Get access

Community Media Studies: An Overview


  • Kevin Howley

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Communication & Theater, DePauw University
    • Correspondence address: Kevin Howley, Department of Communication & Theater, 0304 Green Center for the Performing Arts, DePauw University, Greencastle, IN, USA. E-mail:

    Search for more papers by this author


This essay provides an overview of the field of community media studies. Like the study of “alternative media,” “citizens' media,” “independent,” and “radical” media – to mention but a few of the terms applied to participatory communication projects – academic inquiry into the structures, forms, and practices of community media has surged in recent years. While scholars often use these labels interchangeably, this essay focuses on academic and practitioner perspectives that explicitly and purposefully employ the term “community media.” The overview identifies and briefly considers three prominent conceptual frameworks – media democratization, civil society, and the symbolic construction of community – which shape and inform this vibrant field of study. This overview concludes with some thoughts on the limits and possibilities of community media theory, and practice, in the new millennium.