Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 14

Zurich Open Repository and

Archive
University of Zurich
Main Library
Strickhofstrasse 39
CH-8057 Zurich
www.zora.uzh.ch

Year: 2012

On the why and how of comparative inquiry in communication studies

Esser, Frank; Hanitzsch, Thomas

Abstract: This introductory chapter takes stock of the differential state of comparative communication
research and comes to the conclusion that has it made remarkable progress across the field. The chap-
ter argues that the comparative approach provides a valuable tool for advancing our understanding of
communication processes, and that it opens up new avenues of systematic research. It first provides a
rationale for why we need comparative work and then moves on to discuss conventional and new defini-
tions of comparative research. After tracing historical developments, the chapter elaborates on common
theoretical and methodological approaches, discusses objects of comparative analyses and outlines the
structure of the book.

Posted at the Zurich Open Repository and Archive, University of Zurich


ZORA URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-76156
Book Section
Published Version

Originally published at:


Esser, Frank; Hanitzsch, Thomas (2012). On the why and how of comparative inquiry in communication
studies. In: Esser, Frank; Hanitzsch, Thomas. Handbook of Comparative Communication Research.
London: Routledge, 3-22.
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION ASSOCIATION (ICA) HANDBOOK SERIES
HANDBOOK OF COMPARATIVE
Robert T. Craig, Series Editor
COMMUNICATION RESEARCH
Selected titles include:

Cheney/May/Munshi-The Handbook of Communication Ethics

Wahi-Jorgensen!Hanitzsch-The Handbook ofJournalism Studies Edited by


Stromback/Kaid-The Handbook of Election News Coverage Around the World Frank Esser
Esser/Hanitzsch-The Handbook of Comparative Communication Research Thomas Hanitzsch

�� ��o��!�n���up
NEW YORK AND LONDON
Contents
First published 2012
by Routledge
71 I Third Avenue, New York,NY I 0017

Simultaneously published in the UK


by Routledgc
2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon,Oxon OX 14 4RN
Series Editor's Foreword ix
Row/edge is tm imprint of the Tay/or & Francis Group, l/11 itifomw business ROBERT T. CRAIG

© 2012 Taylor & Francis Foreword Xt

The right of Frank Esser and Thomas Hanitzsch to be identified as the authors of the editorial material,and of the JAY G. BLUMLER
authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright,
Designs and Pments Act 1988.
Contributors XV

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any elec­
tronic, mechanical,or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording,or
in any infonnation storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.
PART 1: INTRODUCTION
7i"ademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and arc used only for
identification and explanation without intent to infringe. On the W hy and How of Comparative fnquiry in Communication Studies 3
FRANK EsSER AND THOMAS HANITZSCH
Libraty of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Handbook of comparative communication research I edited by Frank Esscr and Thomas Hanitzsch.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references.
PART 11: DISCI PLINARY DEVELOPMENTS
I. Communication,lntemational. 2. Communication-Research. I. Esser,Frank,1966- U. Hanitzsch, Thomas,
1969-
P96.15.H368 2012 2 Comparing Political Communication 25
302.2-dc23
BARBARA PrETSCH AND FRANK EssER
2011034392

ISBN: 978-0-415-80271-0 (hb) 3 Comparing Organizational and Business Communication 48


ISBN: 978-0-415-80275-8 (pb)
BERNARD MCKENNA, VICTOR J. CALLAN, AND CINDY GALLOIS
ISBN: 978-0-203-14910-2 (eb)

Typeset in Times and Helvetica 4 Comparing Development Communication 64


by EvS Communication Networx,lnc.
JAN SERVAES

5 Comparing Computer-Mediated Communication 81


KEVJN B. WRIGIIT AND JOSHUA AVERBECK

�SF I' Certified Sourcing


www.sfiprogram.org
SFt-00453
Printed and bound in the United States of America
by Edwards Brothers,Inc.
6 Comparing Visual Communication 94
MARION G. MULLER AND MICHAEL GRIFFIN

7 Comparing fntercultural Communication 119


YOUNG YUN l<JM

8 Comparing Language and Social fnteraction 134


DAVID BOROMISZA-HABASHI AND SUSANA MARTINEZ-GUILLEM

9 Comparing Gender and Communication 148


GERTRUDE J. ROBINSON AND PATRICE M. BUZZANELL

V
1
On the Why and How of Comparative
Inquiry in Communication Studies

Frank Esser and Thomas Hanitzsch

Two decades ago, Blumler, McLeod, and Rosengren (1992) characterized comparative research
as the communication field's "extended and extendable frontier" (p. 3). Comparative communi­
cation research was found to be "increasingly active, wide-ranging, and productive but also rather
probing and preliminary" (p. 4).
Today, 20 years later, comparative research has made remarkable progress. For one thing, it
seems no longer necessary to urge communication scholars to work comparatively (Gurevitch &
Blumler, 2004). The rapidly increasing number of comparative research projects and a constantly
growing body of literature clearly attests to this fact. Several changes, especially in the political
and technological environment, have supported such developments: Due to the end of the Cold
War and the onward march of globalization it is now easier than ever before to meet with col­
leagues from afar and exchange ideas. New communication technologies have proved to be a
useful resource in establishing, maintaining, and managing even large international networks of
researchers. In some areas, such as political communication or media policy, comparative work
has almost become fashionable (Gurevitch & Blumler, 2004). There is growing consensus, as
Livingstone notes in Chapter 26 of this volume, that it is no longer plausible to study a phenom­
enon in one country without asking whether it is common across the globe or distinctive to that
specific context.
In more and more sub-fields of the communication discipline, comparative research is
moving from description to explanation, from simplification to theoretical sophistication, from
accidental choice of cases to their systematic selection, and from often anecdotal evidence to
methodological rigor. These advancements clearly speak to the rich potential of tbe comparative
approach to inaugurating new lines in communication research. As the chapters of this Handbook
demonstrate, however, the development of comparative research in the field is a fairly uneven
one. This makes it quite difficult to evaluate the state of the art in comparative communication
research as a whole. In some subject areas, comparative research has made more progress than in
others. In the domains of political communication or intercultural communication, for example,
the comparative approach has already progressed to "late adolescence" whereas in other sub­
fields it is still in its "infancy," to take up Blumler and Gurevitch's (2004, pp. 325-326) famous
metaphor of maturation.
This Introduction serves to describe the differential state of comparative research across
the communication discipline. We will argue that the comparative approach provides a valuable

3
4 FRANK ESSER AND THOMAS HANJTZSCH ON THE WHY AND HOW OF COMPARATIVE INQUIRY 5

tool for advancing our understanding of communication processes, and that it opens up new av­ our field. ln treating the world as a "global research laboratory," comparative research enables
enues of systematic research. We will discuss conventional and new definjtions o f comparative scholars to learn from the experiences of others. In so doing, it makes an important contribution
research, trace major historical developments, and describe relevant designs in the comparative to a global knowledge society. Moreover, this line of research can nurture the discipJine's global
study of communication phenomena. identity and contribute to its intellectual and theoretical foundation worldwide (see Tsetsura &
Klyueva, Chapter 17, in this volume).
Sixth and lastly, another advantage of comparative analysis lies in the wealth of practical
WHY WE NEED COMPARATIVE RESEARCH knowledge and experience it offers. As we gain access to a wide range of alternative options,
problem solutions, and trajectories, comparative research can show us a way out of similar di­
The uneven progress in comparative communication research is not surprising if we consider that lemmas or predicaments-as long as these solutions can be adapted to our own national contexts
the need for international comparison is more evident in areas where we find a strong relationship (Gurevitch & Blumler, J 990; Esser & Pfetsch, 2004a).
between communication phenomena, on the one hand, and political systems and cultural value
systems, on the other. Thjs is certainly the case in political communication, media policy and
regulation, and development communication, as well as in interpersonal and intercultural com­ DEFINING COMPARATIVE RESEARCH
munication. ln other areas, such as organizational communication, public relations, and health
communication, the urge for comparative research long seemed less obvious. But beyond the There is still considerable uncertainty about the kinds of research that the term "comparative"
specific advantages that comparative research has in particular domains of communication and refers to, or should refer to. Comparative research in communication and media studies is con­
media studies, we see six generic areas in which comparative research can clearly prove its su­ ventionally understood as contrasting different macro-level units ( li ke world regions, countries,
periority. sub-national regions, social milieus, language areas, cultural thickenings) at one point or more
First, comparative research is "valuable, even indispensable, for establishjng the generality points in time. A classic yet simple definition had been proposed by Edelstein ( 1982, p. 14): "It
of findings and the validity of interpretations" derived from single contexts (Kohn, 1989, p. 77). It is a study that compares two or more nations with respect to some common activity." Blumler,
forces us to revise our interpretations against cross-cultural differences and inconsistencies. Only McLeod, and Rosengren ( 1992, p. 7) expanded this first definitional attempt and characterize a
comparative research a llows us to test theories across diverse settings and evaluate the scope and study as comparative ••when the comparisons are made across two or more geographically or
significance of certain phenomena, which itself is an important strategy for concept clarification historically (spatially or temporally) defined systems." Situated within these systems are "the
and verification (Gurevitch & Blumler, 1990). Since the real world cannot be subjected to experi­ phenomena of scholarly interests wruch are embedded in a set of interrelations that are relatively
mental control, comparison can act as a s ubstitute for experimentation (Peters, 1998). coherent, patterned, comprehensive, distinct, and bounded."
Second, comparative research can prevent us from overgeneralizing fro m our own, often In light of the insights provided by the contributors to this Handbook we can develop this
idiosyncratic, experience. It helps us realize that Western conceptual thinking and normative as­ further. As a first step toward an encompassing definition we shall maintain that comparative
sumptions underpin much of the work in our field and that imposing them on other cultures may communication research involves comparisons between a minimum of two macro-level units
be dangerous. In thjs regard, comparative research can clearly contribute to the development of (systems, cultures, markets, or their sub-elements) with respect to at least one object of investiga­
universally applicable theory, while at the same time, it challenges claims to ethnocentrism or tion relevant to communication research. This is illustrated by Figure J .1; it also indicates our use
naYve universalism (Livingstone, 2003; Esser & Pfetsch, 2004a). of terminology in this chapter. Comparative research differs from non-comparative work in that
Third, and in part related to the previous area, the default assumption that one's own country it attempts to reach conclusions beyond single systems or cultures and explains differences and
could be taken for granted as "normal" went surprisingly unquestioned in our field for a fairly similarities between objects of analysis against the backdrop of their contextual conditions. Spa­
long time, writes Livingstone (Chapter 26) in this Handbook. Here, comparative research can act tial (cross-territorial) comparisons ought to be supplemented wherever possible by a longitudinal
as a "corrective" in that one of its primary function is to "calibrate the scope" of our conclusions (cross-temporal) dimension in order to account for the fact that systems and cultures are not fro-
(see Chapter 8 by Boromisza-Habashi & Martfnez-Guillem, in thjs volume). Comparative analy­
sis provides exceptional opportunities for challenging existing paradigms in our field, as Tsetsura B
Macro-Unit A Macro-Unit
and Klyueva (Chapter 17) argue in this book. (system, culture, market) (system, culture, marl<et)

