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A world-systemic analysis of knowledge
production in international communication and
media studies: the epistemic hierarchy of research
Marton Demeter & Manuel Goyanes
To cite this article: Marton Demeter & Manuel Goyanes (2020): A world-systemic analysis
of knowledge production in international communication and media studies: the epistemic
hierarchy of research approaches, The Journal of International Communication, DOI:
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/13216597.2020.1817121
Published online: 13 Sep 2020.
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A world-systemic analysis of knowledge production in
international communication and media studies: the
epistemic hierarchy of research approaches
and Manuel Goyanes
Department of Social Communication, National University of Public Service, Budapest, Hungary;
Department of Communication, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M), Madrid, Spain;
Research Unit, Department of Political Science, Salamanca University, Salamanca, Spain
In this present paper, we analyse the geopolitical distribution
of diﬀerent research approaches represented by the
published papers in all the Journal Citation Reports (JCR)
journals in communication. The article argues that an
analysis of this kind is necessary if a clear picture of the
complex pattern of power relations in global knowledge
production within communication scholarship is needed.
Our empirical evidences show that the global core
publishes theoretical and quantitative papers in a
proportionally greater extent than the global periphery, but
while in 1997 the centre’s contribution was proportionally
greater in theorising and in quantitative research than the
contribution of the periphery, the latter’s contribution in
theorisation slightly raised by 2017.
Global power relations;
Power relations within the global academy in general, and in communication
and media studies, in particular, become an extensively discussed and deeply
analysed ﬁeld of research in recent years (Asante 2018; Canagarajah 2002;
Shi-xu 2016). In general, the extremely robust Western epistemic dominance
vis-à-vis an almost invisible contribution of the periphery has been widely ana-
lysed by decolonialisation studies (Dabashi 2015; Santos 2018), cultural dis-
course studies (Asante 2018; Dowd 2018; Shi-xu 2016) and world polity
theory (Cole 2017; Meyer, Ramirez, and Soysal 1992). Diﬀerent approaches,
however, agreed that Western monoculture (Mignolo 2011) and the epistemic
exploitation of the periphery (Santos 2018) should be at least radically
reduced or, ideally, alternated by a world-system of global academy in which
diﬀerent geopolitical locations are able to express their voices by equal
chances (Demeter 2019).
© 2020 Journal of International Communication
CONTACT Marton Demeter firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
THE JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION
In one of his most signiﬁcant works on the topic, Santos (2011), uses the very
expressive word epistemicide when referring to the fact that central agents of
global science systematically overlook and exterminate rival or alternative
research traditions, epistemologies, and peripheral knowledge. According to
this tradition, the so-called globalisation of knowledge is conceived as an
encounter of cultures that implies the abolishment of the knowledge of the sub-
ordinated participants. As a consequence of the revoke of peripheral knowledge,
an epistemic monoculture emerges (Mignolo 2011), where the West maintains
almost absolute control over the structure of knowledge. According to decoloni-
sation theorists, the global academic community needs a cognitive justice in
which, as contrasted with the current absolute Western dominance, the inter-
national norm in knowledge production is plurality, and even peripheral
members of the community have the right to express, implement and dissemi-
nate diﬀerent forms of knowledge (Santos 2007). With reference to communi-
cation scholarship, Ganter and Ortega stress that postcolonial studies
‘confront institutionalized knowledge and aim to trigger not only a more demo-
cratic rereading of our own scholarly realities but also a greater diversity of per-
spectives in media and communication studies’(Ganter and Ortega 2019, 70).
As Dowd stresses, the aim of cultural discourse studies is a bit more radical
than a simple criticism of Western hegemony: it also oﬀers alternative perspec-
tives to Western approaches in order to understand and interpret culture and
communication (Dowd 2018). As one of the leading ﬁgures of cultural discourse
studies, Shi-xu suggests, the objective of cultural discourse studies is ‘to achieve a
culturally conscious, critical and creative form of discourse and communication
scholarship’(Shi-xu 2016, 7). Tomaselli adds (2016) that cultural discourse
studies are also dealing with the analysis of international power relations of
the ﬁeld. Cultural discourse studies have an unique approach to culture and
communication. It ascertains that the multicultural nature of communication
scholarship is a pivot of the discipline. According to cultural discourse studies,
this multidisciplinary perspective responds to the increasing and ubiquitous
diversity, mobility, and hybridity in the ﬁeld of communication studies (Lee
and Canagarajah 2018). In short, as Shi-xu also stresses, culture is not just a
natural set of values that can be diﬀerentiated in various cultures but rather
an active driving force and implementation of actions taking place in the ﬁeld
of international power relations (Shi-xu 2016). To name only one but maybe
the most important feature of the unbalanced internationality of knowledge pro-
duction, one should refer to the fact that the dominant culture, that is, currently,
the Euro-American or Western culture considered to be the international
culture by deﬁnition (Asante 2018), while other, typically peripheral approaches
should strive for the legitimation of their international signiﬁcance (Canagarajah
