Andalusia communication research output by subject: an analysis based on the doctoral dissertations from the Universities of Seville and Malaga

Authors: Víctor Herrero Solana (Universidad de Granada) and Luis Arboledas Márquez (Universidad de Granada)

Citation: : Arboledas Márquez, Luis; Herrero Solana, Víctor (2011).  "Andalusia's communication research output by subject:  an analysis based on the doctoral dissertations from the Universities of Seville and Malaga". Hipertext.net, 9. http://www.upf.edu/hipertextnet/en/numero-9/andalusia-communication-research.html

luis-arboledasvictor-herrero-solana

Abstract: Doctoral dissertations constitute a scientific medium that is often not studied. This is mainly due to the fact that its dissemination is fairly limited. Despite these limitations, in this article we perform a comparative analysis by subject of dissertations written within the field of communication in the leading departments in this field in Andalusia: the Universities of Seville and Malaga.  We find some similarities in both, which can be categorised into three basic subjects.  In order to view them we have used the social network analysis technique (SNA). 

Keywords: Communication, Doctoral dissertations, Scientific production, Analysis of Social Networks, University of Seville, University of Malaga, Andalusia. 

Table of contents

1. Introduction
2. Communication and research in Andalusia
3. Andalusian faculties
4. Background and Objectives
5. Materials and methods
6. Results
7. Conclusions
8. References


1. Introduction

Research on social communication became a definitive part of the Spanish scientific literature in the eighties, coinciding with the recuperation of certain liberties, the accelerated transformation of the media system and the consolidation of university studies in this subject.

There is a wide consensus on the determinant role of universities in developing this research (Casasús (2005), Berrio (1997), García Jiménez (2007), Jones (1998a), Moragas (1998)). The effort made by the university compensates the obvious shortages in the private sector, and above all, the lack of attention from the central and autonomic governments. This attitude must be associated to the government's contempt or inability to clearly confront public communication policies, precisely when they were designing a new political system-a shortage that experts like Moragas (1988 and 1998) have manifested, propagating it even at the level of the European Union.

This inability has mitigated with time, especially in certain territories.   In Catalonia, for example, the autonomous government has, from the start, a place for communication and, amongst other measures, has boosted institutions dedicated to research on communication. This is how in 1987 the Centre d'Investigació de la Comunicació (CEDIC) was established, which has done an excellent job in research and circulation (Jones, 1998b). Just after closing, the Institut de la Comunicació de la UAB (InCom-UAB) and the Consell de l'Audiovisual de Catalunya were founded; both complemented by other institutes like the Institut d'Estudis Catalans, Barcelona's Regional Government, the college of journalists and the Jaume Bofill Foundation (Berrio 1997).

As a result of the activity in these centres and the universities, the "Catalonian school of communication" was consolidated.  One of the "founding fathers" of this current, Miquel de Moragas, had already noted in 1982 the need to properly boost an adequate research policy that works to sustain the government and the opposition to start a "National Communication Policy capable of protecting the democratic system and the culture and political development of Catalonia" (Corominas 1997: 106).

The situation is very different in Andalusia.  When analysing research on communication, the autonomous community of Andalusia can be characterised by a lack of a communication and research policy, a lack of private agents and the concentrated practice in the university. 

2. Communication and research in Andalusia

In 1982 when Andalusia began its self-government, the community was known for its secular backwardness, a growing dependence and marginalisation with respects to the central regions (Delgado Cabeza, 1981); its technical figures placed it as a pre-industrial region (de los Santos López, 1991).

Upon analysing this situation from a communication perspective, Bernardo Díaz Nosty (1999) noted that these characteristics placed Andalusia at a similar level as developing countries in Latin America; the difference, according to its author, is that many Latin American countries tried to counteract the situation by applying a national communication policy as a way of fighting against their under development, while Andalusia's self-government didn't show any interest for these types of strategies.

In short, we can say that the communication policy applied in Andalusia was no more than an imitation of that executed by the PSOE´s centrally controlled governments.  These policies may be characterised by a fierce control of the public media and the liberalisation of the private sector, submitted to the indirect protection and control through figures such as broadcasting grants, governmental publicity or administrative concessions (Fernández and Santana, 2000; Quintana Paz and Sánchez Alonso, 2005; Arboledas, 2008).