Fourth, comparative research helps us develop and contextualize the understanding of our
own societies (Gurevitch & Blumler, 1990). Comparison makes us aware of other systems, cul­
tures, and patterns of thinking and acting, casting a fresh light on our own communication ar­
rangements and enabling us to contrast them critically with those prevalent in other societies.
Object of
Investigation
(e. g . , TV
\ / Equivalent
Object of
Investigation
viewing habits, (e.g., TV viewing
Without comparison, national phenomena may become "naturafjzed" even to the extent that they habits, or
or reporter­
remain invisible to the domestic-bound researcher (Blumler, McLeod, & Rosengren, 1992; Esser source reporter-source
relationships)
& Pfetsch, 2004a). relationships)

Fifth, engaging in comparative work helps us foster global scholarsl'tip and sustain networks
Note: Macro· units are also called cases.
of researchers across continents. It facilitates international exchange of knowledge between
scholars and institutions, including those operating in regions not yet adequately represented in Figure t 1 Terminology for basic comparison.
6 FRANK ESSER AND THOMAS HANlTZSCI-1 ON THE WHY AND HOW OF COMPARATIVE INQUTRY 7

zen in time but are constantly changing under the inOuence of transformation processes, such as specific) or etic (universal) approach may be applied. Fourth and lastly, the objects of analysis
Americanization, Europeanization, globalization, liberalization, or commercialization. l l seems need to be compared on the basis of a common theoretical framework and by drawing on equiva­
useful to highlight a third dimension of comparison which Caramani (2011) calls the functional lent conceptualizations and methods instead of being analyzed separately fro m each other (on
(cross-organizational or cross-institutional) comparison. Consider, for instance, the comparison equivalence, see Wirth & Kolb, Chapter 30, in this volume).
between public service and commercial broadcasters, between sacerdotal and pragmatic news Based on these four criteria we can distinguish two generic types of study that are either truly
cultures, or between the work flows in offtine and online newsrooms (for examples, see Blumler comparative or quasi-comparative. In the first type, called genuine comparisons, all four criteria
& Gurevitch, 1995; Gurevitch, Coleman, & Blumler, 2009). The relevance of "functional" dis­ are sufficiently fulfilled. Studies of the second type, called implicit comparisons, are essentially
tinctions for cross-territorial and cross-temporal comparisons is also discussed in this volume by mono-cultural analyses that place only little emphasis on the comparison itself but use existing
P fetsch and Esser (Chapter 2) and Hanitzsch and Donsbach (Chapter 16), as well as Esser and typologies or other macro units as a yardstick to interpret and contextualize the single case at
Stromback (Chapter I 9). hand. Further on into this rntroduction we will offer a detailed portrayal of genuine comparisons
Not everyone does agree to such a view. Several scholars have forcefully argued that essen­ and shall touch on implicit comparisons only briefly.
tially all social research is comparative by its very nature (Beniger, I 992). The latter is certainly ln conclusion we summarize the basic rationale as follows. Comparative communication
true to the extent that all new evidence needs to be tested against, and thus compared with, an research simultaneously examines a minimum of two macro-level units (systems, cultures, mar­
existing stock of knowledge. Comparative studies, however, entail specific conceptual and meth­ kets, or their sub-elements) with respect to at least one object of investigation. The selection of
odological challenges that clearly set them apart from mono-cultural research. These challenges the contextual units should be informed by theoretical considerations, and the objects of com­
relate to tbe function of comparison within a study's conceptual framework, the selection of parison embedded within them should be functionally equivalent. The macro-level units are as­
cases, as well as equivalence in terms of concepts and methods. It is therefore essential to main­ sumed to have clear boundaries, and they should be compared not only cross-spatially but also
tain that the selection of cases (systems, cultures, or markets) should be informed by theoretical cross-temporally to capture processes of internally and externally motivated change. The units
considerations and that the objects to be compared must be functionally equivalent in nature. The of analysis should be compared within a common theoretical framework and by using equiva­
cases, or macro-level units, are assumed to have defined boundaries-be they structural, cultural, lent conceptualizations and methods. Relationships between contexts and the objects of analysis
political, territorial, or temporal. FUJthermore, these macro-level units are assumed to contain should be specified, as they inform the explanation of differences and similarities.
characteristic factors that have interrelations with the object of analysis and help explain differ­ All these aspects will be examined more closely in the second part of this chapter. For a bet­
ences (and similarities) in objects embedded in different contexts. ter understanding of the basic rationale it is useful to first recapitulate the historical development
This Last aspect is crucial. Comparative research guides our attention to the explanatory of international comparative research.
relevance of the contextual environment for communication o utcomes. It aims to understand
how differences in the macro-level context shape communication phenomena differentially.
For the field of journalism research, for instance, Benson (20 I 0) calls upon scholars to focus H I STORICAL DEVELOPMENTS
more on testing hypotheses on the effects of contextual variables on news people, practices, and
products. Any attempt to systematically link macro-level system characteristics and micro-level The first major comparative study was probably Emile Durkheirn's (1897) research on suicide
news-making activities, Benson (2010) argues, would be a significant improvement toward ex­ and social anomie, but it was not until World War l l that comparative research became common
planatory research. From a comparative perspective it is thus important to recognize that mass in the social sciences and humanities. rt rapidly influenced psychology, sociology, history, and
communication processes are shaped by several layers of systemic context. In addition to people, political science, indicated by the creation of several specialized academic journals, including the
practices, and products of communication (at the micro-level), factors deriving from the media International & Comparative La IV Quarterly (founded in 1952), Comparative Studies in Society
system (and other institutional arrangement at the macro level) have to be taken into account. and Hist01y ( 1958), Comparative Politics ( 1968), and the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Hence, differences in the creation of messages and their effects across countries can be explained (1970).
by the structural and cultural environment. Recognizing the (causal) significance of contextual In adopting the comparative approach in our discipline, scholru·s have taken different ap­
conditions makes comparative research exceptionally valuable. In the words of Mancini and Hal­ proaches. Early attempts took the shape of edited compilations of "nation-by-chapter rep01ting"
lin (20 J 2), "theorizing the role of context is precisely what comparative analysis is about." This which left the making of comparison up to the reader (Livingstone, 2003, p. 48 1). Only some of
explanatory logic can be distinguished fro m mere descriptive logic that is considered less mature these case study-based compilations followed tl1e method of structured, focused comparison (to
(Gurevitch & Blumler, 2004). be explained below) but many others chose not to. Hardy (Chapter 1 L, in this volume) points to
Overall, there are several conditions that should be fulfilled before Jabeling a comparative the publications of the Euromedia Research Group (Euromedia Research Group, 1992; Kelly,
study as "mature." Fi1·st, the purpose of comparison needs to be explicated early in the project, Mazzoleni, & McQua:il, 2004), ru·guing that "the comparative 'work' must be largely performed
and it should be a defining component of the research design. Second, the macro-level units of by the reader who is presented with individual country studies." To be sure, many of these nation­
comparison need to be clearly delineated-irrespective of how the boundaries are defined. ln the by-chapter handbooks provided valuable contextual descriptions and prepared the ground for fur­
contextual environments specific factors need to be identified that are assumed to characteristi­ ther analyses, as is illustrated with many examples by Puppis and cl'Haenens (Chapter 13, in this
cally affect the objects of analysis-be they people, practices, communication products, or other volume). Those edited volumes that were highly integrated, followed a common theoretical frame­
structural or cultural elements. Third, the objects of analysis should be compared with respect work, and studied the same well-defined concepts according to unified criteria proved without any
to at least one common, functionally equivalent dimension. Methodologically, an emic (culture- doubt to be more useful and influential.
8 FRANK ESSER AND THOMAS HANITZSCH ON THE WHY AND HOW OF COMPARATIVE iNQUIRY 9

