David Allen
Department of Journalism and Mass Communication
End-of-Year Fellowship Report for 2002-03

David Allen

The research during my year as a fellow focused on two projects: completing a book manuscript and completing another research project that I hope will eventually lead to a second book. Each of the projects, as well as their status, will be described below.

The fellowship allowed me to complete the manuscript, Democracy, Inc.: The Press and Law in the Corporate Rationalization of the Public Sphere. [editor’s note: the book was published by the University of Illinois Press in 2005]. In brief, the book investigates how the public sphere’s two major institutions, the press and the law, manage public life using corporate values such as efficiency and profitability. My manuscript argues that the growth of corporations in the United States has had dire consequences for public life not simply because of their ability to buy influence, but rather because the logic that guides corporations has come to be the logic that also guides the public sphere. I trace this development, or what some have called ideological drift, in several areas. For example, the book investigates the rise of the law-and-economics movement and its influence on public life, how questions of property rights have come to be the deciding factor in determining how public space is used, and how professionalization has served to separate the press from the public sphere through ideas of objectivity, expertise, and efficiency.

My second major project, more directly related to the Center’s research theme, looked at how the U.S. Supreme Court has wrestled with the concept of meaning in public expressive acts. This project began as an attempt to study how the Court treated meaning in cases revolving around war, but my research took me beyond that area. My argument is that the Court has been reluctant to deal in any concrete way with the polyvocal nature of meaning, long recognized by cultural studies. In numerous cases, I argue that we can see the Court attempting to fix meaning as a way of controlling and managing public life. These decisions disempower citizens by refusing to recognize that citizens play any role in the construction of meaning of public events. By doing so, the Court creates structures that tend to value the authoritative creation of meaning and devalue structures that would allow citizens to come together to participate in a public creation of meaning. Citizens are viewed by the Court as spectators rather than active participants in democratic life. The article, is tentatively titled “Creating meaning, creating citizens: The U.S. Supreme Court’s use of meaning to control public life.” It has been accepted for publication in the forthcoming book, Communication & Law: Multidisciplinary Approaches to Research, edited by Amy Reynolds and Brooke barnett. The book will be published by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, with a publication date tentatively set for March 2005. [editor’s note: a version of this project was also published as part of the Center’s on-line working paper series: http://www4.uwm.edu/21st/workingpapers/index.shtml]

“Jürgen Habermas and the Search for Democratic Principles,” in Moral Engagement in Public Life: Theorists for Contemporary Ethics, Sharon L. Bracci and Clifford G. Christians, eds., New York: Peter Lang Publishing (2002): pp.: 97-122.

Panelist, “Seminar on War in Iraq,” April 2003.
[editor’s note: a transcript of this seminar is available as an on-line working paper: http://www4.uwm.edu/21st/workingpapers/index.shtml]

Panelist, “The AEJMC Ethics Agenda,” Ethics Across the Professions, Spring Conference, University of South Florida, March 2003.

Commentator, media and democracy conference sponsored by Centre D’Etudes Sur Les Medias, Universite Laval, Quebec, Canada, Nov. 1, 2002.

“9/11 Reconstructions,” moderated the panel, “A conversation with reporters,” October 2002.

“Teaching Critical Legal Studies,” presented to the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference, Law Division, Miami, Florida, August 2002.

other activities
During the academic year, I served as chair of the Media Ethics Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. My duties required program planning for the annual convention in August (completed during a two-day conference at Stanford University in December), overseeing the budget, and writing four commentaries for the division newsletter.

Current department website




Center for 21st Century Studies

Merry Wiesner-Hanks

Center for 21st Century Studies
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
P.O. Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201 USA
tel: 414-229-4141; fax: 414-229-5964; email:



  Last updated 7/24/08 by EMW