Another approach that aims to explain cultural hegemonies within the global
community is world polity research, which emphasises cultural, organisational
2M. DEMETER AND M. GOYANES
and institutional processes and their eﬀects over economic or military powers
(Cole 2017; Meyer et al. 1997; Thomas et al. 1987). This tradition suggests
that diﬀerent –collective or individual –social agents are ‘embedded in and
shaped by a global cultural, social, and political environment, resulting in a
great deal of decoupled isomorphism among them’(Cole 2017, 86). The
theory of world polity considers higher education institutions (HEIs) and
their curricular contents as typical examples of cultural patterns which follow
global or allegedly universal scripts (Meyer, Ramirez, and Soysal 1992). World
polity also emphasises the role of culture in the determination of national and
international institutional structures (Thomas et al. 1987). In the case of
global academy, it means that the academic culture consists of many cultural
scripts that tend to be biased against peripheral participants who are less familiar
with them. Typical examples can be found in the literature of academic writing
where the authors always emphasise the other-than-language factors like modes
of thought, rhetoric, and other kinds of enculturated knowledge (Canagarajah
2002; Curry and Lillis 2018). Practically it means that non-native English aca-
demics have to dedicate much more (professional and ﬁnancial) eﬀort to
write for the international community. On the one hand, they are in a signiﬁcant
disadvantage in terms of developing research papers in a language that is
diﬀerent from their mother tongue. Thus, as contrasted with their native
English colleagues, writing a research paper in English needs more time and
energy for non-native English scholars. On the other hand, independently
from their level of English, non-native English speakers always have to hire
native proof readers for their papers that not just raises the time of the develop-
ment of the articles (and especially books), but also requires signiﬁcant ﬁnancial
resources (Curry and Lillis 2018).
More closely, the lack of real diversity has been also widely investigated in
communication and media studies itself (Lauf 2005; Demeter 2018b; Goyanes
2018,2019) However, one can still ask why cultural diversity is an important
feature of an international ﬁeld of research such as communication studies. In
a globalised world, most scholars are unlikely to reject the idea of a ‘more
equal representation and diversiﬁcation of scholars and studies from around
the world in publications, conferences, and faculties’(Waisbord 2019, 93). Wais-
bord also stresses that in communication studies, globalisation has uneven con-
sequences because the ﬁeld consists of a powerful centre constituted by the U.S.
and a few Western European countries, while other parts of the world contribute
around 1–5%. With this, ‘globalization largely follows existing inequalities in the
global production of academic knowledge’(Waisbord 2019, 95). Thus, while ‘in
an ideal scholarly world, all voices compete in academic discourse regardless of
geographic and linguistic origin’(Hanitzsch 2019, 214), according to both
empirical analyses and theoretical traditions like critical studies, decolonialisa-
tion studies, and world-systems analysis, global science was, and still is, a
THE JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION 3
distorted ﬁeld that privileges more powerful, central agents, regardless of their
purely scientiﬁc merits (Waisbord 2019).
Besides critical voices from the global South like Demeter (2019), Shi-xu
(2016) or Canagarajah (2002), there are also Western scholars, including aca-
demics in strong power positions that propagate the de-Westernisation of com-
munication studies (Rothenberger, Auer, and Pratt 2017; Waisbord 2015a,
2015b; Waisbord and Mellado 2014; Wang 2014). De-Westernisation means,
at least theoretically, the critic of West-centrism of the ﬁeld:
The critique of Euro–American centrism in communication theories has in recent
years led to calls for Afrocentric/Asiacentric approaches to research, and the emer-
gence of geocultural theories. The discussion has underscored the urgency for us to
re-examine the way cultural diﬀerences are handled in academic discourse. (Wang
According to Waisbord and Mellado (2014), de-Westernisation should be
related to scholars, topics, themes, ideas, methods, experiences, epistemologies,
theoretical perspectives and academic cultures. Silvio Waisbord, then editor of
ICA’sﬂagship periodical Journal of Communication clearly expresses his con-
ception regarding de-Westernisation in his 2015s editorial:
JoC also needs to reﬂect the globalization of ICA and the ﬁeld of communication. […]
It needs to give visibility to arguments that invite us to rethink conclusions largely
drawn from studies conducted in the United States and a few countries in the West.
JoC needs to be embedded in the globalized academia to enrich analytical perspectives,
broaden research horizons, and connect diverse academic cultures of communication
scholarship. (Waisbord 2015a, 586–587).
Notwithstanding, a single look at the national diversity of Journal of Com-
munication’s publication output before and after the above discussed de-Wester-
nisation plans reveals that there are no signiﬁcant changes in this respect. Data
show that the contribution of the West is around 90% in both time periods, and
the Global South failed to raise its publication output (Demeter 2018a). The
share of the U.S. has been slightly decreased but mostly in favour of other
Global North regions, typically Western European countries and not for the
beneﬁt of Global South authors. The inequality between diﬀerent regions of
the Global South still exists: developing Asia (mostly China) and South
America have a certain contribution in communication studies (Mei 2020),
but the contribution of other regions like the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern
Europe was and is still absolutely unnoticeable.
