Since 1983, when the Journal of Communication published a special issue titled “Ferment in the Field,” the field of communication has experienced enough up- heaval and transformation to make one wonder what all the fuss was about back in the early 1980s. The authors of that collection seemed particularly focused on the debate, then raging but in hindsight clearly overstated, between “critical” and “administrative” camps within communication studies. However, in the 2 decades since, the sheer volume of change in the spheres of technology, media, politics, economics, and culture has provided ample ferment in nearly every division and province of communication theory and research. Is there a branch of the field not confronting the combined impact of the information technology revolution, the galloping conglomeration of corporate media, the swallowing of politics and policy discourse by the insatiable appetite of entertainment, the relentless march of neoliberal economics and globalization in the post-Cold War world order? Granted, the basic parameters of interpersonal communication may not shift in the winds of technology, politics, and fashion, but even here communication scholars are un- doubtedly paying attention to the advent of computer-mediated channels and virtual communities. In this context, despite the stiff competition, it might still be argued that no domain of communication studies has experienced a transforma- tion as radical as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (GLBT) studies, or its pierced and tattooed younger sibling, queer studies, neither of which were even visible on the map charted by the editors of the 1983 Journal of Communication collection.
By Larry Gross, 2005