Office: Hellems 96
Professor Peter Simonson (Communication and Media Studies) studies rhetoric, media, and the history of communication.
Simonson conducts research on rhetorical practice across different media, the intellectual history of communication in the U.S., and the international history of media and communication studies. He has additional interests in social theory, religion, pedagogy, and anthropological and comparative studies of rhetoric.
He is author of Refiguring Mass Communication: A History, lead editor of The International History of Communication Study and The Handbook of Communication History, and producer of two documentary films on the history of media research.
Simonson holds a PhD from the University of Iowa.
Available in PDF format.
The International History of Communication Study
Peter Simonson and David W. Park, eds; Routledge
The International History of Communication Study maps the growth of media and communication studies around the world. Drawing out transnational flows of ideas, institutions, publications, and people, it offers the most comprehensive picture to date of the global history of communication research and education.
Across 23 chapters, it addresses central and forgotten figures, institutional formations, and theories over five continents—framed by a comprehensive introduction (PDF) to the international history and historiography of communication and media studies.
The Handbook of Communication History
Peter Simonson, Janice Peck, Robert T. Craig, and John P. Jackson, Jr. eds,; Routledge
A wide-ranging, 33-chapter volume addressing the history of communication as social practice, idea, and field of study in global perspective. Topics range from the comparative history of ancient rhetoric to conversation, audiences, gender, cities, new media, and the history of communication in different cultural traditions and world regions.
Also includes a long, field-encompassing chapter by the editors, “The History of Communication History”
Refiguring Mass Communication: A History
University of Illinois Press, History of Communication series
A rhetorical history and rethinking of ideas about mass communication, as worked out through individual lives and places.
Essays consider normative visions of mass communication found in David Sarnoff’s public relations efforts, Paul of Tarsus’ letters, Walt Whitman’s poetry, Charles Horton Cooley’s journals, Robert K. Merton’s sociology articles, and the popular gathering of an American county fair.
Mass Communication and American Social Thought: Key Texts
John Durham Peters and Peter Simonson, eds.; Rowman and Littlefield Press
A collection of classic and forgotten-but-noteworthy primary texts, biographical sketches of the authors, and four original interpretive essays by the editors. Writes new figures into the history of the field and re-interprets old ones. Also includes a list of historical films from the era related to the subject, and a bibliography.
A useful volume for upper-level undergraduate and graduate classes, valuable scholarly aid, and good addition to the bookshelves of anyone interested in the history of thinking about media and communication.
Craig Calhoun, president of the Social Science Research Council and professor of sociology and history at New York University
This is an enormously useful collection, not only for students of the history of communications, but for all who are interested in the history of American social thought. It should also help in the important task of putting questions of large scale communication at the center of contemporary debates about the future of democracy.
Elihu Katz, Annenberg School of Communication, University of Pennsylvania
This collection of classics is a major step toward the grounding of collective memory for our field.
Communication Booknotes Quarterly
Includes nearly 70 papers or excepts from important theorists and researchers over a half century period vital to the formation of an academic discipline. A very useful addition to the literature which should open links for new readers to important historical work.
Readings by: Jane Addams, Theodor Adorno, Gordon Allport, Sherwood Anderson, Raymond Bauer, Daniel Bell, Bernard Berelson, Edward Bernays, Herbert Blumer, Warren Breed, Ernest W. Burgess, Hadley Cantril, John Cheever, Charles Horton Cooley, Reuel Denny, John Dewey, George Gallup, George Gerbner, Nathan Glazer, Herta Herzog, Max Horkheimer, Donald Horton, Helen MacGill Hughes, Julian Sorrell Huxley, Harold Innis, Elihu Katz, Ernst Kris, Galdys Engel Lang, Kurt Lang, Harold Dwight Lasswell, Paul F. Lazarsfeld, Alfred McLung Lee, Elizabeth Briant Lee, Daniel Lerner, Walter Lippman, Alain Locke, Leo Lowenthal, Helen M. Lynd, Robert S. Lynd, Dwight Macdonald, Duncan MacDougald, Herbert Marcuse, Thelma McCormack, Marshall McLuhan, Robert K. Merton, Rolf Meyersohn, C. Wright Mills, Newton Minow, Lewis Mumford, Gunnar Myrdal, Robert E. Park, Hortense Powdermaker, Saul Rae, Stuart Rice, David Riesman, John W. Riley, James Rorty, Edward Sapir, David Sarnoff, Herbert Schiller, Wilbur Schramm, Dallas Smythe, Hans Speier, Leila A. Sussmann, Sidney Verba, Norbert Wiener, Malcolm Willey, Louis Wirth, R. Richard Wohl, and Charles Wright.
Introduction: Mass Communication and American Social Thought: Key Texts, 1919-1968
Politics, Social Networks, and the History of Mass Communications Research: Re-Reading Personal Influence
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 608 (November, 2006), available as an individual volume through Sage, or Amazon.com.