Beside leading periodicals like the above mentioned Journal of Communi-
cation, international academic associations also recognised the importance of
de-Westernisation (Meyen 2012; Wiedemann and Meyen 2016; Zelizer 2015).
Nevertheless, their research shows that most fellows of the ICA has exclusively
American background, and all fellows have very strong, typically educational
relations to the Global North. It seems from data that it is almost impossible
4M. DEMETER AND M. GOYANES
to become an internationally recognised scholar in communication studies
without a massive measure of Western academic capital.
Today, ICA’s international leadership is located in world regions closely linked to the
United States and educated at U.S. universities or heavily inﬂuenced by North Amer-
ican research traditions, even if it includes numerous contributions from other associ-
ations and alternative approaches […]. National academic environments in U.S.-
aﬃliated countries became Americanized, especially via ICA fellows serving as role
models to get scientiﬁc capital. Thus, ICA’seﬀorts to expand its leadership are
assumed to have an unintended eﬀect of conserving the power structures in the
ﬁeld. (Wiedemann and Meyen 2016, 1489)
It is noteworthy, that Wiedemann and Meyen deal with mostly de-American-
isation, that means they consider non-American ICA fellows’career paths and
found that they have strong and manifold relations to the U.S. But from their
data an even more striking fact emerges, namely, that there are no Global
South scholars amongst ICA fellows, former and future presidents at all. From
the 112 distinguished ICA fellows, there are 86 from the U.S., followed by
Germany (4), the U.K. (3), Canada (3), Israel (3), Australia (2), the Netherlands
(2), Singapore (2), and there are 1–1 fellows from Belgium, Denmark, Sweden,
Finland, South Korea, Japan, and Hong-Kong. As the authors accurately
observed, ‘for ICA going international means going to rich, economically
strong countries’(Wiedemann and Meyen 2016, 1496). As a conclusion, it
seems that centre-based pull-eﬀorts or de-Westernisation attempts in the ﬁeld
haven’t succeeded in raising the contribution of the periphery in communication
studies. There is no signiﬁcant accession in the number of noncore articles in
leading periodicals of the ﬁeld (Demeter 2018b), the participation of other
than Western fellows in most prestigious academic associations is totally unno-
ticeable (Wiedemann and Meyen 2016), and the editorial boards of leading
periodicals are full of Western scholars while the amount of noncore editorial
board members is minimal (Demeter 2018b; Goyanes 2019; Lauf 2005). More-
over, as current research shows, the national diversity of editorial boards corre-
lates with the diversity of the journal’s publication output so a less diverse
editorial board typically correlates with less diverse authorship (Goyanes 2018;
Youk and Park 2019).
However, one very important aspect of global power relations in communi-
cation research has not been analysed yet: namely, the geopolitical distribution
of diﬀerent research approaches represented by the published papers. Despite
there were former studies measuring diversity in terms of paradigms, research
methods and theoretical frameworks (Freelon 2013; Günther and Domahidi
2017; Waisbord 2019), the ﬁndings were not related to geopolitical core–periph-
ery relations. While the representation of diﬀerent geographical locations within
communication scholarship has been extensively investigated (Ganter and
Ortega 2019; Hanitzsch 2019), and there were theoretical attempts to relate geo-
political inequities to core–periphery or world-systemic structures (Demeter
THE JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION 5
2019) one important step is still missing, namely, the relation of diﬀerent
research approaches to geopolitical or systemic positions. This present study
attempts to ﬁll this gap by analysing how diﬀerent research approaches and
methodologies relate to diﬀerent geopolitical positions in communication and
media studies. The article argues that an analysis of this kind is absolutely
necessary if a clear picture of the complex pattern of power relations in the
ﬁeld is needed, since the distribution of published papers is not a clear represen-
tation of real power relations in itself.
Researchers of global inequalities in knowledge production realised that episte-
mic hierarchies are represented in not just the quantitative measures of the pub-
lished papers but also in the research approaches of published academic work
(Canagarajah 2002). As Demeter (2019) showed it, typical central processes in
the world-system of knowledge production are theorisation and ascertaining
the internationally accepted methods, while noncore regions are, in most
cases, restricted to adopt the ascertained Western theories and methods. Scho-
lars in decolonialisation studies assert that the phenomenon of epistemic mono-
culture refers to the fact that core regions, typically the U.S. and Western Europe
gives the epistemic ground, including theoretical frameworks and accepted
methods, and they consider noncore episteme as proto-science or ethnoscience
(Santos 2018). Postcolonial research presents many examples of the colonising
eﬀect of Western theoretical/methodological perspectives in local academic
culture. According to Youchi Ito (1990), Japanese scholars tend to adopt
diﬀerent viewpoints on applying Western social theory in order to analyse Japa-
nese issues, some simply translating Western social theory into Japanese for
direct application. As a result, within Western journals, Japanese communi-
cation problems are usually conceptualised and analysed by using Western con-
ceptualisation. On the other hand, Spanish communication journals’norms
diverge from American standards, with more focus on critical interpretation
and less on empirical analysis. As a consequence, Spanish academic papers
are tend to be largely ‘unpublishable’in elite international journals. In order
to adapt to recent trends in scientiﬁc policy (that force scholars to publish in
Journal Citation Report (JCR) journals), the research community is becoming
more empirically oriented (Goyanes, Rodriguez-Gomez, and Rosique-Cedillo
2018), adopting U.S.-styled empirical research perspectives (Goyanes 2019).
