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The 65th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association

Communication Across the Life Span
San Juan, Puerto Rico
21-25 May 2015

The 2015 conference theme “Communication Across the Life Span” encourages academics to explore the various ways in which our discipline provides a lens for interpreting the evolving meanings, relationships, experiences, and critical crossroads of the life course. Technological evolution, economic changes, medical advancements, environmental turbulence, political movements, and other evolving circumstances not only influence our experiences across the life span, but also the development of social policies and ethical frameworks that shape societies. Across domains, life-span dynamics are inseparable from the communication processes surrounding them.

This year’s conference theme seeks to explore the multiple ways communication affects, reflects and directs life’s trajectory. As we grow up and grow old, embrace new experiences, try on new roles, and adopt new media technologies, our sense of time, space, connection, and identity are fundamentally explored through communication. The questions of why, how, with whom, and to what end humans communicate reflect and shape their ever-changing life-span position. And, while the “life span” can be conceived as a continuum, it is also one hinged by critical junctures and bound by cultural definitions that can be better understood through communication.

The theme “Communication Across the Life Span” recognizes that as humans transition through life, communication expectations shift, roles are redefined, media use patterns transform, and interaction patterns evolve. From a thematic perspective we might consider the ways in which norms for maintaining relationships through communication shift within and between life stages. From a methodological perspective, we might explore the need for life-stage variables and age-appropriate measures.

We encourage exploration of the conference theme from a variety of viewpoints. For example, “life span” can be considered as age-connected developmental factors. But it can also be viewed as a place from which to consider social roles and cultural contexts, irrespective of chronological age. Moreover, it is important to recognize that notions of “age,” “life stage,” and “life span” are socially, geographically, and historically constructed. For example, the ways in which cultures define “generations” may be rooted in the technology, politics, or economy of the time. The conventional construction of children as asexual may constrain conversations about sexual identity and sexual health in some communities. Additionally, “new” life stages are introduced as educational and economic realities shift (witness the relatively modern construction of “adolescence” and the current interest in “emerging adult” as a distinct time of life). Adding to the ways we imagine the life span is the information that is conveyed through media; for example, portrayals of characters and celebrities set up expectations of what to wear, how to talk, and how to behave. And rapidly developing media technologies have the potential to change life stage experiences by, for example, connecting or isolating individuals or groups. As we consider issues related to “Communication Across the Life Span,” it is necessary to explore the relevant theories and methodological challenges associated with the life-span communication approach.

With this broad definition, the conference theme “Communication Across the Life Span” aims to encourage ICA’s unique interdisciplinary perspective to investigate issues that are meaningful within and across divisions and interest groups. Such issues might include:

  • Intergenerational communication across cultures
  • Generational differences in the adoption of communication technologies
  • Experiences of inequalities over the life span
  • Interpersonal communication within and/or between life stages
  • Social media use and identity development
  • Cradle-to-grave” marketing and consumer identity
  • Life stage considerations for health promotion campaign design
  • The implications of changing age contours in the workforce
  • Appropriate methods, both quantitative and qualitative, needed for capturing change across time
  • Questioning the expectation in communication research that life span trajectories are singular and progressive
  • Political interest, engagement and participation across the life span
  • The social construction of “childhood,” “middle age” and “the elderly” in popular culture

Conference Program Chair
Amy Jordan, President Elect
University of Pennsylvania
The Annenberg Public Policy Center
Phone: 215-898-1553
Email: ajordan@asc.upenn.edu

Conference Secretariat
Michael Haley, Executive Director
International Communication Association
Phone: 202-955-1444
Email: mhaley@icahdq.org