Latin America & Caribbean

"We try to give a voice to a community"

The volume, coordinated by Diego de Charras, Larisa Kejval and Silvia Hernández, exposes key topics such as the links between society, media and technology, or the relationships between cultural processes, identities, politics and economy. 139 prestigious researchers and teachers from national universities wrote 114 "entries" to this academic discipline. The intention was also "to look at new phenomena with classical eyes."

Oscar Ranzani

By Oscar Ranzani


Key themes of communication that range from the links between society, media and technology to languages and meanings, passing through the relationships between cultural processes, identities, politics and economy are those presented in the brand new Critical Vocabulary of Communication Sciences (Taurus Publishing). It was coordinated by Diego de Charras, Larisa Kejval and Silvia Hernández , who brought together 139 prestigious researchers and teachers from national universities to reach the compendium of 114 entries offered by the 474-page volume. The definitions of the different types of communication, cultural consumption, media ecosystems, popular cultures, social imaginary, digital inclusion, inclusive language, information manipulation, freedom of expression, newsworthiness and cultural policies are just some of the notions that are defined, each one with an investigation. Names like Damián Loretti, Ricardo Forster, Washington Uranga, Pablo Alabarces, Oscar Steimberg, Sandra Carli, Marita Soto, Stella Martini, and María Rosa del Coto are just examples of the prestige of each of the researchers who participated.


Diego de Charras is vice dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the UBA, has a degree in Communication Sciences and is a regular adjunct professor of the Right to Information of the Communication Sciences career. Larisa Kejval is the director of the Communication Sciences Program at the UBA, a doctor in Social Sciences, a master's degree in Communication and Culture and a degree in Communication Sciences. Silvia Hernández has a doctorate in Social Sciences, a master's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies of Subjectivity and a degree in Communication Sciences.

"Vocabulary is an idea that preexists our initiative, which is part of a kind of need that has been thematized in the Communication major for many years," comments De Charras in the interview with Página/12 . "There were attempts by teachers to launch more or less similar initiatives. Until we began to develop this, none of the initiatives had become a concrete project. In that sense, we took what was floating in the air, so to speak, and we turned it into a project, we gave it a form," adds the vice dean of Social Sciences.

-Why is "critical vocabulary" and not "technical dictionary" mentioned in the title of the volume, for example?

Silvia Hernández: -Opting for vocabulary and not for dictionary arises from many searches to review other books. At the time we started thinking about it and developing it, there was no other book with these characteristics. It was about starting to think about other related materials, from nearby disciplines, and also see what terms had been used there, and start investigating. That led to the move from making a dictionary that is more of a closed system, if you will, to vocabulary that refers more to terms of use in the scope of a speaking community. Vocabulary allowed us to account for terms that are in use, that refer to a tradition, that involve future debates. So, it was to give an account of a field of discussions. The question of criticism has to do with several senses.

-As which?

SH: -On the one hand, our tradition in the field of communication and culture has been posed most of the time as a critical field of production with respect to what is given. It was to return to those traditions, to try to make room for that critical view regarding the social, the communicational, the cultural, but also critical in the sense of reviewing what we have been doing from the field of communication, particularly from the last forty years, of the terms that we have been using to think what we have thought, what we have left to think. Criticism of the world, but also self-criticism in a good way.

Larisa Kejval: -Also at this moment saying "criticism" together with the idea of communication is strategic for us because there seems to be a kind of social consensus by which the majority thinks, beyond the university environment, that communication is something important, strategic, etc. Now, at the same time that this consensus exists, it seems that communication works "like this" and that, in any case, what it is about is knowing the techniques to make it work "like that" or work effectively. And, in reality, historically our career and this volume also aim to open a question and shed light on the links between communication and power, communication and inequalities, communication and economic concentration, communication and the political . Therefore, establishing these links and relationships from a critical perspective opens a question about what we want communication to be like.

-In times of the Internet and the amplification of virtuality, you coordinated rigorous work more typical of analog. Why did they think so?

Diego de Charras: -I don't know if it is an analog or classic format. Today literature or bibliography is also read on screens in digital formats. And it is a work that dialogues with technological development. Much of the terminology analyzed is linked to technological development and its impact on communication processes, but at the same time it is a classic format because we wanted to recover the production of meaning from a classic perspective: using bibliographies, authors and traditions , the Entries seek to give an x-ray of the present of the field of communication, particularly of the field of communication at the University of Buenos Aires, but there are many invited writers from different provinces of the country looking towards the past, towards the traditions that formed the teaching teams and the research teams, and thinking about a future of prospecting for those terminologies, those schools of thought. There is something classic about that: looking at new phenomena with classical eyes .

-What was the criteria to reach 114 entries and how was the decision to cut that number?