The ongoing globalisation of social sciences also raises concerns about the
reproduction of hierarchical dynamics between the centre and the periphery
with regard to methodological practice and norms of knowledge production
(Gobo 2011). Research and publishing practices in communication studies are
dominated by Western agendas which determine epistemic, methodological,
theoretical and even rhetorical norms (Gunaratne 2010; Waisbord 2019).
6M. DEMETER AND M. GOYANES
Some scholars highlight the growing pressure that emerging peripheral scholars
are subjected to by their institutions to ‘prove’that they are world class, or at
least internationally recognised researchers by adapting the norms of
Western-dominated journals (Alvesson, Gabriel, and Paulsen 2017). Standard-
isation, empirisation and internationalisation have become the basic norms of
research (Murphy and Zhu 2012). The result of this complex trend is an
increased level of concentration on Western perspectives and topics, the ignor-
ance of local contexts and the implementation of Western research frameworks
and methods to explore local research interests (Goyanes 2019; Gunaratne
World-systems analysis that deals with centre–periphery relations on a global
scale proved to be an ideal candidate as a theoretical framework in which global
inequalities in knowledge production are discussed (Demeter 2019). According
to Wallerstein, a world-system is a multicultural and international network in
which diﬀerent necessities ﬂow (Wallerstein 1974a,1974b,1979). This
network entails diﬀerent nations and world regions with diﬀerent cultures,
norms, languages, institutions, values and so on. Chase-Dunn and Hall (1997)
deﬁned world-systems as ‘intersocietal networks in which the interactions
(e.g., trade, warfare, intermarriage, information) are important for the reproduc-
tion of the internal structures of the composite units and importantly aﬀect
changes that occur in these local structures’(Chase-Dunn and Hall 1997, 28).
Another important feature of a world-system is that it develops a typical
core–periphery structure by the regionally diﬀerent accumulation of capital
Schott’s research (1998) is one of the ﬁrst and most emblematic analyses
dealing with global science in a world-systemic framework. Schott observed
that global science can be conceived as a network of its agents, and world-
systems theory is a perfect explanatory frame for the analysis of the main ties
between participating agents. He pointed out the most important processes by
which the ﬁeld of global academy maintains its hegemonic structure, and he suc-
cessfully identiﬁed the diﬀerences between the capital accumulation of central,
semi-peripheral, and peripheral regions of the world. However, Demeter
(2019) criticised Schott’s analysis on the ground that it overemphasises the
role of the so-called international standards, which are, in reality, Western stan-
dards, in attributing higher achievement and status to more central academics.
Moreover, Schott also underestimates the ways world-systemic dynamics repro-
duce inequalities in the global academy. Schott wrote, for example, that
The community of scientists is not a community of equals because scientists diﬀer in
their accomplishments, and its network is not a uniform grid. Indeed, an accomplished
scientist attracts many ties while a novice is typically ignored. Ties are especially dense
between some participants and particularly sparse between some nodes. Ties are dense
within a country and sparse between diﬀerent nations. Ties within and to a periphery
THE JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION 7
are sparse. The accomplishments of the center attract more ties, both from within the
center and from peripheries. (Schott 1998, 116)
From Schott’s analysis, it follows that the centre has more academic capital
solely thanks to the higher accomplishment of its academic institutions and indi-
vidual scholars. But, according to more critical researchers from decolonialisa-
tion theory (Mignolo and Walsh 2018; Santos 2007), cultural discourse studies
(Dowd 2018; Shi-xu 2016; Tomaselli 2016) or world-systems research (Schott
1998; Demeter 2019), the centre’s hegemony is based, in many ways, on its
capacity to deﬁne the applicable standards that are, without exception,
Western standards. As a result, this phenomenon favours Western scholars
and institutions in the extreme while the same standards exclude noncore aca-
demic traditions as traditions with only regional signiﬁcance (Santos 2018).