The second developmental step in the field's evolution were two-country comparisons like Halloran (1998, pp. 44-45) went so far as to diagnose a "research imperialism" that legitimized
the ones by Hallin and Mancini (1984), Chalaby ( 1996), Asard and Bennett (I 997), Esser ( 1998, and reinforced the established order while strengthening the Third World's economic and cultural
1999), Pfetsch (200 l ), Benson (2005), and St:romback and Dimitrova (2006), among many others. dependence on the West.
,
Two-country comparisons have the potential of contributing to scholarship in important original The second period, The North and the South, was primarily shaped by major political pro­
ways. In fact, as Mancini and Hallin (2012) note, some of the best comparative work produced cesses that took place within UNESCO. One important driving force was the rise of an intellectu­
..,

to date is based on a comparison of two countries. Particularly noteworthy in this context are the al movement in Latin America whose proponents became known as dependistas (Beltran, 1978;
studies by Semetko, Blumler, Gurevitch, and Weaver (1991) and Ferree, Gamson, Gerhards, and Bordenave, 1977). The dependency paradigm played an important role in the recognition of
Rucht (2002), as they theorized relationships between contextual influences and the object of uneven development processes and communication flows that eventually fuelled the movement
investigation very carefully. They developed an analytical framework from the broader compara­ for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) and New World Information and Communica­
tive literature and analyzed their data in an explanatory, hypothesis-testing fashion. tion Order (NWICO) during the 1970s (also see Servaes, Chapter 4, in this volume). Of particular
However, because of the limited ability to generalize from two-country studies, they are in­ relevance for communication scholars was the NWICO controversy staged at UNESCO that
creasingly being replaced with medium-N and large-N studies. The largest examples of large-N addressed inequalities in communication flows between the industrialized North and developing
statistical analyses have come from Pippa Non·is: one examining the relationship between media South. The focus of international communication research consequently shifted to the inequali­
use and political participation in 15 European Union member states (Norris, 2000), another one ties between the northern hemisphere and the global South. This inspired, for instance, the above­
investigating the relationship between media system variables and human development in 135 mentioned UNESCO-funded study on Foreign Images by Sreberny-Mobammadi et al. ( 1984,
countries (Non·is, 2004), and a third one studying the relationship between exposure to global 1985).
information and people's moral and social values in 90 countries (Nonis & Jnglehart, 2009). The eru·ly 1980s have then seen the rise of another paradigm in international communication
The formation of the European Community has triggered a substantial amount of larger-scale research, The West and .the West. This period was very much influenced by European scholarship
compru·ative communication research, struting with Blumler's (1983) seven-country study of the that emerged largely in response to the accelerating integration process within the European
.... , 1979 EU pru·Iiamentary election and leading to a 25-country comparative analysis of the 2009 Union. The political processes that took place within its institutions during that time attracted
EU parliamentary election by Schuck et al. (20 12). Using the European Union as a laboratory for the interest of many European reseru·chers, thus transforming the European Union into a "com­
compru·ative reseru·ch was also the motivation behind investigations by Livingstone and Bovill parative playground" for communication scholars as de V reese and Boomgaarden aptly note in
(2001) and Hasebrink, Livingstone, Haddon, and Olafsson (2009) into children's media use in their contribution to this book (Chapter 20). The media policy activities of the European Com­
12 and 21 counh·ies respectively. Much wider in scope are transnational comparisons of inter­ mission spru·ked further interest in comparative research projects in related areas (see Puppis &
national news that have a long tradition in the field, reaching from the Foreign Images Project d'Haenens, Chapter 13 in this volume). Tllis period also marked the beginning of comparative
with 29 countries (Sreberny-Mohammadi, Nordenstreng, Stevenson, & Ugboajah, 1985), to the research that was methodologically more advanced. SchoJru·s became more cautious in selecting
Foreign News Study with 38 countJ·ies (Stevenson, 2003), the News Around the World Project countries, turning their attention to mostly Western countries due to their similarities and, hence,
with ten countries (Shoemaker & Cohen, 2006) to the ongoing Foreign News on Television Study their comparability. The area of mass communication has particularly benefited from these de­
with 17 countries (Cohen, forthcoming). Compru·ative research into the professional cultures of velopments, as indicated by Kocher's (1986) and Esser's (1998) comparisons of journalists and
journalists is also growing rapidly in scope, beginning with a bi-national survey of British and newsrooms in Germany and Great Britain, as well as Patterson and Donsbach's (1996) com­
German journalists (Kocher, 1986), then moving to five countries (Patterson & Donsbach, 1996; pru·ative survey of journalists in Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Sweden, and the United States.
Patterson, 2008), and ultimately to 18 countries (Hanitzsch et al., 20 1 1). Examples in other areas ru·e Godard's (1977) study of the differences between the beginnings of
Another way of charting the development of compru·ative reseru·ch in communication and American and French telephone conversations; Masters, Frey, and Bente's ( 199 1) comparison of
media studies is by looking at the cultural contexts commonly covered in this particular area of politicians' visual images in German, French, and U.S. TV news; Wiles, Wiles, and Tjernlund's
work (Hanitzsch, 2009). Here, we cru1 see four broad, partly overlapping paradigms. (1995) study of gender role portrayals in Dutch, Swedish, and American magazines, and Valken­
The first could be labeled The U.S. and the Rest. This pru·adigm has dominated commu­ burg and Janssen's ( 1999) compru·ative investigation of Dutch and U.S. children in terms of their
nication and media studies from the 1950s to the 1960s, and is exemplified by the influential valuation of entertainment programs. The West and the West paradigm has clearly retained its
work of American scholars such as Daniel Lerner (The Passing ofTraditional Society, 1958), as vitality until today, exemplified by the influential work of Hallin and Mancini (2004).
well as that of Fred S. Siebert, Theodore Peterson, and Wilbur Schramm (Four Theories of the By that time, however, a new era was already dawning. We nlight call this new paradigm The
Press, 1956). US-centrism and the juxtaposition of the "modern" West and "h·aditional" East West and the Global. Scholars have started to assess media systems on a truly global scale. Re­
were particularly prevalent during this period of time. As Servaes notes (Chapter 4, in this vol­ search has cleru·ly become more collaborative, increasingly involving reseru·chers from Asia and
ume), the United States was defining development and social change as the replica of its own Latin America, though still not so much from Africa. One eru·Jy example is Splicbal and Sparks'
political-economic system. In this sense, The U.S. and the Rest paradigm has been a product of its (1994) survey of first-year journalism students in 22 nations. Other examples are the Global
time that was cleru·Iy dominated by the ideological rivalry between two geopolitical blocks. And Media Monitoring Project, which globally maps the representation of women in the media (Gal­
although media systems in Africa, Latin America, and Asia have often developed as derivatives lagher, 20 I 0), as well as the Worlds of Journalism Study (Hanitzsch et al., 2 0 1 1). As pointed out
of those in the West (Golding, 1977), modernization theories have failed to produce desirable already, a growing number of countries are being assessed comparatively. Kruckeberg and Tset­
outcomes in many of the countries in these regions. The pru·adigm eventually lost momentum sura (2003), for instance, developed an international index of cash for news coverage and applied
in the mid-1970s when researchers began to realize some of its ideological bearings. James D. it to 66 countries. In media economy research, Djankov, McLiesh, Nenova, and Shleifer (2003)
FRANK ESSER AND THOMAS HANITZSCH ON THE WHY AND HOW OF COMPARATIVE INQUIRY 11
10

