Concept Note

2 December 2021

Theoretical and applied problems of research methods in media and communications sciences are considered one of the key issues facing the development of media knowledge within the research field and the Arab academic lesson. These issues represent a group of epistemological obstacles that create a state of stagnation in this cognitive field as well as in the content of media knowledge itself through the phenomenon of chaotic “systemic mending and fabrication” and the superficiality of the process of media research or the “research ease” that reveals methodological and theoretical ironies in the foundations and requirements of the research process. This type of research practice, regardless of its different descriptions, is devoted to fabricated methodological approaches and reductive theoretical approaches to the study of media phenomena and issues by rotating and restoring inherited intellectual perceptions, and traditional theoretical frameworks that deepen the gap between research results and the scientific conditions that establish the understanding and interpretation of the media phenomenon and its study in its social, cultural, political and economic contexts. This style also does not take into account the content of knowledge, first and foremost, as a method and rules for research as opposed to a subject; and the unity of knowledge lies in its methods and not in its material. These epistemological obstacles open the “black box” in research methods, considering the cognitive and value wagers and assumptions that accompany the process of “thinking with the methodology,” rather than “thinking about it,” leading to political results in the social and economic environment, as well as the systematic shortcomings revealed by the digital environment in dealing with the new domains and fields of research introduced by this environment, where immense digital data and digital activity in which social media platforms and digital technology occupy a central position, and constitute an infrastructure for media phenomena.

Many critical studies show defects in the output of Arab media or academic research, which are related first to the process and methodological and theoretical premises of media and communication research, and second to outputs that rarely provide an added value with scientific and authentic feasibility in media and communications research. Furthermore, this research product does not present theses or pioneering scientific knowledge models that are transcultural and contribute to the understanding of different media and platforms and the privacy of the media and digital environment that has renewed the topics of study and research, or enabled the follow-up of the activities of individuals and digital societies as well as groups and countries across the web. We also need frameworks of knowledge that contribute to revealing the role of this environment and its position in our daily reality, and the methods and forms of immersion of its media and platforms in our social, cultural, political and economic environment, as well as its impact on building our perceptions of reality and the formation of public opinion in its various types.

The epistemological obstacles to the development of media and communication research start with a misunderstanding of the essence of the research process itself and a lack of a methodological vision to accommodate its requirements. Much of this research lacks a methodological culture, intellectual tools, and theoretical approaches that help in understanding the phenomenon and explaining its variables and relationships. Here, we find that some research - if we can agree on calling it that - does not give consideration to the approach, which differs according to the issues discussed and the function it performs in studying the dimensions of the subject. Thinking about it is not considered a requirement at the heart of the research process whose neglect leads to the destruction of the research results. In the event that some media studies and research are concerned with methodological framing, they do not have the procedural ability to adapt and employ these tools to serve the objectives and stakes of the research. Also, a lot of research is not concerned with theoretical premises and analytical foundations that provide a cognitive model and a framework of hypotheses for understanding and interpreting the issue or media phenomenon at hand, which leads to simplistic, reductive and partial results dominated by opinion and generalisation, as well as the language of quantification, thus obscuring real cognitive obstacles.

These obstacles extend to poor control of the conceptual apparatus of research. In fact, we find that some research lacks the definition of the terms and concepts that represent a fundamental basis in the subject and the formation of the research problem that is based on a lexical structure established by the sayings and concepts that express the essence and content of the studied phenomenon and help In understanding and explaining its various dimensions. These obstacles also include the problem of building research tools that enable the researcher to explore, observe and follow the media phenomenon, collect data about it, measure its elements and analyse the units of the research community, as well as the problems of this same analysis whose results are the product of misunderstanding the essence of the research process from the origin and reliance on secondary references that are overridden or not credible, in research and scientifically, such as collective blogs and participatory platforms. This raises the question of scientific honesty and the ethics of scientific research that requires objectivity, the avoidance of pre-existing judgments and ideas, and accuracy in transmitting and discussing the ideas of other researchers. Here, the problem of scientific arbitration for media research and studies cannot be overlooked either, which in part reflects the crisis of ethical charters for scientific research, as well as the stalemate in the Arab research and academic scene.

To study these methodological and cognitive problems and the obstacles they represent to the development of media and communication research in the Arab research and academic scene, Al Jazeera Centre for Studies is organising a conference entitled, "Theoretical and Applied Problems of Research Methods in Media and Communication Sciences," on 8 and 9 December 2021.

The themes of the conference, in which a select group of academics and specialised researchers will participate, are divided into four sessions dealing with a range of problems and issues. (See the programme here.)

1. Problems of research methods in media and communication sciences.

2. Scientific research ethics in the field of media and communication

3. The digital media environment and media studies

4. Developing scientific research in the field of media and communication