Simultaneously, Andalusia's governments have shown no interest in boosting their regional media. The result has been a media system that suffers from the same shortages as its economic structure: lack of an internal structure, weakness, dependence, dominance of non-local production (Torres López, 1999).

In Andalusia there is nothing like Catalonia: in neither the private nor public sector. The Andalusian government has never taken an interest in communication research; neither in the Centro de Estudios Andaluces nor in the Instituto de Estudios Sociales de Andalucía are their programs or research on communication; none of the successive research and development plans have included communication as an aim; the Plan Andalucía Sociedad de la Información (2007-2010) doesn't even dedicate a single line of possible research on communication systems.

While within this bleak setting, the outstanding research activity of the Grupo Comunicar (García Jiménez, 2007) stands out. It was founded in 1987 as the "Seminario Prensa Escuela," promoted by professors and journalists in the province of Huelva. In 1992 the group was implemented regionally and started two lines of action:  one dedicated to developing regional or national projects, and another focused on provincial educational activities; all of this with a set of educational materials and publications, including the Comunicar1 journal.

On the other hand, in a strictly audiovisual sense, we must mention the work of the Fundación Audiovisual de Andalucía, a non-profit organism sponsored by Andalusian radio-television (RTVA). Created in 1998, its aim is to promote the knowledge and development of the region's audiovisual industry; its key instruments are its training courses, sector specific seminars and the dissemination of an annual guide that includes all of the audiovisual operators  (www.fundacionava.org).

In this setting full of so many shortages, the research and analyses made in Andalusian universities take on a special meaning:  they make up the only approach to a sector that very few doubt in calling "strategic."

3. Andalusian faculties

The Communication Departments in Madrid and Barcelona were opened in 1971; in Seville (US) in 1989 and in Malaga (UMA) in 1992. These dates indicate how Andalusia was incorporated with a noticeable delay in communication research, a circumstance that is not seen in other fields like bio-medicine or the so-called pure sciences.

Andalusian centres had a similar origin and evolution: both arose from already existing departments in the "letters" faculties.  While the faculty in Seville started with the Communication and Publicity, Journalism, Literature and Arts Department. Malaga started from the Spanish II and Literary Theory Department.

From a research perspective, this common origin with literature and arts, or in "letters" in a wider sense will become determinant.  As we can see later on, a good part of the scientific production is related to these matters as a detriment to others specifically associated to social communication.

Besides Seville and Malaga, other Andalusian universities have started in recent years to offers degrees in communication. First of all, we see the Publicity and Public Relations degree in the Universidad de Cádiz offered in the Social Sciences and Communication Department in its Jerez Campus, starting in 2005-2006. Then in 2006-2007, the Universidad de Granada started to offer a degree in Audiovisual Communication, through its Communication and Information Sciences department. The academic development of these centres is still young, so they have not been taken into consideration in this study.

Just like in Madrid and Barcelona, the academic activity itself in Andalusian faculties have played a major role in boosting research, especially in the form of doctoral dissertations, essential tools in consolidating a teaching career.

In Seville's Faculty, there was an initial study on its scientific output: the research headed by Ramón Reig on its first decade in operation: from 1989 to 2000. This research presents itself as a "work of precise journalism [...] with the aim of having the data go beyond our university community and be of interest to other researchers that want to go deeper into this matter with this research as base" (Reig et al., 2000: 260).

The analysis is made on research, doctoral dissertations, articles and books. This output is divided into six large subject areas:  journalism, audiovisual communication, publicity, communication, literature and other fields.  The study reviews the number of books and articles and groups them by contents: journalism and communication in general are the most common subject matters in books, while publicity, journalism and communication are the most frequent in published articles during this period (Reig et al. 2000).

This study also includes a list of research projects and doctoral dissertations with its authors and directors, which is organised chronologically and without another analysis besides that of the professors most requested to work as chairs, who are: M. A. Vázquez Medel, J. M. Gómez y Méndez, J. Jiménez Segura and R. Reig (Reig et al. 2000).

This is why it is now more interesting if the subject matters of the research developed in both Andalusian communication faculties are analysed, after having passed fifteen years since their establishment.    In this article we will discuss the production of doctoral dissertations in both centres.