examined patterns of media ownership in 97 countries. And Barker and Mathijs (2008) studied The fourth step is explanation. As Landman (2008) states, "once things have been described
the worldwide reception of The Lord of the Rings in no fewer than 150 countries. At the same and classified, the comparativist can move on to search fo r those factors that may help explain
time, theoretical and methodological reflections on comparative research have become much what has been described and classified" (p. 6). Comparative research aims to understand how
more common in the field (e.g., Johnson & Tuttle, 1989; Chang et al., 2001; Livingstone, 2003; characteristic factors o f the contextual environment shape communication processes different­
Esser & Pfetscb, 2004b; Wirth & Kolb, 2004). ly in different settings (B iumler & Gurevitch, 1995). To understand the relationship between
divergent contextual influences and the respective implications for the object of investigation,
scholars identify and operationalize key "explanatory" and "outcome" variables. This facilitates
PRACTICAL STEP S AND RESEARCH GOALS the formulation of research questions and hypotheses. Such an approach enabled Swanson and
Mancini ( 1996) to hypothesize that the techniques of "modern" election campaigning (for details
Comparative communication research is a combination of substance (specific objects of inves­ see Chapter 18, by Esser & Stromback, in this volume) will be more likely to emerge in majority
tigation studied in different macro-level contexts) and method (identifying differences and simi­ and plurality voting systems rather than in proportional systems, in systems consisting of just a
larities following established rules and using equivalent concepts). Gurevitch and Blumler (2004) few parties rather than in multi-party systems, in unregulated campaign environments rather than
further state that mature comparative studies are designed to realize a "double value": shedding in strictly regulated regimes, and in commercial broadcast systems rather than in public service
light on the particular phenomenon under study and on the different systems or cultures in which dominated systems. Interestingly, they found no conclusive evidence in support of these hypoth­
they are being examined. Mature comparative research will therefore always be context-sensi­ eses, but did find strong support for a fifth hypothesis on the influence of political culture (see
tive. It looks at more than one macro-level context to draw more general conclusions about the Chapter 1 8 by Esser & Stromback). Further instructive examples of explanatory comparative are
phenomenon under study and the communication processes involved. But how do we get there? provided by Esser and Stromback (Chapter .1 9), de Yreese and Boomgaarden (Chapter 20) and
How does comparative communication research proceed in practice? Drawing on the literature V liegenthart (Chapter 3 1, in this volume).
in political science where the comparative approach has a longer tradition (e.g., Peters, 1998; Confirmed hypotheses are extremely valuable because they have the potential for prediction.
Landman, 2008; Hague & Harrop, 20 10; Caramani, 2011) we can distinguish five practical steps Based on generalizations from the initial study, scholars can make claims about other countries
or research goals: describing differences and similarities; identifying functional equivalents; es­ not actually studied, or about outcomes in the future. The ability to predict provides a base for
tablishing typologies; explaining differences and similarities; and making predictions. drawing lessons across countries and help find solutions to problems prevalent in many countries.
In the first place, comparison involves the description of differences and similarities. Pro­
viding contextual descriptions of a set of systems or cultures enhances our understanding and
our ability to interpret diverse communication arrangements. Rounded and detailed descriptions THEORET I CAL A P P ROACHES
provide lmowledge and initial hunches about interesting topics and about factors that may be
impo1tant for explaining similarities and differences. Getting a deeper understanding of commu­ Scholars engaging in comparative communication research come from a variety of schools of
nication anangements in other systems and cultures is thus an important precondition for more thought, and not all of them may agree with this five-step sequence and its order of relevance.
ambitious steps of comparative analysis. Scholars from a culturalist or interpretative background may be less interested in variable-orient­
Another precondition for more elaborate comparative analysis is the recognition of fimc­ ed "explanation" and generalizable laws but more in unpacking the deeper meanings of commu­
tional equivalents. A fundamental problem in comparative studies, as trivial as it may sound, is nication processes-and devoting their full energy to gaining an in-depth understanding by way
comparability. l f a media sample is drawn in country A, what are the equivalents in countries B, of "contextual description" of whole cases. Scholars coming from an empirical, social-scientific
C, and D? The same is true for the specific objects and concepts of analysis. Only objects that background, on the other hand, may not be satisfied with stopping at the meaning-seeking step of
meet the same function (or role) may be meaningfully compared with each other. Methods for "contextual description" and may strive for "explanation" and "prediction"--even if that means
identifying fm1ctional equivalents are discussed by Wi1·th and Kolb (2004; see also Wirth & Kolb, to narrow down complex realities into simple relationships between variables that are easier to
Chapter 30; Hanitzsch & Esser, Chapter 32, both in this volume). control.
The third step-which builds on the previous two-is to establish classifications and typo­ W hereas most chapters in this Handbook are written from a social-scientific perspective,
logies. Classifications seek to reduce the complexity of the world by grouping cases into distinct some contributors argue from a culturalist-interpretative point of view (most noticeably Chapter
categories with identifiable and shared characteristics. The concepts used to differentiate the 15 by Coultry & Hepp). Our position as editors is that theory-building in comparative communi­
cases need to be identified or constructed by the scholar; these concepts then serve as multiple cation research is not tied to a distinctive set of perspectives but can be advanced with a variety of
dimensions to classify a broader range of cases. An example is Hallin and Mancini (2004), who approaches. In fact, there is a broad diversity of communication theories, and the contributors to
first clarified the concepts "mass press," "political parallelism," "professionalization," and "state this Handbook have made wide-ranging use of them. At the risk of gross simplification, we will
intervention," and then used them as dimensions to classify media systems into three proto­ try to group the theories most relevant for comparative communication research into three broad
typical models: "polarized pluralist," "democratic corporatist," and "liberal." Typologies can be schools of thought:
considered the beginning of a theory on a subject matter (like media systems), and many other Actor- or behavior-centered approaches treat individuals Uournalists and other professional
comparative studies culminated in similar typologies by categorizing, for example, journalists' communicators, politicians and other strategic conm1unicators, recipients and other members of
attitude profiles (Patterson, 2008), news rep01ting patterns (Esser, 2008), or political communica­ the public) or collectives (groups, associations, organizations, corporations) as goal- and interest­
tion cultures (Pfetsch, 2004). driven actors which make strategic choices in their communication behavior. Such a (rational
12 FRANK ESSER AND THOMAS HANITZSCH ON THE WHY AND HOW OF COMPARATIVE INQUIRY 13

