University of Southern California
Annenberg School for Communication




Metamorphosis Project research is guided by communication infrastructure theory. Many researchers have studied the political or economic infrastructure of a community. In the same way, we examine a community’s communication infrastructure, which is usually invisible until a crisis or unexpected event occurs. For example, when inter-group conflict breaks out, people often look to ways in which communication processes have failed. We identify two basic components of the communication infrastructure. The first is the neighborhood storytelling network which consists of three key storytellers--

- Residents in their family, friend, and neighbor networks;
- Community and non-profit organizations that are located in the neighborhood and serve its residents; and
- Geo-ethnic media that are targeted to a particular ethnic group and/or geographic area.

When these storytellers create a conversation about the neighborhood--its problems, opportunities, and events--people are able to create the sense and reality of belonging to a community. Storytelling is the basic way that all communities are created, whether they be neighborhoods or nations.

The second component of the communication infrastructure is the communication action context, or the communication environment in which storytelling occurs. This environment may either constrain or facilitate the storytelling network. It consists of many elements, including the cultural diversity of the community, work conditions, the schools, libraries, parks, and other public spaces, the services available in a community--health, retail, recreational, etc.--the transportation system, and technological resources, such as Internet access. We can illustrate the influence of the communication action context on the storytelling network using the street safety feature as an example. When the streets and public spaces are or are perceived to be unsafe, residents are not likely to frequently and freely meet and greet each other and this means they are not likely to participate in neighborhood storytelling. When the streets and public spaces are safe and welcoming, residents are likely to be out and about their communities where they can meet and greet each other and develop conversations about their neighborhood.


