 2). Graeme Turner later sketched the following portrait of relations between the two 'schools' at the time in a keynote address to the 1989 ACA conference.

'Once', it is popularly held, cultural studies set itself in clear opposition to and competition with communication studies. Take-over plots, parodic representations of empiricist positions, and stories of the courses operating at places like Kuring-gai provided [Page 36 Ends] the stuff of conversations among those cultural studies persons desperate enough to turn up at an Australian Communication Association conference, and who hung around the corridors outside the sessions deploring the absence of The Political. In the conference program, the division between 'us' and 'them' was reproduced in parallel sessions; within the sessions themselves the division produced ritual attacks on empiricism on the one hand, and subjectivist marxism on the other. The 'enemy' rarely witnessed its own representation. (Turner, 1989, pp. 1-2)

Such accounts pose an interesting challenge for anyone interested in thinking about the history of ANZCA. It is not my intention to look at them with a view to producing an authoritative historical account. Rather, more importantly in this context, I want to suggest that they can serve as illustrative examples of field-work. The circumstances around the 1983 conference are interesting in this respect. Through the illness of vice president John Skull, who had received the most votes, Bill Bonney, who had launched a strong critique of a-historical and a-social approaches to communication at the 1981 conference (see above), became vice president of the association (who in the ACA constitution organised the conference and then assumed the presidency). At the 1983 conference at NSWIT, organised by Bonney, the ACA made the decision both to sponsor the newly formed Australian Journal of Cultural Studies (AJCS), and elect John Fiske as vice president. Following the presidency of William Crocker and Harry Irwin, each having served two-year terms, cultural studies gained prominence in the association.

While documentation is irregular, and recollections are not always crystal clear, it can be said that the conjunction of a number of conferences outside of the ACA [Note 28], strong activity in the South Australian chapter of the ACA, and in Western Australia, the sponsoring of the AJCS, and a 'cultural studies' issue of the AJC guest edited by Noel King and Stephen Muecke in 1984, marked a point at which the ACA was attractive to cultural studies figures who felt that the association should represent the work they do, and also that the ACA needed greater theorisation and politicisation [Note 29]. Regardless of the terms in which it is couched, this conjunction of interest represents a point at which the ACA might have functioned as a 'Communication and Cultural Studies Association', and served as an umbrella organisation for projects in both areas [Note 30]. This was an attractive prospect for cultural studies scholars for whom 'communication' was a keyword (in Raymond Williams's sense), and for members of the ACA interested in human or [Page 37 Ends] interpersonal communication, for whom the existence of a nationally prominent organisation gathering together different approachesto communication under the one body was seen as an important development.

Subsequent events did not bear this possibility out in the way one might expect. A small showing of 70 delegates at the 1984 conference in Perth is regarded to have been caused by the travel involved but also in part by a perception that it was too 'cultural studies'. The matter was of sufficient concern that the Annual General Meeting referred the matter of 'revitalising the interpersonal strand to avoid a loss of members with a special interest in this area' to the incoming executive and organisers of the 1985 conference (ACR, 6(1), 1984, p. 8). The 1985 and 1986 conferences indeed achieved the goal of keeping these members, but, despite the fact that some cultural studies people remained members, worked as state representatives, published in the Australian Communication Review, or, indeed attended conferences, extant programs show that cultural studies participation dropped away. Bill Bonney had by then died. John Fiske, who was a bridging figure across different 'schools' of communication [Note 31], was at that time in the process of making the transition to academic life in the USA. Cultural studies as an area was growing in prominence. At the 1986 AGM, concerns were raised by members about the ACA sponsorship of the Australian Journal of Cultural Studies, the administration of the journal, and reports that the AJCS was soon to become an international journal. The view that 'the AJCS did not reflect their interests' resulted in a motion for the ACA to discontinue its association with the AJCS and adopt Media Information Australia (MIA) as the second ACA journal.