choice-informed) approach is predominant, for example, in the areas of political communication, Comparative Case Study Analysis
journalism, and public relations, media economics and business communication, health and cam­
paign communication, or media use. A series of 11/0IIO-Ilational sllldies can contribute to comparative research if they are s;omposed
Structuralist or institutionalist approaches focus on the broader framework conditions of with a common framework in mind and follow the "method of structured, focused comparison"
macro-level communication arrangements that constrain or facilitate the communication behav­ (George & Bennett, 2005, pp. 67-72). For case studies to contribute to cumulative development
iors of actors. Theories falling into this category are interested in the long-term evolution of of knowledge and theory, they must all explore the same phenomenon, pursue the same research
political, social, technological, and economic structures that form the broader institutional and goal, adopt equivalent research strategies, ask the same set of standardized questions, and select
normative settings for communication processes. Structural approaches are predominant in me­ the same theoretical focus and the same set of variables. Even an isolated single-country study
dia systems, media market, and media policy research, but are also relevant for development can possess broader significance if it is conducted as an "implicit" comparison (see above). Im­
communication and international communication. plicit comparisons need to fulfil! several requirements. First, they must be embedded in a com­
Cultura/ist or interpretative approaches focus on the ideas, interpretations, and mental con­ parative context and their analytical tools must come from the comparative literature (Sartori,
structions of collectivities and individuals. This approach holds that communication preferences 1994). Second, the case selection must be justified by arguing that it is either a "representative"
and practices of individuals cannot be understood in isolation but must be placed in the context case (typical of a category) or a "prototypical" (expected to become typical), "exemplary" (creat­
of shared meanings within communities. These shared meanings form broader cultures that can ing a category), "deviant" (the exception to the rule), or a "critical" case (if it works here, it will
be analyzed as whole units. Identifying the boundaries of these cultures remains problematic for work everywhere; see Hague & Harrop, 20 I 0, p. 45; Gerring, 2007). Third, it must be shown
systematic comparative research as they do not necessarily overlap with territorial spaces, as the that the findings are building blocks for revising or expanding an existing comparative typology
examples of fan cultures or immigrant media cultures may illustrate. Interpreting the identities or theory (George & Bennett, 2005). Case studies that meet these criteria and follow the method
of these cultures-by examining their worldviews, communicative practices and textual mani­ of structured, focused comparison can even accomplish the important step from "description" to
festations-is predominant in media culture research, language, and social interaction, and some "explanation." They do so by employing tools of causal i11jerence from qualitative methodology
streams of intercultural research. like "analytic narratives" or-most importantly- "process tracing" (George & Bennell, 2005;
Behind each of these three meta-approaches lies a wealth of middle-range theories that can Mahoney, 20 10). ln process tracing the researcher examines histories, documents, interview tran­
be used in comparative communication research. The main purpose of this tripartite differentia­ scripts, and other sources to determine whether the causal process a theory implies is in fact evi­
tion (inspired by Lichbach, 1 997, 2009; see also Hague & Harrop, 20 I 0, pp. 25-42; Lim, 2006, dent in the sequence between relevant variables in that case. Drawing on concepts like detailed
pp. 65-93) is to illustrate the variety of theoretical approaches possible and to emphasize that narrative, sequencing, path dependence, and critical events, process tracing provides an explana­
these three meta-approaches are not mutually exclusive but are in constant interaction with one tion based on causal chains rather than general laws or statistical relationships (for details, see
another. ln order to gain a comprehensive understanding of communication processes across George & Bennett, 2005).
borders, middle-range theories from all three schools of thought should ideally be productively
combined. Many chapters in this Handbook argue in this direction. For example, research on Smaii-N Comparative Analysis
·�ournalism culture" connects actor-based survey data and culture-based concepts of profes­
sional identity and community for clustering journalism cross-nationally (see Hanitzsch & Dons­ Today, ''Lhe" standard form of comparative analysis is usually equated with research methods
bach, Chapter 16, in this volume). Research on "political communication" connects actor-based, based on John Stuart Mill's ( 1843) metltods of agreeme11t a11d differe11ce and Adam Przeworski
structure-based, and culture-based concepts in an effort to develop "political communication and Henry Teune's ( 1970) most dijJere11t and most similar systems desig11s. Both strategies have
systems" as a root concept for comparative analysis (Pfetsch & Esser, Chapter 2, i11 this volume). many parallels and can be pulled together under the rubrics of most similar systems-different
Other chapters make similar proposals. We therefore argue that the substance of the comparative outcomes and most differellt systems-similar outcomes. The number of systems compared is
approach is neither defined by a content domain (like health communication or media econom­ here usually three to ten, and the selection of systems occurs with a specific pmpose in mind.
ics) nor by a distinctive set of theories but by a specific logic of inquiry, which brings us to the Most similar systems-different outcomes designs seek to identify the key features that are differ­
next section. ent among otherwise fairly simjJar systems and which account for the observed outcome in the
object under study. Most differellt systems-similar outcomes designs, on the other hand, seek to
identify those features that are the same among otherwise dramatically different communication
METHODOLOGICAL APPROACHES systems in an effort to account for similarities in a particular outcome. With both strategies, the
systems are selected with regard to the specific contextual conditions influencing the object under
The purpose of comparative research is to describe (and understand), to explain, and to predict. investigation (for details see Landman, 2008, pp. 67-83).
The dimensions of comparison are territorial, cultural, temporal, and functional. lt uses mul­ According to this "quasi-experimental logic," cornparativists select their systems in such a
tiple types of data, in particular aggregate macro-/eve/ data on institutional settings of cases, way that specific hypotheses about the relationship between structural features of a given media
individual micro-level data on attitudes and behaviors of people, and micro-lmeso-level textua/ system (independent variables) and outcomes in media performance (dependent variables) can
data capturing the contents of communication by individuals or organizations. Depending on be tested. Let us assume that one is interested in the relationship between press subsidies (i.e.,
the concrete research question and research goal, a variety of methods is available for compara­ state aid available to newspapers in some media systems but not in others) and press diversity
tive analysis. (measured by the number of newspapers in the market): to examine whether press subsidies
14 FRANK ESSER AND THOMAS HANITZSCH ON THE WHY AND HOW OF COMPARATIVE !NQUlRY 15

generally promote press diversity or not requires a comparative analysis. This logic is inherent The contextual units of analysis (countries, cultures, etc.) are regarded as cases with theoretically
in all most similar systems designs. Formally speaking, most similar systems designs "manipu­ relevant attributes (Curtice, 2007). The goal is to determine the extent to which two or more
late" the independent variable by purposefully selecting cases for the analysis that in many ways variables covary. For instance, scholars may want to study a vast number o f countries in order
are very similar (e.g., Scandinavian media systems) but differ in the one critical variable (e.g., to explore whether the "level of negativity in the media about politics" allows them to predict
granting press subsidies or not). The challenge to establishing a causal link lies in the question of the "level of mistrust and cynicism in the general public." The focus of large-N analysis is on
how to deal with all the other known and unknown variables that also differentiate these media parsimonious explanatory designs where the impact of a few key variables is tested on as many
systems (for example, market size) and may have plausible effects on the outcome variable (that cases as possible, thereby identifying universal laws that can be widely generalized. Large-N
is, market pluralism). Such quasi-experimental research designs often forbid a strongly causal at­ studies work best in a reas where data are available for secondary analysis fro m international
tribution of explanatory factors for the determined variance of the dependent variable. However, data archives, something that is still rarely the case in communication studies (de Vreese &
"soft control" o f the variance can be achieved by supplementing with qualitative tools of causal Boomgaarden, Chapter 20, in this volume) but standard practice in political science (for an an­
inference like process tracing or analytical narratives. notated list o f their databases, see Kittilson, 2007).
A sophisticated extension of the most different and most similar logic was developed by
Charles Ragin ( 1 987, 2008). His approach, qualitative comparati1'e analysis (QCA), is a configu­
rational or holistic comparative method which considers each case (system, culture) as a complex "WHAT" DOES COMPARATIVE COMMUNI CATION RESEARCH COMPARE?
entity, as a "whole," which needs to be studied in a case-sensitive way. It combines quantitative,
variable-based logic and qualitative, case-based interpretation. It is important to understand that As the historical outline illustrated, a broad range of communication phenomena have become
QCA uses a more complex understanding of causality than the most different and most similar the object of comparative analyses, and the chapters in this Handbook demonstrate that the spec­
logic. As Rihoux (2006, p. 682) points out, QCA assumes that (a) causality is often a combina­ trum continues to grow. Scholars are not only free in their choice of objects; they also have flex­
tion of "conditions" (independent or explanatory variables) that eventually produces a phenom­ ibility in conceptualizing the macrounits in which these objects are embedded. ln the past, the
·--
enon-the "outcome" (dependent variable, or phenomenon to be explained); (b) several different most popular macrounit was the country or nation-state. Most cross-national studies treated the
combinations of conditions may produce the same outcome; and (c) depending on the context co untry as the "natural" default category of comparative analysis. This has come under criticism
a given condition may very well have a different impact on the outcome. Thus different causal by those who consider "country" or "nation" as a category too under-theorized for academic
paths-each path being relevant, in a distinct way-may lead to the same outcome. We do not research and too compromised by the undermining influence of globalization (see Livingstone,
want to overwhelm the reader, but some additional details may be in order. In practical research, Chapter 26, in this volume). Remember that in our definition of comparative communication re­
as Rihoux (2006, p. 683) further explains, the researcher must first produce a "raw data table," in search stated above we singled out tlu-ee alternative macro-level concepts as an effort to introduce
which each case (system, culture) displays a specific combination of "conditions" (by assigning more theoretical categories: systems, cultures, and markets. Each can be studied at the national
the values 1 or 0 for an assumed explanatory variable being present or not) and an "outcome" level, but also at the supra-national or sub-national level, depending on the theoretical framework
(again, by assigning I or 0 for a phenomenon present or not). A specialist computer software used by the comparativist. Our decision was inspired by several contributions to this Handbook
downloadable fro m Charles Ragin's website then produces a "truth table" that displays the data which we deem to be very valuable and deserving more attention in the future.
as a list of "configurations." A configuration is a given combination of some conditions and an Nation, it should be made clear, does not in any way need to be dropped from the toolkit o f
outcome. A specific configuration may correspond to several observed cases. The key following comparative communication research as many contributors t o this Handbook maintain. Livings­
step of th� analysis is "Boolean minimization," which unveils the ultimate regularities in the data tone argues in Chapter 26, for example, that "the nation remains a valuable analytic category in
by way of a formula. It is then, as Rihoux (2006, p. 683) writes, the task of the researcher to in­ media and communications research" but must be transformed into a more "analytic and metho­
terpret this minimal formula, possibly in terms of causality. QCA has become more sophisticated dological category." She makes three s uggestions as to how this may be accomplished and argues
recently with the latest developments instructively summarized in a volume by Rihoux and Ragin that two of the new categories of "nation" she introduces are particularly suitable for "comparati­
(2008). ve" analyses, whereas her third category is more s uitable for "transnational" research. In the two
new categories suitable for comparative research (called "ethnic/cultural" and "civic/democra­
Large-N Comparative Analysis tic"), the nation-specific institutional arrangements still serve as powerful explanatory contexts
that account for differences in the object of analysis (studied in different nations). Furthermore,
Comparative analysis is all about "control" (Sartori, 1994). The influence of potentially signifi­ for interpreting findings and drawing policy recommendations, the national framework, accor­
cant variables is either "controlled for" by employing a most similar or most different systems ding to Livingstone, will remain relevant for comparative communication inquiry.
design, or-if we are dealing with larger n u mber of cases-by way of statistical control. In the Media system as conceptualized by Hallin and Mancini (2004) has become a popular and
latter case, descriptive comparative analysis employs statistical techniques such as factor analysis influential alternative to the "nation" as macrounit for comparative communication scholarship.
or cluster analysis, whereas explanatory comparative analysis employs statistical techniques like Hardy (Chapter 1 1 , in this volume) acknowledges that this concept in the "historical-institution­
regression analysis or analysis of variance (for details see Peters, 1 998, pp. 1 91-2 1 1 ; Landman, alist tradition" of Hallin and Mancini (see Chapter 12, in this volume) is still very state-centered,
2008, pp. 5 1 -65). however. This is because of Hallin and Mancini's (2004) theoretical argument that media systems
Comparative statistical analysis is less interested in the unique quality of the cases under reproduce to a large extent distinctive, nation-bound patterns of political systems. Hardy himself
study (countries, systems, or cultures) but more in the abstract relationships between variables. proposes that the famous four-dimensional framework by Hallin and Mancini should be extended
16 FRANK ESSER AND THOMAS HAN!TZSCH ON THE WHY AND HOW OF COMPARATIVE iNQUIRY 17