Based on former research on epistemic hierarchies, it can be assumed that,
besides the core–periphery structure in publication output patterns, editorial
board compositions, international association memberships, academic positions
and so on, there is also an epistemic core-peripherality: the core provides the
theory and the so-called international, empirical research protocols and
methods while the periphery should either follow these regulations or provide
research papers with less epistemic value (without oﬀering concurrent theories,
methods or approaches). With this, there is a cumulative disadvantage for the
periphery. On the one hand, they are much less visible than central authors in
every level of the academy, and, on the other hand, even those papers that are
published are, mostly, either epistemically Westernised quantitative articles or
qualitative papers with regional signiﬁcance only (Freelon 2013). As opposed
to the periphery, the core ascertains leading epistemic, theoretical and methodo-
logical standards. Based on these considerations, an epistemic hierarchy can be
established in which the leading position is occupied by theoretical papers, it is
followed by methodologically rigorous quantitative papers and the epistemically
less powerful position goes to theoretically and methodologically less saturated
qualitative approaches. From this, we can formulate our closely related research
questions as follows:
RQ1 How is the distribution of papers with diﬀerent approaches on a global level
RQ2 Is there any changes in the patterns of global knowledge production between 1997
In this present paper, we will analyse the distribution of epistemic power pos-
itions in the ﬁeld of communication studies and we will relate this distribution to
geopolitical world-systemic positions. In order to have a comparative perspec-
tive, we will also contrast the aforementioned epistemic hierarchies in two ana-
lysed time periods: in 1997 and in 2017 in order to provide both a cross-sectional
and a longitudinal analysis. The paper embraces the last two decades only,
because it is the time period when both the global internalisation projects
8M. DEMETER AND M. GOYANES
(Aksnes et al. 2013; Asheulova and Dushina 2014; Bauder 2015) and the publish
or perish paradigms (Erren, Shaw, and Morfeld 2016; Zdenek 2018) have
First, we made a set of research papers from all the manuscripts in communi-
cation studies that were published in 1997 and in 2017. We selected those
periodicals that are indexed in JCR SSCI list in communication (N= 84). We
made a proportional random sample from set of the articles that is representa-
tive to all papers published in 1997 and in 2017, with a margin error of ± 5%.
Our proportional random sample consists of 283 articles in 2017 and 263 articles
in 1997. Articles were selected by computerised random number generator.
In order to answer our research question we coded the selection of the papers
by the coding protocol used by Goyanes et al. (2020):
First author origin/aﬃliation
Value 1 [The United States], Value 2 [The United Kingdom], Value 3 [Western
Europe, including Scandinavia and Southern EU member countries], Value 4
[Canada], Value 5 [Developed Asia including Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Sin-
gapore and South Korea], Value 6 [Australia and New Zealand], Value 7 [The
Middle East, except Israel], Value 8 [Africa], Value 9 [Latin America including
both South and Middle America], Value 10 [Eastern Europe including Russia],
Value 11 [Developing Asia including China and India], Value 12 [Israel]. We
have combined diﬀerent geopolitical levels to present the data in a coherent
and sensible manner, following previous studies (Demeter 2018b). We con-
sidered the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia (with New Zealand), and Israel
as independent values at country level because they have numerous academic
agents in terms of authorship (Demeter 2018b; Lauf 2005). We considered
Africa on a continent level since its contribution to the total number of
authors is minimal. Finally, we have considered the Middle East, Developed
Asia, Western Europe, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Undeveloped Asia
at a geographical level in order to make geopolitical distinctions between and
within continents based on their cultural, economic and scientometric roots.
The similar patterns were also applied for the land of data collection.
Land of data collection
Value 1 [The United States], Value 2 [The United Kingdom], Value 3 [Western
Europe, including Scandinavia and Southern EU member countries], Value 4
[Canada], Value 5 [Developed Asia including Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Sin-
gapore and South Korea], Value 6 [Australia and New Zealand], Value 7 [The
THE JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION 9
Middle East, except Israel], Value 8 [Africa], Value 9 [Latin America including
both South and Middle America], Value 10 [Eastern Europe including Russia],
Value 11 [Developing Asia including China and India], Value 12 [Israel], Value
World region categorisation
According to former geopolitical analyses on the publication output of world
regions, we categorised Value 1 [U.S.], Value 2 [U.K.], Value 3 [Western
Europe], Value 4 [Canada], Value 5 [Developed Asia including Japan,
Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong], Value 6 [Australia] and
Value 12 [Israel] as parts of the Centre, while the periphery consists of Value
7 [Middle East], Value 8 [Africa], Value 9 [South America], Value 10 [Eastern
Europe] and Value 11 [Developing Asia].
Value 1 [experiment], Value 2 [survey], Value 3 [content analysis], Value 4
[observation], Value 5 [interview/ethnography], Value 6 [multi-methods],
Value 7 [discourse/grounded theory].
Value 1 [quantitative], Value 2 [qualitative], Value 3 [mixed], Value 4
While First author origin/aﬃliation and Land of data collection categories
were unambiguous categories, Methodologies, and Research approach categories
were less obviously clear-cut categories. Thus, after the coding process, we
measured intercoder reliability tests for these categories. We used the Cohen
kappa intercoder reliability coeﬃcient (Cohen 1960) with a result of 0.93 that
signiﬁes almost perfect reliability (Landis and Koch 1977).