Despite a real emphasis on diversity within ANZCA in the past and the present, this period represented the shaping of an implied constituency within ANZCA, crossing human, professional, and media communication, but not apparently extending fully to cultural studies. The task of forming a dialogue between two paradigms dropped away from the conferences, with the themes focusing on communication development and application and convergence, and intense interest around policy processes. Following the sponsorship of MIA, media studies gained momentum in the association. The situation was sufficient that, as stated in the past presidents' session, Molloy felt a need to 'mend the split' and use the 1989 conference (which listed Graham Murdock and Lawrence Grossberg as keynote speakers) to do [Page 38 Ends] so a conference that Roslyn Petelin described in her AJC editorial as a 'watershed', perhaps because 'Cultural Studies so decisively reemerged three years after our imprudent relinquishing of the Australian Journal of Cultural Studies in 1986' [Note 32].

Although I am not certain that a 'split' is the right characterisation of these events which as I stated earlier are accessible only through irregular documentation and recollections as a story about aspirations, divergences, and bridge-building, this example forms an interesting instance of field-work. There are hints of evidence that the early debates impacted on the quality of critical discussion. In 1992, Ticehurst raises a concern regarding communication and debate within the ACA: 'We seem to have been politely talking past each other, with a paucity of vigorous debate, continuing along unswerving research directions, and not really listening to, or considering, the arguments of others' (1992, p. 6). In the past presidents' session Mary Power recalls that at the last conference 'I heard Alan McKee talking to someone in a cafe and he said:  too many papers on organisational communication. Well, I thought there were a lot of Cultural Studies papers'. It is easy to overstate the significance of residua of this kind. There has never been solely one image of what ANZCA is, or could be. The blurring of interests of communication scholars has seen media and cultural issues take a significant place in the association. Paradigm-talk would perhaps turn this too quickly into a narrative about competing ideologies, and bring into play a particular causal view of history, focusing on rift, conflict, and crisis. I am more interested in this illustration as an example of the complexity and necessity of field-work, and the way the association has dealt with aspirations and tensions that manifest over an extended period of time.

The idea that issues to do with the field played an important part in these events is supported by an observation made in an article by Irwin in 1985. Irwin outlines different approaches to the disciplinary status of communication and looks at a view that 'development of the study over time may allow it to develop into a discipline' (a position echoed by Kress above) and a position that 'communication is not a discipline' and that 'it can never become one' (Irwin cites Bonney at this point) (Irwin, 1985, p. 2). He then goes on to write:

the independent discipline versus cultural studies debate is unlikely to be resolved given that the two viewpoints are based on widely disparate assumptive positions. In the mentime [sic], as the debate continues, those who deny the possibility of communication as an independent discipline do not engage in [Page 39 Ends] attempts to develop comprehensive communication theory and are highly critical of meta-theorising of others. (Irwin, 1985, p. 2)

In this passage we find another way (and I am sure not the only way) to un-pack the two-paradigms narrative one that casts the tensions with cultural studies in a different light. Not as an argument to do with the inherent precepts of cultural studies but as a problem for attempts to conceptualise the field as an independent discipline which returns us once again to one of the founding themes of ANZCA.

The close linkage of ANZCA and its annual conference forms an important consideration in any economic evaluation of ANZCA. Each year, the association stakes its financial situation on the success of the conference. The rise of other organisations in the field of media and communications has meant that ANZCA does not stand alone in the field, and its particularly generalist take on communications is harder to sustain in this age of 'themed' conferences. International associations have also impacted on ANZCA. If ANZCA members have migrated to other conferences and forums, it is not solely because of a shift in interest, or a drive to specialisation in some areas, but out of an institutional expectation of greater international recognition on the part of scholars. Given that conference attendance is frequently linked to departmental funding, any reduction in that funding leads to a rationalisation of conference choices. As a generalist association operating across Australia and New Zealand, ANZCA regularly faces the challenge of moving the conference around, while ensuring that it will remain attractive to the membership [Note 33].