Published Papers Ball-Rokeach, S. J. (1985). The origins of individual media system dependency: A sociological framework. Communication Research, 12(4), 485-510. doi: 10.1177/009365085012004003 Ball-Rokeach, S. J. (1988). Media System Dependency Theory. In M. DeFleur & S. J. Ball-Rokeach (Eds.), Theories of mass communication (pp. 297-327). White Plains, NY: Longman Group. Ball-Rokeach, S. J., & DeFleur, M. L. (1976). A Dependency Model of Mass-Media Effects. Communication Research, 3(1), 3. Ball-Rokeach, S.J. & Jung, J-Y, (2009). The Evolution of Media System dependency theory. In R. Nabi and M. B. Oliver, Sage Handbook of Media Processes and Effects. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Ball-Rokeach, S.J. (1998) A theory of media power and a theory of media use: Different stories, questions, and ways of thinking. Mass Communication and Society, 1 (1-2), 5-40. Ball-Rokeach, S.J., Kim, Y.C., & Matei, S. (2001). Storytelling neighborhood: Paths to belonging in diverse urban environments. Communication Research. 28(4), 392-428 Broad, G. M., Gonzalez, C., & Ball-Rokeach, S. J. (2013). Intergroup relations in South Los Angeles" Combining communication infrastructure and contact hypothesis approaches. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 38, 47-59. Brough, M., & Li, Z. (2013). Media systems dependency, symbolic power, and human rights online video: Learning from Burma's “Saffron Revolution” and WITNESS's hub. International Journal of Communication, 7. Retrieved from Brough, M., Lapsansky, C., Gonzalez, C., Bar, F., & Stokes, B. (2017). Participatory design of a mobile platform for social justice: Reflections on power and participation in the Mobile Voices Project. Mobile Communication, 1-19. doi: 10.1177/2050157917737812 Chen, N.-T. N., Liu, W., Ognyanova, K., & Moreno, E. (in press). The Alhambra Project: A prototype for using communication infrastructure theory to construct a community news site. In Y.-C. Kim, M. Matsaganis, H. Wilkin, & J.-Y. Jung J. (Eds.), The communication ecology of 21st century urban communities. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. Chen, N.-T. N., Ognyanova, K., Zhang, C., Wang, C., Ball-Rokeach, S. J., & Parks, M. (2015). Causing ripples in local power relations: The meso-level influence of a hyperlocal news website. Journalism Studies, 6(18), 710-731. doi:10.1080/1461670X.2015.1078738 Cheong, P. H. & Wilkin, H. A. (2005). Digital divide(s) among Hispanic immigrants and Internet connections for health information seeking. In M. Allen & M. Convalso (Eds.), Internet Research Annual, 2, 175-188. Cohen, E.L., Ball-Rokeach, S.J., Jung, J. Y., & Kim, Y. C. (2002). Civic actions after September 11th: Exploring the role of multi-level storytelling. Prometheus, 20(3), 221-228. Jung, J. (2017). Media dependency theory. In P. Roessler (Ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Media Effects. Wiley-Blackwell & International Communication Association. doi: 10.1002/9781118783764.wbieme0063 Kim, Y. C., & Ball-Rokeach, S. J. (2006). Civic engagement from a communication infrastructure perspective. Communication Theory, 16 (2), 173-197. Kim, Y. C., & Ball-Rokeach, S. J. (2006). Neighborhood storytelling resources and civic engagement: A multilevel approach. Human Communication Research, 32(4), 411-439. Matei, S., & Ball-Rokeach, S. J. (2002). Belonging across geographic and Internet spaces: Ethnic area variations. In B. Wellman & C. Haythornthwaite (Eds.), The Internet in everyday life. UK: Blackwells. Matei, S., & S.J. (2003). The Internet in the communication infrastructure of urban residential communities: Meso or macro--linkage? Journal of Communication, 53(4), 642-657. Matei, S.A., & Ball-Rokeach, S.J. (2005). Watts, the 1965 Los Angeles riots and the communicative construction of the fear epicenter of Los Angeles. Communication Monographs, 72(3), 301-323. Matei_Ball_Rokeach_2005_Watts_The_1965_LA_Riots_Communicative_0259.pdf Ognyanova, K., Ball-Rokeach, S.J. (2015). "Political Efficacy on the Internet: A Media System Dependency Approach" In Communication and Information Technologies Annual. Published online: 30 Jan 2015; 3-27. Permanent link to this document: Wilkin, H. A., Ball-Rokeach, S. J. , Matsaganis, M. D., & Cheong, P. H. (In Press). Comparing the communication ecologies of geo-ethnic communities: How people stay on top of their community. Journal of Electronic Communication. Wilkin, H. A., Moran, M. B., Ball-Rokeach, S. J., Gonzales, C., & Kim, Y-C. (2010). Applications of communication infrastructure theory. Health Communication, 25(6), 611-612.
Papers in Preparation Ball-Rokeach, S. J. (2008) Media system dependency theory. In W. Donsfach (Ed.), Blackwell International Encyclopedia of Communication. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing. Jung, J-Y & Ball-Rokeach, S. J., From media system dependency theory to communication infrastructure theory. Kim, Y.K. & Ball-Rokeach, S. J., New immigrants, the Internet, and civil society. In A. Chadwick & P. Howard (Eds.), The Handbook of Internet Politics. New York: Routledge. Matsaganis, M. (In press). From a paradigm of neighborhood effects to a communication-based model of community change. In Gumpert, G., Drucker, S., & Burd, G. (Eds.), The Urban Communication Reader. Hampton Press. Wilkin, H. A., Katz, V. S., & Ball-Rokeach, S. J. (2009). Community change begins at home: The role of family interaction in new immigrant Latinos' civic engagement. Journal of Communication, 59: 387-406.