4. Background and Objectives

Doctoral dissertations constitute a very specific document that is even regulated by law in Spain. They are also a valid documentary source to study the state of research in a specific field (López López, 1996). While scientific journal articles are the most commonly analysed document, doctoral dissertations are a good medium to know the focal point of research output in scientific schools (López Yepes, 2002).

A quick overview of the Spanish scientific literature shows us a variety of studies on doctoral dissertations in various subject matters such as:  Psychology (Mestre and Pérez Delgado, 1991; Civera and Tolosa, 2001; Agudelo et al., 2002), Accounting (Casanueva Rocha et al., 2007), Computer Sciences (Urbano, 2005), Geography (Lázaro, 2002), Information Sciences (Fuentes and González, 2002; Perianes, 2005), Ornithology (Barbosa, 2000), Anaesthesiology (Figueredo et al., 2002), and Education (Fernández Cano et al., 2003; Ponce de León et al., 1998; Alvarez Suárez, 2008). Specifically in the field of Communication we found a study on doctoral dissertations focusing on radio broadcasting (Repiso Caballero et al., 2010).

Of these studies the most common use classic bibliometrics, with indicators based on counts, accumulation and rankings. Besides these, there are analyses based on relational markers that are usually represented via analyses of structural techniques and social networks, or just social networks analyses.

This is the approach used in this study. The aim of this study consists in approaching the subject profile of doctoral dissertations in the Communication Faculties at the Universities of Seville and Malaga.  This profile by subject will come from the descriptors field in each of the dissertations.  However, the analysis is not limited to a simple recount of those descriptors, since relational information will also be considered. This way, we can appreciate in which way the descriptors co-exist in each of the dissertations.  The best way to visually represent these relations is precisely by using the social networks method.

5. Materials and methods

The basic idea of a social network is simple: it involves a set of actors (or points, nodes or agents) between which ties (or connections) exist. The networks may have many or few actors and one or more ties between the actors. One reason for using mathematical techniques and graphs in the analysis of social networks is to allow us to represent the description of a network in a concise and systematic fashion. It also enables the use of computers to quickly store and manipulate the information and more precisely than if done manually. The detailed fundamentals of a social network analysis go beyond the extension of this project.   For this we recommend Hanneman and Riddle´s manual (Hanneman and Riddle, 2005).

The information source used was the Teseo database (TESis Españolas Ordenadas), created by the then Ministry of Education in 1975. Since 1997 it has been available free of charge online and is currently run by the Ministry of Science and Innovation. The web interface was updated during the summer of 2008. Now it is much more effective and stronger, but the number of fields to search has been reduced. The data used in this job were obtained from the previous version of the database so that some of the options used might not be currently available.

While the information fed into the databases is provided by the universities own legal obligation, it does not guarantee that the database has information on all the dissertations defended. This, along with the chance of errors in the data, makes it impossible to have access to all of the output. A study from 2008 indicates that, in the Education Department of the University of Granada, only 60% of the dissertations appeared in the Teseo program (Alvarez Suárez 2008). Either way, despite not having 100% of the information on Andalusian dissertations, the amount recuperated is enough to be representative of the whole.

Teseo´s data was taken from the "reading centre" field and is completed from the "department" and "doctoral program" fields.  These entries were given a two letter field label (Dialog) via a software developed ad-hoc.  Under this format the entries could be processed with the Bibexcel3 program, developed by Olle Persson from the University of Umeå. Bibexcel allows us to easily range the tie files which are then viewed in the Pajek4 program, one of the most popular in the analysis of social networks.

6. Results

In table 1 we can see  both universities´ descriptors that appear more than once, in descending order. We see that in the first three positions both rankings coincide. From here on, in the middle and upper-middle we start with some differences. These differences are, above all, in position, since in general the descriptors continue to be the same in both. Towards the end there are some unique descriptors that figure in only one of the universities or below the other's threshold.  The most noteworthy case is the key work Audiovisual Communication and Publicity that appears in six dissertations at the UMA, but none in the US.