by a fifth "geo-cultural" dimension. This new dimension would capture the degree to which a me­ territorial boundaries. Couldry and Hepp conceptualize media cultures as communicative thick­
dia system is integrated in transnational information flows and market exchanges (as expressed enings of meaning articulation that lead to the formation of communities with characteristic
by Non·is's Cosmopolitan Index, Chapter 22, in this volume), and to which degree a media sys­ identities. These communities cut across territorial borders and must thus be studied within a
tem is internally heterogeneous in terms of its ethnic and linguistic set-up (see Belgium, [ndia) transnational frame.
or its regional structure and federal regulation (see perhaps Germany). Incorporating these supra­ Journalism culture coincides with the concept of media culture in that it also defines culture
national and sub-national conditions in the shape of a fifth geo-cultural dimension would enrich as a manifestation of ideas (patterns of thinking), actions (patterns of practice) and "textual"
the concept of media system and push back its nation-centric focus. artifacts (patterns of discourse; see Chapter 16 by Hanitzsch & Donsbach but also Chapter 15
Political communication system is another system-based alternative to the nation-state and by Couldry & Hepp and Chapter 2 by Pfetsch & Esser, in this volume). However, the concept of
is pa•ticularly valuable in comparative political communication research. Introduced by Blumler media culture is more closely related to audiences, whereas the concept of journalism cultures
and Gurevitch ( 1995) and developed further by Pfetsch and Esser (Chapter 2, in this volume), focuses exclusively on the producers of professional news messages. Another difference is that
this concept conceives of political communication processes as an ordered system composed of students of media culture seem more concerned with "horizontal," transnational connections bet­
structures and actors, and both can be related to each other and to its wider environment. At the ween media cultures across borders. Students of journalism cultures, on the other hand, are more
macro-level it captures the patterns of interaction between media and politics as social systems; attentive to "vertical" layers of cultures within the nation-state, ranging from journalistic milieus
at the micro-level it captures the interactions between media and political actors as individu­ at the micro-level to organizational cultures at the meso-level and national professional cultu­
als or organizations. Comparative research in this tradition focuses on the structure of political res at the macro-level. While media culture theorists acknowledge difficulty in defining clear
communication systems, namely how political communication is organized across countries and boundaries of cultures, journalism culture theorists draw on established multilevel taxonomies.
on the culture of political communication, namely how political communication is engraved in Hanitzsch and Donsbach (Chapter 16, in this volume) concede that although journalism cultures
the attitudes and behaviors of politicians and journalists. It also focuses on the construction and should be compared across multiple levels, researchers still focus heavily on the national level
dissemination of political messages, as well as the effects of those messages. Pfetsch and Esser because news production and news reception is still strongly geared towards the domestic realm.
....._
argue that political communication systems can emerge at sub-national (local/metropolitan), na­ These are not the only macro-units discussed by the contributors to this Handbook, but the
tional or supra-national (European/trans-border) levels. Depending on the study's focus, political examples should suffice to give helpful hints to those struggling to define and operationalize
communication systems can also be conceptualized as election communication systems (Esser & their cases in more theoretical terms. The field would certainly benefit from having a long list of
Stromback, Chapter 18) or news systems (Esser & Stromback, Chapter 19, both in this volume). precisely defined, theoretically grounded macro-units available for comparative research. These
Media markets-to switch to an economic perspective-are defined by Picard and Rossi macro-units, one must not forget, are increasingly integrated in new supranational landscapes that
(Chapter 14, in this volume) as goods or services made available to consumers in the same Straubhaar (2007, pp. 3 1, I 07) has termed "geo-cultural" or "cultural-linguistic" media markets,
location. However, new forms of content distribution and digitalization increasingly allow this and Tun stall (2008, p. 8) "major media regions." Potential pitfalls on this journey and promising
"location" to be expanded to supranational levels. Picard and Rossi emphasize that, although perspectives for the future are the topic of the concluding section (see Chapter 32 by Hanitzsch &
most previous comparative research followed a "market equals nation" approach, the geographic Esser, in this volume). Between this Introduction and the Conclusion lies an enormous wealth of
boundaries of markets do no longer necessarily resemble the boundaries of media systems or knowledge and insights provided by the authors of the following Chapters 2 to 3 1. We would like
nation-states. The authors therefore suggest a new framework for comparative market research to take this opportunity to thank all contributors for their willingness to pa.ticipate in this volume
that accounts for these difficulties. It is noteworthy that Picard and Rossi discuss media markets and help us take stock of the state of the art in comparative communication research.
mainly in their relation to media systems, but it may be equally fruitful to link them also to media
audiences (carefully conceptualized by Hasebrink in Chapter 24, in this volume).
Communication culture is a concept used in interpersonal and intercultural communication. THE PLAN OF THE BOOK
It is understood as a "communication system of a single culture or subculture" (see Kim, Chapter
7, in this volume). Comparative cross-cultural communication research uses universal dimensi­ Because researchers can compare any social phenomenon in principle, it has been argued that
ons to classify cultures according to whether they are high- vs. low-context, individualistic vs. the study of comparative communications has no substantial specificity except a methodological
collectivistic, or high vs. low in terms of uncertainty avoidance, power distance, and masculinity. one. Saxer (2008) concludes that this has hindered the emergence of a Ja.·ger resea.·ch community
These and other dimensions are used as explanatory factors to account for differences in people's with a separate comparativist identity. This Handbook proves otherwise. We see the spirit spread­
ways of thinking, interacting, and structuri1�g their conversations. The dimensions are drawn ing. We also see the lack of specificity not as a weakness but as a strength that has contributed to
from frameworks constructed specifically for comparative purposes (Hall, 1976; Hofstede, 200 I ) a growing liveliness of comparative endeavors. As Gurevitch and Blumler (2004, p. 326) noted
and were subsequently used t o develop key communication theories of cross-cultural comparison a while ago, "There is now a widespread appreciation" for scholars to "go comparative." This
like face-negotiation theory, conversational constraints theory, or anxiety/uncertainty manage­ appreciation, however, has not always adequately translated into the same degree of scientific pro­
ment theory (Kim, Chapter 7). gress everywhere. With this in mind, the task at hand is to systematize and evaluate the manifold
Media culture is yet another possible macrounit for comparative analysis. In the under­ contributions to comparative communication research in the relevant subfields and summa.·ize
standing of Couldry and Hepp (Chapter 15, in this volume), typical examples include celebrity it in a comprehensive state-of-the-art report that also documents recent advances and identifies
cultures, fan cultures, migrant media cultures, mediated protest cultures, or practices of online promising perspectives. The lack of such a publication motivated us to produce this volume for
self-display. These cultures are by no means restricted to the nation-state, or to any other kind of the Handbook Series of the International Communication Association. It is designed to introduce
18 FRANK ESSER AND THOMAS HAN1TZSCH ON THE WHY AND HOW OF COMPARATIVE lNQU1RY 19

newcomers to the fundamentals of comparative communication research and, at the same time, Cohen, A. A. (Eds.) (forthcoming). Foreign news on television: A multinational perspective.
deepen the knowledge of those who have experience already. Curtice, J. (2007). Comparative opinion surveys. In H.-D. Klingemann & R. Dalton (Eds.), Handbook on
As Sonia Livingstone (in Chapter 26 of this volume) puts it aptly, a "primary reason for political behavior (pp. 896-909). Oxford: Oxford University P ress.