After coding our two samples from 1997 and 2017, we measured the pro-
portion of theoretical, qualitative and quantitative papers in central and periph-
eral articles, and we also measured the participation of diﬀerent world regions as
lands of data collection in theoretical, qualitative and quantitative papers. We
also measured the proportion of world regions in producing science output by
diﬀerent methodologies (experiment, survey, content analysis, observation,
interview/ethnography, multi-methods analysis and discourse analysis/
grounded theory). Moreover, we measured the proportion of research papers
in each analysed time period in order to observe possible trends. Finally, we
develop a hypothetical model that is capable to explain the world-systemic epis-
temic hierarchies in communication studies through theoretical considerations
and empirical evidence.
10 M. DEMETER AND M. GOYANES
After the coding process, we found that the number of peripheral articles is as
low as we are not able to conduct chi square modelling. The low number of
papers from the periphery has signiﬁcantly aﬀected the expected values. As a
consequence, we decided to work with descriptive statistics. However, a chi-
square test of independence was conducted between the year of production
and type of approach (collapsing mix methods and theoretical studies to have
a minimum sample size). All expected cell frequencies were greater than ﬁve.
There was a statistically signiﬁcant association between the year of production
and approach, χ
(2) = 40.00, p< .001. The association was moderately strong
(Cohen 1988), Cramer’sV= .271. We can observe that qualitative studies are
dominant in 1997, while in 2017 quantitative research is the paradigmatic
approach. For post hoc testing we used adjusted standardised residuals. Cells
with a large absolute adjusted standardised residual indicate where the lack of
independence is occurring within the crosstabulation (i.e., the cells that are
mostly responsible for the rejection of the null hypothesis) (Kateri 2014). Two
common guidelines to determine when a cell deviates signiﬁcantly from inde-
pendence (i.e., provides evidence against the null hypothesis) are when the
absolute adjusted standardised residuals are greater than either 2 or 3 (standard
errors) (e.g., Agresti 2013; Agresti and Franklin 2014). The two largest standar-
dised residuals were quantitative studies produced in 1997 and 2017. For the
case of quantitative articles published in 2017, 135 articles were produced, 35
articles more than what would be expected, with an adjusted standardised
residual of 6.3. A reversed pattern is found in quantitative articles produced
in 1997. Residuals of qualitative articles both in 1997 and 2017 also indicate
that these variables signiﬁcantly contribute to reject the null hypothesis
As Table 2 shows, there were visible shifts in the past twenty years in terms of
both geopolitical power relations and research approaches. Consider, ﬁrst, the
distribution of research papers by the aﬃliation of the ﬁrst authors. While in
1997, the U.S. has 65% of the research output, its participation fell under 50%
by 2017. However, this decline was not the result of the emergence of the per-
iphery but was rather caused by the rise of other central regions, typically
Western Europe which doubled its contribution and by the developed Asia
Table 1. Crosstabulation of year of production and approach.
Year Quantitative Qualitative Theoretical and mixed methods
1997 58 (−6.3) 130 (4.5) 75 (1.9)
2017 135 (6.3) 87 (−4.5) 61 (−1.9)
Note: Adjusted residuals appear in parenthesis bellow observed frequencies.
THE JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION 11
that triplicated it. The contribution of the periphery remained very low, raised
from 4 to 7%, but, as we will see it later, it is not the consequence of a more
inclusive editorial policy of top-tier central periodicals but, mostly, it is the
result of the fact that the SSCI list contains some periphery-speciﬁc journals
in 2017 that are more inclusive in terms of publishing peripheral articles. The
very similar, but less radical trend can be seen in terms of the distribution of
lands of data collection. As opposed to ﬁrst author origin data that refer to
the origin of the paper, information on the land of data collection represents
the regional focus of the article. Thus, for example, Table 2 shows that, in
1997, 63% of the research output declared information on American issues,
and, data on which the papers were based contained central data in 97%. The
situation slightly changed by 2017 where, similarly to the trends in authorship,
there is a decline in American data and an emergence in the extent Western
European data is used. However, unlike authorship trends, land of data trends
favour the periphery since it raised its contribution as a data source. This is
especially true of Africa and developing Asia, especially China and India.
The aggregated numbers show that while the theoretical contribution of the
periphery was only 1%, in 1997, it raised by 2017 when the periphery gives
more than 10% of the sum of the published theoretical articles. There is a
slight change in the case of qualitative research, here the contribution of the per-
iphery rose from 5% to 7%. However, these numbers can be interpreted in a
more complex way, since we have to compare the participation of world
regions to overall trends in research approaches.
Data show that a visible shift happened in communication studies in the past
twenty years: the change can be described as a change towards quantiﬁcation
(Figure 1). It means that the number of papers with mainly theoretical contri-
bution lowered, together with a decline of qualitative papers, while papers
Table 2. The contribution of diﬀerent world regions in science output, in the data source and in
research approaches. Because of the marginal participation of various world regions, we
measured aggregated data only in the case of research approaches.