Since its publication in 1955, Elihu Katz and Paul Lazarsfeld's Personal Influence: The Part Played by People in the Flow of Mass Communications has been one of the most influential and widely cited works in media and communications research. In this volume, leading scholars from three generations revisit this classic and controversial text. They reveal its repressed contexts; its unintentional consequences; and its continued relevance for understanding media, consumption, citizenship, and networks of interpersonal influence today.
As a whole, the volume brings contemporary thinking and state-of-the-art research into new conversation with the problematics and personalities that dominated the field during a key period in its development. In a masterful Afterword, Katz responds to his critics, contextualizers, and those who find things praiseworthy in his classic work.
James Curran, Professor of Communication, Goldsmith’s College, University of London
This is a fascinating volume that does several things at once. It is a biography of a famous study, and the era and context that produced it. It is an intellectual history of ideas. And it is a book about central ideas in contemporary media research and social science. If only there were more books like this—original and utterly different.
Craig Calhoun, President, Social Science Research Council, and University Professor of the Social Sciences, New York University
The classic Katz and Lazarsfeld volume Personal Influence deserves historical attention because it shaped the whole field of communication studies. Simonson and his contributors address this superbly; but go beyond it to engage basic questions of theory, method, the nature of intellectual fields, and the practical significance of research. This is a very valuable contribution.
Reviewed by Jennifer Platt, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 45:1 (2009), 80-81.
The volume arose from a 2005 conference at Columbia University, co-sponsored by the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP) and the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania: more here.
Mass Persuasion: The Social Psychology of a War Bond Drive
Robert K. Merton, with Marjorie Fiske and Alberta Curtis, Mass Persuasion: The Social Psychology of a War Bond Drive (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1946). Republished with a new Introduction by Peter Simonson (New York: Howard Fertig Publishers, 2003).
Mass Persuasion is a classic study of the popular entertainer Kate Smith and her 18-hour radio marathon to sell war bonds during World War II. It is at once a pioneering and unique effort in the cultural study of media, and a snapshot into the social history of an era.
Merton and his research team interview women fans of Smith, unpack ideological dimensions of her appeal, and offer a probing analysis of patriotism and propaganda in times of war.
I had the pleasure of helping produce two documentary films and creating a website on the history of women in media research. Thanks to generous funding from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, both films are available for free download. Both are potentially useful materials for undergraduate or graduate courses in the history of media, media theory, and the history of the field of communication. Each film excavates key episodes in the history of social research on media, propaganda, and mass communication during its formative period in the mid-20th century.
Naomi McCormack, Producer and Director
Peter Simonson, Executive Producer, Research Director, Interviewer
Released 2009 (August)
To download a copy of the film or explore additional resources on the history of women in media and communication research visit www.outofthequestion.org.
A 38-minute documentary film featuring five women who did pioneering work in media research in the 1940s and after. Thelma Ehrlich Anderson, Joan Doris Goldhamer, Gladys Engel Lang, Thelma Herman McCormack, and Yole Granata Sills share personal stories that illuminate the experiences of a generation, narrate history from the margins of a founding moment in communication research, and reflect upon women, media, and the art of inquiry in ways that still resonate today. Award-winning documentary filmmaker Naomi McCormack has created an elegant and compelling documentary, well suited for undergraduates or graduate students.
Glenda Balas, Director and Producer
Peter Simonson, Executive Producer, Interviewer
To view a downloadable copy of the film, visit unm.edu/~balas/.
A 28-minute documentary film telling the story of a classic and controversial book, the institutions and geographical places where it took shape, and three famous sociologists who played important roles in it: Paul Lazarsfeld, C. Wright Mills, and Elihu Katz. An important episode in the history of media and communication research, as told from competing perspectives on one of its institutional centers—Columbia University’s Bureau for Applied Social Research, 1944-1955. An accessible classroom documentary focused on the origins and tangled history of Katz and Lazarsfeld’sPersonal Influence, and the rise of the ‘limited-effects model’ of mass communication.
First Place for Documentary, National Federation of Press Women (2008); First Place for Documentary, New Mexico Press Women (2008); Honorable Mention, Hermes Creative Awards (2008); Gold Award, International AVA Awards (2007)
I teach graduate and undergraduate courses in rhetoric, social and cultural theory, and the history of communication. I love teaching--in seminars, large-lectures, one-on-one advising, and through helping graduate instructors with their own teaching. I have advised a number of MA and PhD students at Colorado and the University of Pittsburgh and served on many more committees across several disciplines (details are on my c.v.). I’ve also been fortunate to have the opportunities to help establish speaking across the curriculum programs at two institutions, and I have continuing interests in rhetorical pedagogies.