There are obstacles to ANZCA fulfilling its potential as a hub in the area of communication in Australasia. Aside from the work required to keep talking across different intellectual frameworks, approaches, and professional areas within the association, as well as issues of geography and population, the effort of maintaining the standard of different departments, programs, and offerings to students, on the local level, are strong factors. With these obstacles in mind, recognising the field-work done by ANZCA is especially important. This field-work can be evaluated in different ways, often depending on the evaluator's methodological disposition and educational/institutional background. Perhaps the most pessimistic view is to see ANZCA as part of the problem of division and fracturing in the field, and thus somehow outdated or irrelevant. From this perspective, past debates have impacted on the association, leaving it focused on tensions in the field, and making it difficult to grapple with new developments and [Page 40 Ends] the big questions. A middle view sees ANZCA as taking a palliative role, relieving the symptoms and leaving an uncertain space for the problem to be addressed by individuals. An optimistic view sees ANZCA as taking a proactive role in rejuvenating the area and forming new problems. The truth probably lies somewhere between these three options: ANZCA has probably reproduced attitudes to the field that are unhealthy; it has made a space for the problem to be addressed in a sporadic, non-systematic way (which may indeed be suitable, given its resource base) [Note 34]; and it has made proactive attempts at renewal (such as the efforts since the crisis of the 2001 conference, the positivity of the 2002 conference, the back-to-back organisation of the 2003 conference with the fibreculture conference, and the focus on new members, especially post-graduates, with the 2004 conference). In this context, two recently published articles seem especially significant for the way they seek to shift the emphasis to proactive engagement, and also suggest that something has changed. The first is Helen Wilson's piece, 'Towards a non-binary approach to communication', where she undertakes some very important criticism and reflection on ANZCA. The second is Michael Galvin's 'Communication futures and the future of communication', which builds on the recent DETYA survey of Communication and Media Studies (Putnis et al., 2002), but also highlights a new version of the problem that the reality of what is happening in the communications world, and the curriculum, is difficult to map within conventional categories and organisational

While I have sought to picture ANZCA as a space of creative solutions to the complexities of field-work, there is room for a more straightforward account of its achievements on a limited resource base. The dossier performs a basic work of testimonial in this sense, especially in relation to the honorary life members. In working on the 'significant dates' section of the ANZCA dossier, I was especially interested in the internal communication mechanisms, the networking activities of the association, and also the internationalisation of Australian communication studies. On the latter, while I have not seen all the figures, if I am not mistaken, the joint conference with the International Communication Association in Sydney in 1994 marks a high point in membership numbers (around 400) [Note 35]. The Australia-New Zealand link is another achievement, but it would be nice to see more critical assessment of (different) interests. ANZCA members are an intrepid bunch, frequently jetting off to conferences run by the National Communication Association, International Communication Association, [Page 41 Ends] and the International Association for Media and Communication Research [Note 36]. However, for all its importance, a critical history needs to go beyond testimonial, and seriously critique the work of ANZCA members not simply as key position holders, but as thinkers, scholars, and intellectual entrepreneurs.

Why, it might be asked, is this necessary? And this question raises another to do with the very value of associations, and the challenges they face. The networking that led to the formation of the ACA was convivial and carried out under conditions very different from those of today. Electronic networks make the possibility of association far easier. There is a sense that organisations such as ANZCA are tied to a logic of gate-keeping. Additionally, it can be said that the kind of interdisciplinarity found in the humanities in Australia is somewhat intolerant of the idea of 'the field', and is wary of professionalised definitions of the field characterised by strong occupational closure. It could also be argued that, in a postdisciplinary context, the notion of the field may be redundant. While these are legitimate concerns, the answer as to why it is worthwhile thinking about the history of ANZCA has I believe, three aspects. First, field-work involves work in the sense of effort, and this should be recognised. Second, the media and communications area can still be seen as area of academic and vocational merit offering contemporary relevance, as Irwin puts it. Third, it has to do with the nature of scholarly communication, and its status in today's informational society. The nexus of cultural, media, and communication studies in Australia forms an interesting case through which to examine issues of how academics associate, the politics of that association, and the cultures that influence that association. In this context, asking questions about scholarly activity and collaboration, as well as differences and disagreements, has an important role in thinking about the status of scholarship in contemporary society.