First author (%) Land of data (%)
1997 2017 1997 2017 1997 2017 1997 2017
U.S. 65 49 63 34
U.K. 10 9 8 5
Western EU 8 18 8 17
Canada 3 3 1 1
Developed Asia 2 6 4 6
Australia 6 6 6 3
Israel 3 3 2 2
Center sum 97 94 97 86 99 89 96 93
Middle East <1 <1 1 1
Africa <1 2 0 3
Latin America <1 1 1 2
Eastern EU <1 2 0 2
Developing Asia 1 3 1 6
Periphery sum 3 6 3 14 1 11 4 7
12 M. DEMETER AND M. GOYANES
with quantitative approach doubled their scale. Also, there is a clear and
strengthening tendency towards mixed-methods analyses. A detailed analysis
of research methods underlines these trends (Figure 2). The number of research
papers with content analysis and survey method has increased while the signiﬁ-
cance of discourse analysis and simple observation decreased. The contribution
of research conducted with multi-methods analysis increased, in accordance
with the overall emergence of mixed methods approaches, as it has been indi-
cated above (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Research approach distribution in 1997 and 2017.
Figure 2. Methodology distribution in 1997 and 2017.
THE JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION 13
Discussion and conclusions
In relation to our research questions, results refer to at least three trends in
communication and media studies. The ﬁrst trend is the trend of invariance:
despite the so-called de-Westernisation initiatives that were discussed in the
Introduction, the contribution of noncore regions has not visibly increased
in the past twenty years. The second trend shows that the periphery, as a
potential data source, slightly increased its signiﬁcance. Together with the
ﬁrst trend, it means that central scholars now tend to analyse more peripheral
data than 20 years ago, rather than let noncore scholars publish their own ana-
lyses on indigenous issues. The third trend relates to the decrease of theoretical
works and qualitative research in favour of quantitative and mixed-methods
In light of these overall trends, and especially of the third one, the centre–per-
iphery relations in epistemic hierarchies are clearly gatherable. The ﬁrst and
most important epistemic feature of this world-systemic operation is that,
while, in terms of the number of published papers, the signiﬁcance of qualitative
research is decreasing, the periphery even raised its contribution in the publi-
cation of qualitative research. This process is very similar to the operation of
global markets, where less valued productive processes are outsourced to the
periphery, while the centre concentrates innovative and cutting-edge pro-
duction. As in the case of centrally globalised markets, the ﬁeld of knowledge
production operates as a centrally controlled system where the periphery is
unable to participate in trending processes. 20 years before when theory and
qualitative research were more popular than nowadays, the participation of
noncore regions was almost zero in theorisation, and around 5% in qualitative
research, despite all the peripheral papers were qualitative. Now, when quantiﬁ-
cation is the new trend, the periphery is able to emerge mostly in theorisation
Figure 3. Longitudinal trends in participating in diﬀerent research approaches.
14 M. DEMETER AND M. GOYANES
and qualitative research and only slightly increased its quantitative and mixed-
methods proﬁle (Figure 3).
However, as it can be seen from data, the periphery is well aware of the exist-
ing trends and try to raise its contribution in quantitative research as well,
although it was unable to do it in similar pace than the centre. As in the case
of any word-systemic movement, the centre dictates the hierarchy by simply
emphasising diﬀerent approaches. As we can see, in the case of knowledge pro-
duction in communication studies, the centre systematically decreased the
amount of its theoretical and qualitative research output while considerably
raised the number of quantitative and mixed-methods papers. With this, the
centre established a new epistemic hierarchy that should be followed in order
to be acknowledged by the so-called international standards.
As a conclusion of our analysis, we construct a hypothetical model that
describes epistemic power relation trends in the ﬁeld of communication
studies. During the construction, we went oﬀof the conception of the epistemic
hierarchy as it was delineated at the Introduction. Accordingly, theoretical and
quantitative approaches bear more epistemic power than the methodologically
less rigorous qualitative approaches, and we hypothesised that epistemic
power relations will be similar than general power relations, represented by
the contribution of core and peripheral regions in research output. This paper
analysed the ways how existing central-periphery relations in the knowledge
production in communication studies relate to the epistemic positions of the
published research. Based on the results of our analysis we can answer this ques-
tion as follows. First, in 1997, when, in terms of the share of published papers,
the theoretical contribution was more important than 20 years later, the centre
occupied the whole ﬁeld, letting place for theoretical articles from the periphery
in only 1%. The number of peripheral articles with methodologically internatio-
nalised, that actually means, westernised quantitative approach was zero: all the
peripheral articles was qualitative that were, and is still, the research approach on
a lower epistemic power position. After twenty years, we can see a decrease in the
number of theoretical papers parallelly with an increase in the number of quan-
titative papers. Accordingly, and correspondingly with world-systemic power
dynamics, the centre lowered its theoretical contribution while raised its quan-
titative production. As opposed to central movements, the periphery raised both
its theoretical and qualitative contribution, while the emergence of its qualitative
production was minor, as contrasted with the centre. In short, the world-sys-
temic dynamics of knowledge production in communication studies is attached
to an epistemic realignment in which central agents not just determine the
leading approaches but also raise their contribution in those research projects
that use these particular approaches.
While it was true in 1997, that the centre’s contribution was proportionally
greater in theorising and in quantitative research than the contribution of the
periphery, the periphery’s contribution in theorisation raised by 2017.