Univ. of Seville

Univ. of Málaga

#

 Descriptor

#

 Descriptor

19

 Political Science

23

 Political Science

19

 Public Opinion

21

 Public Opinion

16

 Sociology

15

 Sociology

14

 Letters and Sciences

12

 Mass Communication Media

13

 Mass Communication Media

11

 Press

12

 Social Communication

10

 Letters and Sciences

12

 Fine Arts Analysis and Critique

10

 History

11

 Press

9

 Social Communication

10

 Cinematography

9

 Specialised Histories

9

 History

9

 Fine Arts Analysis and Critique

7

 Specialised Histories

7

 Publicity

5

 History of Journalism

7

 Company Organisation and Management

5

 Psychology

7

 History of Journalism

4

 Social Psychology

7

 Economics

3

 Company Organisation and Management

6

 Social Psychology

3

 Fine Arts Aesthetics

6

 Psychology

3

 Contemporary History

6

 Publicity Techniques

3

 History by Epoch

6

 Audiovisual Communication and Publicity

3

 Publicity techniques

5

 Cinematography

3

 The Science of Technology

4

 Anthropology

3

 Economics

4

 Sociology of Mass Communication Media

2

 History of Art

3

 Music and Music studies

2

 Local History

3

 Marketing

2

 Cultural Anthropology

3

 Social Groups

2

 Drawing and Prints

3

 Cultural Anthropology

2

 The History of Countries

3

 The Sociology of Labour

2

 Pedagogy

3

 Cultural Sociology

2

 Music and Music studies

2

 The Science of Technology

2

 Applied Linguistics

2

 Internet and Intranet

2

 Publicity

2

 Sociological Linguistics

2

 Linguistics

2

 Propaganda

2

 Photography

2

 Telecommunications Technology

2

 Anthropology

2

 Sector Policies

2

 Philosophy

2

 Women's Social Position

2

 Literary Critique and Analysis

2

 Ethnomusicology

 

 

2

 Folklore

Table 1. Ranking of descriptors of both faculties
Source: created with Teseo

In figures 1 and 2 we see the descriptors from the US and UMA (respectively) expressed as networks. The circles represent the descriptors in such a way that the size is directly proportional to the frequency of appearance. While the links indicate the number of dissertations in which each pair of descriptors have coincided (co-occurrence).  

For US, we can see three nuclei of descriptors.  The most noteworthy is the group of descriptors with Press, Political Science, Public Opinion, Mass Communication Media and less often Sociology and Social Communication. The second nucleus could be made up of Fine Arts Analysis and Critique, Letters and Sciences, Cinematography and less often History and Specialised Histories. The third, lower in volume, is made up of Psychology, Social Psychology, Publicity, Publicity Techniques, Company Organisation and Management, and Economics. It's important to highlight that the nuclei do not appear disconnected in different components, but make up part of a whole, giving the sense of homogeneity.   The nuclei are related directly or indirectly through third descriptors, generally periphery, all of lower importance.  The nucleus with the greatest number of peripheral descriptors is second, with a descriptor structure that starts with the term History.  

 

figura1universidaddesevilla

Figure 1 - University of Seville

In the case of UMA, we see that the descriptors appear more strongly linked than in the previous case.  However, we can also see three nuclei. The first is composed of Public Opinion, Political Science, Communication Media, Press and Sociology, amongst others. The second nucleus is much looser. Also to the left, led by Letters and Sciences, Theory, Fine Arts Analysis and Critique, Specialised Histories and others. Finally there is a third nucleus that is made up of Company Organisation and Management, Publicity, Economics and Marketing.  Also, like in the previous case, there are some peripheral descriptors, even though these are different, characterising each of the maps.

Overall we can see a reasonable equivalence between the nuclei of both universities. This especially occurred with the first and third nuclei, with the second one a little more diffused in both cases.  If we compare these nuclei with the three degrees offered by both faculties, we find some correlation between the first nucleus with Journalism and the third with Publicity and Public Relations.  However, Audiovisual Communication-despite both faculties figuring between the top in Spain in offering specific degrees in this field-are not clearly identified with any of the nuclei, even though the second seems to be the most related.

On the other hand, if the focus is taken from the traditional sectors of social communication, we also see notable shortages: we find press, publicity, film, photography, but lack television and radio, the two main mediums in audiovisual communication. Paradoxically we find the cinematographic descriptor, even though none of the faculties specifically teaches film.  On the other hand, and especially in the case of US, historiographic studies stand out, in consonance with the general trend of Spanish academic studies.  The presence of dissertations on arts and literature is also very significant, which can easily be understood by the areas of knowledge that gave rise to this faculty in Seville.