Thinking about the nature of the field, field-work, and the ability to read fields, is an important aspect of scholarly practice [Note 37]. While, on the surface, different journals and conferences provide participants with a sense of current developments, the field connects scholarly dialogue with past debate and discussion, and conditions that discussion. It is the stage upon which disciplinarity is performed, and the morphology of different fields has a bearing on the extent to which interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, or postdisciplinarity is rigorous, or merely opportunistic. Central to a notion of academic listening, the field conditions our understandings of positions and position-taking (Bourdieu, 1993, pp. 34-35). It both filters and generates discourse. [Page 42 Ends]

Although it is primarily a spatial metaphor [Note 38], the idea of the field has temporal applications in a scholarly world where (as undergraduates are taught) theorists are usually discussed using the present tense. Underpinning this practice is an important fiction that the field is a living entity, both structured and structuring, as Bourdieu suggests in his account of the habitus (Bourdieu, 1990, p. 53). In this sense, thinking about the history of ANZCA is not just an exercise to do with the past, but also the present and future.


My thanks to Lelia Green, Bob Hodge, Harry Irwin, Bruce Molloy, Graeme Turner, Jonathan Watts, and Bill Ticehurst for making time to talk about ANZCA history, and the AJC Editorial Board, including Roslyn Petelin, for their varied and generous comments, suggestions, and feedback regarding this article. Any inaccuracies are my sole responsibility.


1. The only published history of ANZCA is by Bill Ticehurst, when he wrote an account of the first ten yearsof the Australian Communication Association (see Ticehurst, 1989). This text isreprinted on the web as part of the ANZCA Dossier.

2. The change from ACA toANZCA was mooted in Ticehurst (1992, p. 10). Some suggested reasons why NewZealanders joined ANZCA include a stimulating, interdisciplinary intellectualmilieu that welcomed critical scholars, the generosity and standing ofAustralian scholars, and the fact that the Australian Journal ofCommunication offered a highly respected publishing outlet for moreinnovative and critical research. Thanks to Judith Motion for these points. TwoNew Zealand members of the ACA are listed in the Australian CommunicationReview (3(3), 1982, p. 9).

3. Quoting Galloway, Irwinnotes that, prior to the formation of the ACA, an '"invisiblecollege" of those concerned with the new communication studies wasfunctioning' (1984, p. 14).

4. Ticehurst has suggestedthat out of that cross-current emerged a stream, that is still maturing anddeveloping (personal communication).

5. Noteworthy here is anexchange between Peter Putnis and Graeme Turner. In a report for the Bulletinof the Australian Studies Project--an initiative that coincided with theAustralian Bicentennial that sought to review Australian studies in tertiaryeducation--Putnis used the idea that 'traditional Australian dependence onBritish curriculum models [page 43 Ends] and of the reluctance to developcourses focusing on Australian society and culture' as a starting point for abrief piece on Media and Communication Studies (an excerpt from a longerpaper). Putnis's recent experience observing developments in the UK had madehim aware of a growing British influence in Australia (see Putnis, 1984). Thethen ACA-supported Australian Journal of Cultural Studies came in forspecial criticism for the way it took up British developments without adaptinga framework with specific ties to the British experience to the needs ofAustralian society. Turner's reply, while acknowledging concerns regardingcultural imperialism, defended the journal as a forum for the publication of Australianresearch, arguing that 'the alternative to being colonised is not to bedoggedly nationalistic' (Turner, 1986, p. 30). Interestingly, Turner's responseto the concern that media studies was 'insufficiently linked to mainstreamAustralian social history' (Putnis, 1985, p. 18) is met with a celebration ofAustralian cultural studies as a distinctive project. It should be noted thatTurner later voiced concerns regarding the lack of public purchase and'visibility within political and cultural debate within Australia' that hadbeen achieved by cultural studies (1989, p. 11).

6. Interestingly, a similarposition is taken in the New Zealand context by Samuel Coad Dyer, who sought topromote a uniquely New Zealand perspective in communication research (see Dyer,1993).