THE JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION 15
However, this change was not due to some de-Westernisation or decentralisa-
tion dynamics but was rather a consequence of an epistemic shift by which
theorisation became less frequently published and thus central agents moved
towards the more trending quantitative approach. At the same time, the contri-
bution of the periphery emerges mostly on those ﬁelds that were devalued by the
centre and, accordingly, where the competition might be less alive. However,
especially in the case of the greater presence of theoretical papers from the per-
iphery, we should add that the appearance of SSCI listed communication jour-
nals with periphery-speciﬁc focus might lead to a greater peripheral contribution
while the exclusion of peripheral theory in more general, established communi-
cation journals is continuous.
Turning now to our aforementioned hypothetic model of epistemic hierar-
chies in knowledge production, we realise that we should construct it in a
dynamic way in order to be able to represent longitudinal trends. Thus, the
model should be able to show not just epistemic hierarchy but also its
changes over time. Our model should be answered on the questions of (1)
Who product the knowledge (2) On what (geopolitical location) they produce
knowledge (3) Which geopolitical power relations are associated with diﬀerent
hierarchical epistemic positions in knowledge production? Table 3 summarises
the components of our hypothetic model, and also contains our ﬁndings in the
case of communication studies.
Table 3. A hypothetic model of epistemic hierarchies in knowledge production in light of
geopolitical power relations. Applied to the ﬁeld of communication studies, 1997–2017.
Who On what
positions Temporal dimension
Centre Dominates the
with top epistemic
Continuously dominate the research
Collect slightly more data on
peripheral geopolitical locations
Lowers the epistemic position of
theoretical and qualitative
Strengthen the epistemic position
of quantitative and mixed-
Periphery Very low
Continuously minimal contribution
Slightly more visible as a data
source (but not as knowledge
Try to follow existing epistemic
hierarchies, while also tend to
occupy areas with decreasing
epistemic values, supposedly
because of the decreasing
More theoretical and qualitative
Emerging publication output in
16 M. DEMETER AND M. GOYANES
As a conclusion, we ascertain that our analysis and our hypothetical model con-
tribute to the existing literature on de-Westernisation and decentralisation of
academy in general and in communication studies in particular in three respects.
First, it emphasises the fact that science output should not be measured in terms of
knowledge production indiﬀerently from the epistemic status of the published
papers. While there are throughout analyses dealing with geopolitical inequalities
or research approach diversities, our analysis is the ﬁrst that relates and links these
two important factors of knowledge production. Our model suggests that the pure
quantitative assessment of research output does not give a clear picture of knowl-
edge production, thus, we have to weight data with the epistemic status of the cor-
responding papers. Second, the paper suggests the existence of an epistemic
hierarchy, by which the more autonomy a research approach has, the higher its
hierarchical position will be in terms of epistemic value. Our subsequent analysis
showed that this is only partially true since world-systemic dynamics apply to the
ﬁeld of knowledge production in an extent that the centre is able to determine the
epistemic positions of the research papers and, consequently, it will reorganise its
operation towards the most valued ﬁeld. Finally, we presented an analysis of the
ﬁeld of communication studies in order to test our model and to provide a case
study by which other communication scholars or researchers from other disci-
plines can assess diﬀerent academic ﬁelds in terms of knowledge production in
a much complex way than it is usual.
Limitations and further research directions
As a consequence of a very limited number of articles from the periphery, it was
impossible to statistically prove our ﬁndings, thus we relied only on proportional
data. The limited data restricted us to make statistical modelling for only production
and approaches (see Table 1). In many cases, the number of peripheral articles was
even zero, thus the data did not ﬁt for chi-square modelling, as the expected values
are under 5. As a consequence, we were restricted to present the share of the corre-
sponding world regions in production and in diﬀerent research methodologies.
While our ﬁndings show visible trends in knowledge production, further studies
should statistically verify our ﬁndings by working with a much larger set of data.
An additional limitation of our study that we measured importance and epis-
temic value in terms of the share of published papers with diﬀerent method-
ologies. While the results of an analysis of this kind can show clear trends, a
multi-methods analysis that is dealing with other factors such as citations, inter-
nationalisation, impact factor or SJR is highly needed, and a multidimensional
analysis could specify or even modify our ﬁndings.
No potential conﬂict of interest was reported by the author(s).
THE JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION 17
This work was supported by Magyar Tudományos Akadémia .
Notes on contributors
Marton Demeter is an associate professor at the National University of Public Service,
Department of Social Communication. His main focus of research is global knowledge pro-
duction, academic capital accumulation and core-periphery biases in global academy. His
monograph entitled Academic Knowledge Production and the Global South will be pub-
lished in fall, 2020 by Palgrave.
Manuel Goyanes teaches at Carlos III University in Madrid and his main insterests are in
media management and sociology of communication sciences. He has written about reader-
ship, news overload and business models. He is the author of Desafíoa la Investigación Están-
dar en Comunicatión, Crítica y Alternativas, Editorial OUC.
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