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date: 24 June 2021

(p. v) Preface

(p. v) Preface

How are networks changing how we communicate and the effects of that communication? How are digital technologies transforming a research agenda that predates the Internet? This Handbook addresses these questions through the lens of empirical research that spans multiple disciplines and methodological approaches but converges in a shared attempt to uncover the logic and consequences of communication in the digital age.

We invited the contributors to this Handbook to be part of the project because their work represents the cutting edge in digital research. Communication is the home discipline for many of the authors (including the editors), but the chapters that follow also represent the work of scholars with diverse disciplinary backgrounds. The research represented here illuminates key aspects of how networks shape or enable communication, as well as some of the consequences of those networked dynamics, both for theory and practice. Together, the contributors to this Handbook form a global network that spans eleven countries, twenty-nine cities, and more than thirty institutions (see Figure 1).


Figure 1 Institutional locations of the authors contributing to this Handbook.

(p. vi) In spite of the diversity of theoretical and disciplinary backgrounds represented here, the Handbook still forms a coherent body of work, organized around thematic sections that highlight key areas of applied research. We wanted to ensure that the work discussed in the pages that follow would arise from common ground and facilitate cumulative research. This common ground takes the form of shared references to prior work from which the authors draw to take their research in different thematic directions (Figure 2). The chapters and sections in this Handbook offer a shared understanding of the state of the art and, perhaps most important, the nature of pending challenges.


Figure 2 Theoretical connections across the chapters and sections in the Handbook.

In chapter 1 we offer more details on the motivation and genealogy behind the Handbook, and we provide an overview of the sections and chapters that organize the contents. In chapter 34 we revisit the main themes articulating the book through the lens of the research discussed. Each part is further introduced by experts in the corresponding domains who have decades of experience and are able to connect past and future research to contextualize the work discussed in the longer trajectory of communication research. We are confident that, taken individually or as a whole, the chapters that follow will offer an exciting entry point to the current frontiers of networked communication research.