7. Beneath the reaction tonationalism, there is also a sense that the very difficulty of identifying auniversal definition of a discipline suitable for all areas feeds scepticismabout the worthiness of the task.

8. Norton was a US scholarappointed as Head of the School of Communication and Organisational Studies atthe Queensland University of Technology.

9. Virginia Nightingale'sdiscussion of 'effects models', and specifically Grant Noble's work, suggeststo me an interesting approach to take (see Nightingale, 1997, p. 369). JohnHartley's work draws in a unique way on the Australian context (see 1996, pp.170-195).

10. Galvin offers a slightlydifferent critique of the 'two paradigms' theme when he highlights the way inwhich a valid use of the idea in the Australian context results in dubiousgeneralisations regarding developments in the US and UK (see Galvin, 1990).

11. See, however, comments bySteven H. Chaffee talking about changes to US approaches in Putnis (1986, p.146).

12. A task that Putnis beginsbut falls short of by positioning Australia as the arena for competingparadigms (1986, p. 153), but which is taken further by Galvin (1990). [Page 44Ends]

13. Similar argumentssceptical of the possibility of the discipline of communication studies hadalready been circulating in the association (see Miller, 1980, p. 6)

14. Indeed, it is importantto remember that higher education is the main policy focus in question. Wilsonnotes that communication policy has not had as central a role (2001, p. 9).

15. My thanks to BillTicehurst for this point.

16. In 1977, the first of theCommunication, Technology and Control conferences was held at University of NewSouth Wales (see Bell & Boehringer, 1979).

17. The commitment to liberalarts education in North American higher education institutions forms anotherdifference to keep in mind here.

18. My thanks to GraemeTurner for this point.

19. This inclination to writedifferent localised tensions into broader cultural narratives perhaps definesone of the attractive aspects of paradigm-talk. It could be argued that theAustralian communication studies debate has, influenced by nationalistdiscourse, itself focused too much on an imperial (US vs UK) geography.Alternative geographies would be worth considering. A tension between thedifferent State capitals sometimes forms an imaginary geography of Australiancommunications that could be worth investigating further: including theinfluence of Murdoch and Western Australia as a cultural studies/theoreticalspace; the influence of Canberra, and the Communication Research Institute ofAustralia; the influence of Brisbane and the former Key Centre in Media andCultural Policy.

20. It would be interestingto see approaches that ventured beyond these well-worn grooves, as well as aredefinition of 'critical practice' that moved beyond a particular disciplinarysegment. Over-emphasis on particular segments can itself hamper ourunderstanding of developments that potentially cut across them: the influenceof semiotics on Australian communication scholars would be interesting toconsider in this light (see Threadgold, 1988).

21. Curthoys offers aportrait of Henry Mayer at the 1983 conference as 'irritated by what he sees asmindless empiricism and speculative theory alike' (1983, p. 8). If Mayer issuch a key figure, it is perhaps not only because he was a linking pointbetween media studies and the ACA, but because his own critical pluralismprovided an alternative to the 'two paradigms' divide. A survey of individualcontributions is beyond the scope of this paper. Below, I refer to problemswith the complexity of the field, and the difficulty of the definition ofcommunication as founding themes of ANZCA. Several figures in ANZCA inparticular sought to keep these issues on the boil (see Bonney, 1983; Kress,[Page 45 Ends] 1983), in an often ambitious way, with David Sless and RobynPenman foremost among them (see Penman, 1982, 1986; Sless, 1987; Sless & Shrensky,1995).

22. A useful and necessaryadjunct to this focus on individual contributions would be an account of theorganisations such as the Communication Research Institute of Australia (CRIA)and Key Centre for Media and Public Policy, which served either as a home forANZCA or its journals. Late in 1985 the change in contact details for anorganisation with a rotating executive was seen as a problem (largely due to alarge number of non-financial members), and the Canberra CAE was proposed asthe base for a permanent secretariat. Later, CRIA provided a semi-permanenthome for ANZCA for some time, which provided both a certain kind of continuityas the conference and presidency travelled around, and a focus on critical butalso applied communication research. Thanks to David McKie for this point.