SH: -It was long. The process of putting together the project took the same time as working with the authors. What we wanted to have in each entry took us a long time because that meant, first, a review of the field, such as conference programs, study plans, subject curricula. We review the great classic books, books of great reference. It was to review a lot of what has been worked on, what is being worked on now in the Communication major at the UBA and in other majors. That whole process took a long time. From there, we also obtained some key words, arranged in coordinates as a hypothesis, which also appear in other bibliography. We must think that the field of communication is divided into large areas, which are not exhaustive, but there is one that has to do with the relationship between the media and society, another that has to do with the languages of communication, the more semiotic, semiological, linguistic, discursive perspective, and another that involves the question of the relationship with culture, power, communication and identities. At the intersection of these three axes, we delimited a lot of terms that, in some cases, are classic terms, and, in other cases, are also tied to some references or people who have particularly developed them.

-And in that relationship between names and terms they were putting together a list...

SH: -That also meant consultations with an advisory council of professors with long experience in our career and with professors who are currently researching to illuminate some specific areas because here our role was that of meeting. It was good to be able to consult with specialized people to ask about the relevance of the terms, if suddenly there were words that we were omitting that were of great relevance. And another interesting thing we did was resort to classic expressions that have had a long life and ask them again what they still have to tell us. And we also made room for some terms that are almost neologisms. It is almost a bet: there is something about communication that we believe that, at this time or in the years to come, will be played on this side.

LK: -When we present the vocabulary in the introduction, but also in our own conversations, in addition to talking about terms and notions, we use a word that is the idea of "entries". So, I find it interesting because those notions that are there are precisely a way of entering a field. The field is not exhausted by these notions, but rather we chose a set of notions to enter a field and a set of debates. But if you go along and get involved, those entries also allow you to enter other notions that perhaps are not highlighted as entries. In that sense, we had an exercise to prioritize what the entrances to the field were going to be. On the other hand, a very important criterion is that it is a situated vocabulary. Firstly, located in our community of the Communication Sciences career. This vocabulary recovers a lot of the terms with which this community speaks. Also located in our country: for example, we have included the term "memory". I don't know if this vocabulary were produced in another Latin American country, the idea of memory would reverberate in the same way. And probably in other regions other notions that have not been highlighted here would appear very strongly. And it is mainly located in Latin America. We speak from here because that was also an important criterion for the selection .

-How was the call to the researchers who ended up writing?

D. de Ch.: - In addition to being an academic and pedagogical project, the Vocabulary is also a political project , not in the sense of giving a political bias to the Vocabulary but in terms of politically consolidating the field of studies within the fields. of the social sciences, within the field of communication in Argentina and Latin America. So, from that place, it was done with a perspective that sought to include different voices, different views on the same entries or taking derivations from some entries by trying to include different perspectives from areas of communication studies research. So, from that place we worked a lot on the pre-production of the preparation of the entries, but also on thinking about the authorship with those entries, because of what I said before, regarding the existence of traditions, of teams, not merely of individuals. The people who write in the Vocabulary are being spoken, in some way, by those who were their predecessors on their teams, in their chairs . Teachers also speak from their own disciples, from their own students, from the hallways. What we are trying to do - and this is the heart of this as a political project - is to be able to give a voice to a community . A community that has forty years of history, that since the 80s has been in a long process of institutionalization and that managed to show sufficient maturity so that almost 140 authors were writing without knowing who else was writing at the same time, at the request of the direction of the Communication degree at the UBA. That is to say, there was a call that managed to call upon an enormous number of figures from the field of communication and that also, in some way, highlights the community nature of the project.

-How do you analyze the media-politics-society triad and what do you think this book can contribute to that discussion?

LK: -It is a constitutive triad of the field. A large part of the definitional debates are played out there and, ultimately, it is what we want to put back into discussion that today appears very invisible. It seems like the entire discussion around communication is how we are better influencers or how we are better tweeters , and how we incorporate the best techniques to be effective in playing the communication game. When, in reality, it is a game constituted by certain economic, social, and political forces that, in addition, has its consequences on other dimensions of the social: who is able to be visible today in the public scene, in what way, etc. Therefore, I believe that this founding question of our field is one that we want to put back on stage or in focus. And to understand this triad we need an arsenal of tools that are these inputs, these notions that the Vocabulary proposes.


D.de Ch.: -No one who has gone through the Communication degree program at the UBA can ignore that the perspective that the degree brings to communication processes is generally a perspective of principles and rights and not a perspective of supports and means. That is to say, we talk about the media all the time, but we never talk about it by essentializing it, but rather from a perspective in which rights are central. What is discussed with technologies, with media, with supports are formats, ways of materializing communication processes, but what is essential in communication processes are not those supports. And that goes for thinking about radio, television or for thinking today about social networks, podcasts, streaming. The essential thing is not the format, but what is produced in terms of content and communication dynamics . In that sense, the race has a history and the Vocabulary recovers that history, makes politics dialogue, makes the media dialogue, but always from a sociohistorical perspective, situated, in connection with culture, with a sociopolitical and historical context that It allows us to analyze the processes not by essentializing the supports, but rather the social dynamics.