 

figura2universidaddemalaga

Figure 2 - University of Malaga

In the case of UMA, the list by sectors presents similar characteristics to the previous case. Press stands out the most, and we also see publicity, marketing, film or social communication in general; as we indicated earlier, the absence of television and radio is noteworthy. By disciplines and scientific specialities, we already see the traditional domain of History, followed by Political Science, Sociology and Arts in general.

Returning to the first nucleus, in both cases we can see that it centres around the press, in particular, and the media and social communication in general, while somewhat closely linked to politics and public opinion; this situation may be explained from the idea that the press is the fourth estate and has the capacity to generate public opinion and act as a political instrument. A result of all of this is that sociology, the scientific perspective that most analyses these relations between the press and public opinion, appears as most important.   For the case of UMA, we can appreciate a strong relationship with the second nucleus through descriptors such as Social Communication and Specialised Histories.  Besides, in this nucleus, disciplines with strong research traditions in Spain also stand out: History and Sociology.

Finally, we can note that the third nucleus has common descriptors in both cases, even though the less common ones are also important.   In this sense, it's interesting to note the presence of descriptors related to new technologies in UMA (Communication Technologies, Internet and Intranet, and Technological Sciences). UMA behaves in this nucleus much like in the previous ones, presenting a strong relationship with the first. In fact, the Publicity Techniques descriptor appears closer to the latter.  On the other hand, in US´ case, Publicity Techniques, Social Psychology and Psychology clearly appear separated from the rest. This behaviour allows us to more easily identify the three nuclei at UMA.

7. Conclusions

The characterisation of the studied domain allows us to arrive at more than a dozen specific conclusions:

  • Politics, public opinion and journalism are the central focus of doctoral candidates (and directors) of the Andalusian faculties analysed in this article.
  • Social communications in general also figure amongst the most researched subjects, but no specific line of research focuses on communication theories.
  • Art or fine arts, literature and culture in general figure as the other areas that arouse most interest, which is probably due to both faculties´ common origins in the "Letters" departments.
  • Radio or television do not appear as an object of study; these shortages are contrary to the noticeable presence of the press and film.
  • However, audiovisual communication, in terms of a research field, are not a priority in any of the two faculties.  This might be due to the fact that audiovisual communication department has only just recently been configured, and might not be completely established, still to be consolidated, and must confront a new challenge: the concept of multimedia, understood as a more advanced phase where medias, theories and daily practices converge.
  • In UMA we see a clear dominance of the top three: public opinion, political science and printed journalism. This situation is related to one of the most important trends in social communication studies.
  • There is also a noticeable shortage of researchers in Andalusia's communication's system; neither the structure nor the communication policy have received any attention, in comparison to other autonomous communities-like Catalonia- where the structure is one of the areas that they have focused on (Berrio, 1997 and 1998; Corominas, 1997; Casasús, 2005). E
  • Communication theories, and above all, its structure are the two most important areas in which researches from the autonomous community of Catalonia have focused their interest.
  • This community, its relations between public communication policy and research tasks, have created the so called "Escuela Catalana de Comunicación" [Catalonian School of Communiations] dedicated to the analysis of communication.
  • The lack of a similar perspective in Andalusia makes its research lack the links to its regional communications.  This shortage must be associated to the lack of interest from the successive autonomic governments to boost real public communication policies.
  • In short, we could interpret that the scientific output of both faculties responds to its original conditions, related to literature and arts, that is, within the traditional concept of "letters."   This circumstance translates into a greater focus on the press-and related fields like politics and public opinion-and no presence whatsoever of radio and television. 
This study is an attempt to present an initial focus on the main problem (scientific output on communication in Andalusia). This is a result of the ongoing research that will continue in two directions. First, to try and complete the data source.  As we have noted, Teseo´s coverage is far from optimal and complete, and thus requires that the information that has been left out of this official database on dissertations be located and included.   Secondly, we will expand the analysis beyond the subject descriptors. In this sense, it would be of interest to study the make up of the dissertations committee and view them through the analysis of social networks.

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