23. An interesting aspect ofa historical analysis of ANZCA would be to look at the different areas it mayhave nurtured within the conference, such as public relations (although thiswould need to be supported by a careful examination of papers given at ANZCAconferences over the years).

24. It could be suggestedthat a contributing factor here is that people turned to communication out ofdissatisfaction with other more traditional disciplines (Putnis, 1993a).

25. One important term inrelation to interdisciplinarity was 'meaning', which formed a focus both forcultural studies practitioners interested in the production and consumption ofmeaning, but also scholars in other areas, drawing on semiotics, and evenphenomenology (Bill Ticehurst, personal communication).

26. Expanding this reading alittle, a title such as Continuum could be seen as an expression of adesire for diversity and pluralism; the online journal M/C bridges mediaand culture, but also popular and academic discussions of particular issues.

27. Norton's seminar on anagenda for communication research is a noteworthy attempt at association levelactivities (see Norton, 1992; Putnis, 1993a), although the fact that it wasconducted at the conference may have left some research issues, andresearchers, under-represented.

28. The conferences inquestion were in 1976 at NSWIT and a 1980 Australian Communication and CulturalStudies conference held at South Australian College of Advanced Education. In1983 John Fiske was also convenor of the ANZAAS communication session in Perth.

29. A 'cultural studies'issue of the AJC (5&6) was guest edited by Noel King andStephen Muecke in 1984. [Page 46 Ends]

30. Today, given that thispossibility did not eventuate, there are times when one wonders if the energiesrequired to support both ANZCA and the (now) Cultural Studies Association ofAustralasia as well as newer bodies such as Fibreculture, could have found adifferent form. At the same time, there is little question that the existenceof different associations adds to the diversity of a sometimes claustrophobicAustralian scene.

31. It is worth highlightingthat the first chapters of Fiske's Introduction to Communication Studiesexplicitly works across the 'process' and 'semiotic' schools. It should also benoted that Western Australia was a very busy place in relation to communicationactivities (see Fiske, 1982).

32. The editorial appeared inAustralian Journal of Communication, 16 (1989). To place it incontext, Petelin sees this reemergence of cultural studies in terms of changesto cultural studies itself, especially in terms of the limitations oftheorisation and an emerging dialogue between 'empiricists' and'theoreticians'.

33. My thanks to David McKiefor his comments on the economic aspects of ANZCA.

34. The president's addressat the annual conference over the years forms an interesting genre here (seeWilson, 2001).

35. The organising committeefor the conference was Warwick Blood, Gael Walker, Peter Putnis, AnnRoss-Smith, and Bill Ticehurst. Professor Bradley Greenberg worked on behalf ofthe International Communication Association. The conference itself was aby-product of increased participation by Australians in the ICA, particularlyBruce Molloy, Bill Ticehurst, and others. It was mooted as early as 1987 underElizabeth More's presidency.

36. Australian-based scholarshave recently held the presidency of both the ICA (Cindy Gallois, 2001-2003)and the IAMCR (Frank Morgan, current). Whether or not ANZCA had a role to playfor these scholars is an interesting question.

37. In Australia today, thenotion of a field poses an interesting intergenerational challenge. Seniorscholars with disciplinary trainings can today take their sense of the fieldfor granted, directing their energies to theme-based conferences. Meanwhile,younger scholars inheriting a discourse of interdisciplinarity, are aware of adifferent level of discourse to do with the field but frequently are notmentored in these arts or find themselves carrying out their own mappingexercise in order to engage with the logic of positions the field represents.At the same time, the logic of the field changes and new disciplinary pressurestied to particular vocational fields might be winding back some of the pastgains of interdisciplinarity. As Cathy Greenfield notes [Page 47 Ends] in thepast presidents' session, 'OK, our students want to do new auteur film theory,but they need to know about the debates and directions in Communication Studiesgenerally'.

38. I am also interested inthe electro-magnetic connotations of the term.


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