the rise of comparative research in media and communications concerns the transformation of Djankov, S., McLiesh, C., Nenova, T., & Shleifer, A. (2003). Who owns the media? Journal of Law and
Economics, 46(2), 3 4 1 -382.
our field of study from . . . largely national to transnational phenomena." In view of its growing
Durkheim, E. ( 1897). Le suicide. P aris: F. Alcan.
significance for many areas in the communications field, we have organized the Handbook into
Edelstein, A. S. ( 1982). Comparative commw1ication research. Beverley llills, CA: SAGE.
five parts. After this f ntroduction (Part I), nine chapters describe the Disciplinary Developments
Esser, F. ( 1 998). Editorial structures and work principles in British and German newsrooms. European
across key ICA divisions under the influence of comparative research (P art ll). This is followed Journal of Comnumication, 1 3(3), 375-405.
by 15 chapters devoted to Central Research Areas where comparative communication scholars Esser, F. ( 1 999). Tabloidization of news. A comparative analysis of Anglo-American and German press
have made substantial progress recently (Part Ill). A subsequent set of six chapters is concerned journalis1�1. European Journal of Commtmication, 14(3), 291-324.
with more practical issues. Under the rubric Conceptual and Methodological Issues, our con­ Esser, F. (2008). Dimensions of pol it ical news cultures: Sound bite and image bite news in France, Ger­
tributors aim to provide hands-on advice for both newcomers and natives engaging in empirical many, Great Britain, and the United States. International Journal of Press/Politics, 1 3 (4), 401-428.
comparative communication research (Patt TV). In the Conclusion, we continue the discussion of Esser, F., & P fetsch, B. (2004a). Meeting the challenges of global communication and political integra­
fundamentals started in this Introduction but push it further by integrating core lessons from the tion: The significance of comparative research in a changing world. In F. Esscr & B. P fctsch (Eds.),
Handbook's contributors. It discusses remaining challenges tbat need to be overcome and points Comparing political comn11micatiou. Theories, cases, and challenges (pp. 384-41 0). New York, NY:
Cambridge University P ress.
to directions for future research. It ends with suggestions for a future research agenda (Part V).
Esser, F., & P fetsch, B . (Eds.) (2004b). Comparing political com11umication: Theories, cases, and chal­
lenges. New York, NY: Cambridge University P ress.
Euromedia Research Group ( 1 992). The media in Western Ewvpe. London, UK: SAGE.
REFERENCES Ferree, M., Gamson, W. A., Gerhards, J., & Rucht, D. (2002). Shaping abortion discourse: Democracy
--·

and the public sphere in Germany and the United States. New York, NY: Cambridge University P ress.
Asard, E., & Bennett, L.W. ( 1997). Democracy and the marketplace of ideas: Communication and govem­ Gallagher, M. (2010). Global media monitoring project 2010. London, UK: World Association for Christian
ment in Sweden and the United States. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University P ress. Communication.
Barker, M., & Mathijs, E. (Eds.) (2008). Watching "The Lord oftlze Rings": Tolkieu 's world audiences. New George, A., & Bennett, A. (2005). Case s/1/dies and theOI)' developmellf in the social sciences. Cambridge,
York, NY: P eter Lang. MA: MIT P ress.
Beltran, L. R. ( 1 978). TV etchings in the minds of Latin Americans: Conservatism, materialism and con­ Gerring, J. (2007). Case study research: Principles and practices. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University
formism. Gazette, 24( I), 6 1 -85. P ress.
Beniger, J. R. (1992). Comparison, yes, but-the case of technological and cultural change. In J. G. Blum­ Godard, D. ( 1 977). Same setting, different norms: P hone call beginnings in France and the United States.
ler, J. M. McLeod, & K. E . Rosengrcn (Eds.), Comparatively speaking: comllumicatiou and culture Language in Society, 6(2), 209-2 19.
across space and time (pp. 35-50). Newbury Park, CA: SAGE. Golding, P. ( 1 977). Media professionalism in the Third World: The transfer of an ideology. In J. Curran,
Benson, R. (2005). Mapping field variation: Journalism in France and the Unjted States. In R. Benson & E. M . Gurevitch, & J. Woollacou (Eds.), Mass commwticatiou and society (pp. 291-308). London, UK:
Neveu (Eds.), Bourdieu and tlze joumalisticfield (pp. 85-1 1 2). Cambridge, UK: Polity P ress. Arnold.
Benson, R. (2010). Comparative news media systems: New directions in research. In S. Alien (Ed.), Row­ Gurevitch, M., & Blumler, J. G. ( 1990). Comparative research: The extending frontier. In D. L. Swanson &
ledge companion to news media and journalism studies (pp. 6 14-626). London, UK: Routledge. D. Nimmo (Eds.), New directions in political commtmicatiou: A resource book (pp. 305-325). New­
Blumler, J. G. (Ed.) ( 1983). Communicating to voters: Television in tlze first Ewvpean parliamemary elec­ bury Park, CA: SAGE.
tions. London, UK: SAGE. Gurevitch, M., & Blumler, J. G. (2004). State of the art of comparative political communication research:
Blumler, J. G., & Gurcvitch, M. ( 1 975). Towards a comparative framework for political communication re­ P oised for maturity? In F. Esser & B. P fetsch (Eds.), Comparing political commtmication: Theories,
search. In S. Chaffee (Ed.), Political communication: Issues and strategiesfor research (pp. 1 65-1 93). cases, and challenges (pp. 325-343). New York, NY: Cambridge University P ress.
Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE. Gurevitch, M., Coleman, S., & Blumler, J. G. (2009). P o litical communication: Old and new media relation­
Blumler, J. G., & Gurevitch, M. ( 1 995). Crisis ofpublic commtmicatiou. London: Rout ledge. ships. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 625, 1 64-1 8 1 .
Blumler, J. G., McLeod, J. M., & Rosengren, K. E . ( 1 992). An introduction to comparative communication Hague, R., & Harrop, M . (20 I 0). Comparative government and politics. A n introduction (8th edition). Bas­
research. In J.G. Blumler, J. M. McLeod, & K. E. Rosengren (Eds.), Comparatively speaking: com- ingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
1/umication and culture across space and time (pp. 3-18). Newbury Park, CA: SAGE. Hall, E . ( 1 976). Beyond culture. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books.
Bordenave, J. D. ( 1977). Com11umicatiou and mral development. Paris: UNESCO. Hallin, D. C., & Mancini, P. ( 1 984). Speaking of the president: P olitical structure and representational form
Caramani, D. (20 1 1 ). Introduction to comparative politics. In D. Caramani (Ed.), Comparative politics (2nd in U.S. and Italian television news. Theo1y and Society, 13(6), 829-850.
edition; pp. 1 -23). Oxford, UK: Oxford Unjversity P ress. Hall in, D. C. & Mancini, P. (2004). Comparing media systems: Three models of media and politics. New
Chalaby, J. K. ( 1 996). Journalism as an Anglo-American invention: A comparison of the development of
York, NY: Cambridge University P ress.
French and Anglo-American journalism, 1 830s-1 920s. European Journal of Communication, 1 1 (3),
Halloran, J. D. ( 1998). Social science, communication research and the Third World. Media Development,
303-326.
2, 43-46.
Chang, T.-K. with Berg, P., Fung, A. Y.-H., Kedl, K. D., Luther, C. A., & Szuba, J. (200 1). Comparing
na­ Hanitzsch, T. (2009). Comparative journalism studies. In K . Wahi-Jorgensen & T. Hanitzsch (Eds.), The
tions in mass communication research, 1 970-97: A critical assessment of how we know what we
know. handbook ofjournalism studies (pp. 4 1 3-427). New York, NY: Routledge.
Gazelle, 63(5), 4 1 5-434.
20 FRANK ESSER AND THOMAS HANITZSCH 21
ON THE WHY AND HOW OF COMPARATIVE INQUIRY