Papers Presented at Professional Meetings Ball-Rokeach, S. J. (2004). Mass Communication: Mass communication division keynote panel. Chair of panel for the 54th International Communication Association Conference. New Orleans. Ball-Rokeach, S.J. (2002). Metamorphosis: Transforming the ties that bind. Paper presented a the Annenberg Public Policy Center Symposium on Deliberation, Democracy, and the Internet, Washington, DC. Ball-Rokeach, S.J., Kim, Y., & Matei, S. (2001). Storytelling neighborhood: Paths to belonging in diverse urban environments. Paper presented at the American Sociological Association Meetings. Los Angeles. Ball-Rokeach, S.J., Kim, Y.C., & Matei, S. (2001). Communication infrastructure and neighborhood belonging. Paper presented at the International Communication Association Conference, Washington DC. Gonzalez, C., & Ball-Rokeach, S. J. (2011). Including ethnic media in social research: It's about time. Presentation for the Diversity & Equity Award special session at the AEJMC Annual Conference, St. Louis, MO. Jung, J.Y. & Ball-Rokeach, S.J. (2004). From media systems dependency theory to a communication infrastructure approach. The International Communication Association Conference. New Orleans. Katz, V. & Matsaganis, M. (2007). A Communication Ecology Approach to Theory and Method in Understanding Community Media. Paper presented at the OurMedia-NuestrosMedios VI International Conference. Sydney. Katz, V. (2007). Making the connection: What immigrant children do for their families and how it matters. Presentation at the UCLA Migration Symposium, Los Angeles. Katz, V. (2009). Publicly and privately constituting community: A theoretical approach to understanding urban community development. Presented to the International Communication Association Annual Conference. Chicago, IL. Kim, Y.C & Ball-Rokeach, S. J. (2006). Community Storytelling Network, Neighborhood Context, and Civic Engagement: A Multilevel Approach. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the AEJMC Theory and Methodology Division, San Francisco. Kim, Y.C. & Ball-Rokeach, S.J. (2004). Communication infrastructure theory: An ecological approach to civic engagement in the contemporary urban environment. Voice and Citizenship Conference, University of Washington. Liu, W., & Ball-Rokeach, S. (2012). Storytelling networks and immigrant political socialization: A communication resource-based model. Paper presented at the annual conference of the International Communication Association, Phoenix, AZ. Loges, W. E., Ball-Rokeach, S. J., & Qiu, L. (2005). Broken bonds at work, broken bonds at home: A theoretical connection Paper presented at the 55th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, New York City. Loges, W.E., Ball-Rokeach, S.J., & Qiu, J.L. (2003). Broken bonds at work, Broken bonds at home: A theoretical connection. Paper presented to the conference "From 9-to-5 to 24/7: How workplace change impact families, work, and communities," Orlando. Matei, S. & Ball-Rokeach S.J. (2002). Ascription of "safe" and "unsafe" places: Communicative allocation of an overlooked scarce resource. Paper presented at the American Sociological Association, Chicago. Matei, S., & Ball-Rokeach, S. J. (2001). Off-line Social Bonds as Predictors for On-line Social Ties. Paper presented at the International Communication Association Conference, Washington DC. Matei, S., Ball-Rokeach, & Qiu, J. (2001). Mental Maps as Communication Research Tools and their Policy Implications. The International Communication Association Conference, Washington DC. Matsaganis, M. (2004). The Metamorphosis of the Urban Environment: Conceptualizing Community Space from a Communication Infrastructure Perspective. Urban Communication Pre-Conference, National Communication Association. Chicago. Matsaganis, M. (2006). Neighborhood Effects and the Invisible Motor of Community Change. International Communication Association. Dresden. Moran, M. (2010). Linking Social Identity to Three Theories of Behavioral Prediction. Paper presented at the National Communication Association Conference, San Francisco, CA. Qiu, J.L, Ball-Rokeach, S.J., & Li, H.M (2002). The metamorphosis of communicative bonds between work, family, & community in the age of globalization. Paper presented at the National Communication Association Conference, New Orleans. Song, H. (2007). Connections to mainstream and ethnic media in context: An empirical test of a two-dimensional ethnic identity model. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of National Communication Association, Chicago, IL. Villanueva, G., Broad, G. (2010). Spatial Analysis of the South Figueroa Corridor. USC Annenberg Fellows Symposium. April 2010. Los Angeles, CA. Wilkin, H.A., Stringer, K., O'Quin, K., Hunt, K., & Montgomery, S. (2010). Should We Chase Ambulances? The Challenge of Locating Residents for a 911 (mis)use Intervention Project. Paper presented at the International Communication Association Conference. Singapore.
Dissertations Cheong, P. (2004). Media relations, threat and health problem-solving behaviors: Extension and application of communication infrastructure theory and research. Dissertation Abstracts International, 65 (09), 3202. Jung, J.Y. (2003). Internet connectedness and its social origins: An ecological approach to communication media and social inequality. Dissertation Abstracts International, 64 (09), 3126. Katz, V. (2007). From conversation to conversion: Children's efforts to translate their immigrant families' social networks into community connections. Kim, Y.C. (2003). Storytelling community: Communication infrastructure and civic engagements in urban spaces. Dissertation Abstracts International, 64 (12), 4256. Qui, L. (2004). (Dis)connecting the Pearl River Delta: The transformation of a regional telecommunications infrastructure, 1978--2002. Dissertation Abstracts International, 65 (07), 2411. Wilkin, H.A. (2006). Diagnosing communication connections: Reaching underserved communities through existing communication ecologies. Dissertation Abstracts International, 67 (06). Wilson. M.E. (2000). Leading the community chorus: The role of organizations in society. Dissertation Abstracts International, 62 (09), 2920.
Other Presentations Ball-Rokeach, S. J.., Villanueva, G. & Ognyanova, K. (November, 2010). Metamorphosis: Research in Action. Presentation to The Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA. Ball-Rokeach, S.J. (September 2008). Bridging Ethnic Communities: Moving Theory into Action. Keynote address given at the Media, Communication, and Humanity Conference at the London School of Economics.