Hanitzsch, T., Hanusch, F., Mellado, C., Anikina, M., Berganza, R., Cangoz, I., Coman, M., Hamada, B., Patterson, T. E. (2008). Political roles of the journalist. In D. A. Graber, D. McQuail, & P. Norris (Eds.), The
Hemandez, M. E., Karadjov, C. D., Moreira, S. V., Mwesige, P. G., Plaisance, P. L., Reich, Z., Seethal­ politics of news, !he news ofpolitics (2nd edition; pp. 23-39). Washington, DC: CQ Press.
er, J ., Skewes, E . A., Noor, D. V., & Yuen, K. W. (20 I I). Mapping journalism cultures across nations: Patterson, T. E . & Donsbach, W. ( 1 996). News decisions: Journalists as partisan actors. Political Commlt­
A comparative study of 1 8 countries. Journalism Studies, 1 2(3), 273-293.
nicalion, 1 3(4), 455-468.
Hasebrink, U., Livingstone, S., Haddon, L., & Olafsson, K. (2009). Comparing children 's online opportuni­ Peters, G. B. ( 1 998). Comparative politics: Themy and methods. Basingstoke: Macmillan.
ties and risks across Europe: Cross-national comparisons for EU Kids Online (2nd edition). London:
Pfetsch, B. (2001 ). Political communication culture in the United States and Germany. Harvard lnterna­
EU Kids Online (Deliverable D3.2).
Jional Journal of Press/Politics, 6(1), 46-67.
Hofstede, G. (2001 ). Culture's consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions and
organizations Pfetsch, B. (2004). From political culture to political communications culture: A theoretical approach to
across nations (2nd edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
comparative analysis. In F. Esser & B. Pfetsch (Eds.), Comparing political cOIIIIIIIIIIication: Theories,
Johnson, J. D., & Tuttle, F. ( 1 989). Problems in intercultural research. In M. K. Asante
& W. B. Gudykunst cases, and challenges (pp. 344-366). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
(Eds.), Handbook of international and illlercultural comm1mication (pp. 461-483).
Newbury Park, Przeworski, A., & Teune, H. ( 1 970). The logic of comparative inquiry. New York, NY: John Wiley.
CA: SAGE.
Ragin, c. c. ( 1 987). The comparalive method: Moving beyond qualitative and quanlilative strategies.
Kelly, M., Mazzolen i, G., & McQuail, D. (Eds.) (2004). The media in Europe. London:
SAGE. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.
Kittilson, M. C. (2007). Research resources in comparative political behavior.
Dalton (Eds.), Handbook on political behavior (pp. 866-895). Oxford: Oxford
In H.-D. KJingemann & R . � �
Ragin, C. C. (2008). Qualitalive comparative analysis using fuzzy sets (fsQC ). In B. ihoux & C. C. Ra­
University Press. gin (Eds.), Configurational comparative melfwds. Qualitative compara11ve analysiS and related tech-
Kocher, R. ( 1 986). Bloodhounds or missionaries: Role definitions of German
and British journalists. Euro­ niques (pp. 87- 1 22). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
pean Journal of Communication, l (I), 43-64. . .
Rihoux, B (2006). Qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) and related systematiC comparat1ve methods:
Kohn, M. L. ( 1 989). Cross-national research as an analytic strategy. In M.
L. Kohn (Ed.), Cross-national Recent advances and remaining challenges for social science research. lnlernalional Sociology, 2 1 (5),
research in sociology (pp. 77-1 02). Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.
679-706.
Kruckeberg, D., & Tsetsura, K. (2003). International index ofbriberyfor
news coverage: A composite index Rihoux, B., & Ragin, C. C. (Eds.) (2008). Configurational comparative methods: Qualitative comparative
by country of variables related 10 the likelihood ofthe existence
of "cashj01· news coverage. " Institute analysis (QCA) and related techniques. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
.
for Public Relations Online: International Research. Retrieved from www.inst
...

ituteforpr.com . Sartori, G. ( 1 994). Compare why and how? In M. Dogan & A. Kazancigil (Eds.), Comparing nations: Con-
Land man, T. (2008). Issues and methods in comparative politics (3rd
ed.). London: Routledge. cepts, stralegies, substance (pp. 1 4-34). Oxford: Blackwell.
Lerner, D. ( 1 958). The passing of traditional society: Modernizing the . .
Middle East. Glencoe, Canada: The Saxer, U. (2008). Konstituenten, Leistungen und Perspektiven vergleichender Med1en- unci Kommumka­
Free Press.
tionsforschung. In G. Melischek, J. Seethaler, & J. Wilke (Eds.), Medien und Kommunikation�forsc­
Lichbach, M. I. ( 1 997). Social theory and comparative politics. In M. I.
Lichbach & A. Zuckerman (Eds.), hung im Verg/eic/1. Grundlagen, Gegensumdsbereiche, Ve1jahrensweisen (pp. 451-478). Wiesbaden,
Comparative politics: Rationality, culture and structure (pp.
239-276). New York, NY: Cambridge Germany: VS Verlag.
University Press.
Schuck, A., Vliegenthart, R., Boomgaarden, H., Elenbaas, M., Azrout, R . , Spanje, J. v., & de Vreese, C.
Lichbach, M. I. (2009). Thinking and working in the midst of things:
Discovery, explanation, and evidence (20 12). Explaining campaign news coverage: How medium, time and context explain varialion in the
in comparative politics. ln M. I. Lichbach & A. Zuckerman (Eds.), Compara
tive politics: Rationality, media framing of the 2009 European Parliamentary elections. Journal of Pofilical Marketing, forth-
cuilure and structure (2nd edition; pp. 1 8-71 ). New York, NY:
Cambridge University Press. coming.
Lim, T. C. (2006). Doing comparative politics. An introduction to approach
es and issues. Boulder, CO: Semetko, H. A., Blumler, J. G., Gurevitch, M., & Weaver, D. H. ( 1 99 1 ). Theformation of campaign agen-
Lynne Rienner.
das: A comparative analysis ofparty and media roles i11 recent America11 and British elections. Hills-
Livingstone, S. (2003). On the challenges of cross-national comparative
media research. European Journal dale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.
of Communication, 1 8(4), 477-500.
Shoemaker, P. J., & Cohen, A. A. (2006). News amrmd !he world: Con1e111, praclitioners and the public.
Livingstone, S., & Bovill, M. (200 I ). Children and !heir changing
media environment. A Ewvpean com­
New York, NY: Rout ledge.
parative study. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Siebert, F. S., Peterson, T., & Schramm, W. ( 1 956). Four Jheories of !he press: The awhoriwrian, libertar­
Mahoney, J. (20 I 0). The new methodology of qualitative research. W
orld Politics, 62(1 ), 120-147. ian, social responsibilily and Soviet CO/IIIIIIIIIisl concepts of what the press should be and do. Cham­
Mancini, P., & HaUin, D. C. (2012). Some caveats about comparat
ive research in media studies. In H. A. paign, lL: University of Illinois Press.
Semetko & M. Scammell (Eels.), SAGE handbook of political conununi
calion. Thousand Oaks, CA: Splichal, s . & Sparks, C. ( 1 994). Journalislsfor !he 21st cenlw)•: Tendencies ofprofessionalization among
.
SAGE, in press.
firsl-year swdents in 22 countries. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Masters, R. D., Prey, S., & Bente, G. ( 1991 ). Dominance & attention
: Images of leaders in German, French, Sreberny-Mohammadi, A., Nordenstreng, K., & Stevenson, R . L. ( 1984). The world of the news study.
& American TV news. Polity, 23(3), 373-394.
Journal of Com1111111ication, 34( l), 134-138.
Mill, J. S. ( 1 843). A system of logic. London: Longman. . . .
Sreberny-Mohammadi, A., Nordenstreng, K., Stevenson, R. L., & UgboaJ3h, F. ( 1985). Fore1gn news 111 the
Norris, P. (2000). A virluous circle. Political comm1111ications
in postindustrial socielies. New York, NY:
media: /nternalional reporting in 29 countries. Paris: UNESCO.
Cambridge University Press.
Norris, P. (2004). Global political communication, Good Stevenson, R. L. (2003). Mapping the news of the world. In B. Dervin & S. H. Chaffee (Eds.), Comll�unica­
governance, human development, and mass com­ tion, a different kind of horse race: Essays honoring Richard F. Carter (pp. 149-165). Cresskill, NJ:
munication. In F. Esser & B. Pfetsch (Eds.), Comparing political
COIIIIIIUnication: Theories, cases, and
challenges (pp. 1 1 5 - 1 50). New York, NY: Cambri Hampton Press.
dge University Press. Straubhaar, J. (2007). World Jelevision: Fmm global to local. Los Angeles: SAGE.
Norris, P. (2009). Comparative political commun . .
ications: Common frameworks or Babelian confusion?
Govemmenl and Opposilion, 44(3), 321
Slrombiick, J., & Dimitrova, D. V. (2006). Political and media systems matter: A companson of election
-340.
Norris, P., & lnglehart, R . (2009). Cosmopolilan news coverage in Sweden and the United States. Harvard lnlernalional Journal of Press/Politics,
COimmmications: Cu!Jural diversily in a globaliz
ed world. 1 1 (4), 1 3 1-147.
New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
22 PRANK ESSER AND THOMAS HAN ITZSCH

Swanson, D. L., & Mancini, P. (Eds.) ( 1996). Politics, media, and democracy: An intemational study of in­
novations in electoral campaigning and their consequences. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Thnstall, J. (2008). The media were American. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Part 1 1
Valkenburg, P. M., & Janssen, S. C. ( 1 999). What do children value in entertainment programs? A cross­
cultural investigation. Joumal of Comnumication, 49(2), 3-2 1 .
Wiles, J . A., Wiles, C . R., & Tjernlund, A. ( 1 995). A comparison o f gender role portrayals in magazine and
advertising: The Netherlands, Sweden and the USA. European Joumal of Marketing, 29( I I ), 35-49.
Wirth, W., & Kolb, S. (2004). Designs and methods of comparative political communication research. In P. DISCIPLI NARY DEVELO P M E NTS
Esser & B. Pfetsch (Eds.), Comparing political co1mnunication: Theories, cases, and challenges (pp.
87- 1 1 1 ). New York: Cambridge University Press.

--.